10/28/2011 4:21PM

Hawthorne: Essence of Bubbles must prove she can handle turf


STICKNEY, Ill. – There is a Midwest market for late-season 2-year-old turf stakes.

A day after the Royal Glint, an open 2-year-old race, attracted a full gate, the Gold Digger for 2-year-old fillies Sunday at Hawthorne drew an overflow field. Twelve are in the main body of the one-mile race, with a 13th horse on the also-eligible list.

Among the Gold Digger entrants is Essence of Bubbles, who originally was to have shipped to Louisiana and started in the My Trusty Cat Stakes last weekend at Delta. Instead, Essence of Bubbles stayed in Chicago and winds up in a $60,000 turf race.

On proven ability, Essence of Bubbles is the one. Privately purchased by owner Richard Ravin following a sharp Arlington Park allowance win Aug. 25, Essence of Bubbles set the pace but was caught late in the Arlington-Washington Lassie, finishing second. Either performance lands Essence of Bubbles in the heart of the matter Sunday, but grass racing is the great unknown. Essence of Bubbles debuted in an Indiana Downs turf sprint, finishing eighth by nine lengths. She might simply not have been anything close to the horse then that she is now. On the other hand, Essence of Bubbles might well prefer synthetics and dirt to turf.

We know Little Nip can handle grass. And “they,” that obscure group of faceless odds-shaking gamblers, knew Little Nip would handle it in her career debut Sept. 9 at Arlington. A $6,500 auction buy owned and trained by Paul Darjean, Little Nip was hammered to 8-5 favoritism that day and came through for her many backers, turning in a powerful stretch run after a bad break to win going away. Darjean took Little Nip to Keeneland earlier this month, where the filly acquitted herself decently stretching out to two turns and switching to synthetic, finishing third in a first-level allowance. Back on grass, with jockey James Graham in to ride, Little Nip has a solid chance Sunday despite an outside post.

Blue Forty has talent and could contend for trainer Jim DiVito, but might prove to be more of a sprinter. Grace for Grace and Falconess exit mid-pack finishes in the Jessamine, a Keeneland grass stakes. The Cushmaker is the only horse with a Hawthorne grass win.

* Hawthorne is hosting a super-qualifying handicapping tournament Nov. 26–27 for the Daily Racing Form /NTRA National Handicapping Championship. The NHC tournament is scheduled for Jan. 27–28 in Las Vegas. The Hawthorne qualifier requires a $400 entry fee and a $200 bankroll for each day.