09/29/2009 12:00AM

Hawthorne Gold Cup field taking shape

Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Jonesboro, winner of the Grade 2 Cornhusker, will look to rebound in Saturday's Hawthorne Gold Cup.

PSTICKNEY, Ill. - With Florida-based trainer Marty Wolfson pointing It's a Bird to the Meadowlands Cup and instead sending the far less accomplished You and I Forever to Chicago, it appears the starting highweights for Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup will be the veterans Awesome Gem and Jonesboro.

Starting highweight, however, does not mean a horse will carry a lot of weight: Both 6-year-old Awesome Gem and 7-year-old Jonesboro were assigned 116 pounds by Hawthorne racing secretary Gary Duch, and even top-weighted Asiatic Boy, who is not expected to run, got only 121.

A fairly large field is expected for the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup, which used to be a fairly legitimate prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic. But with the Classic on a synthetic surface for the second straight year and Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont attracting the major dirt horses, it would come as a surprise if anything like a real Classic contender emerged from the race here.

Jonesboro might have been a defined favorite Saturday had he not suffered a surprising defeat as the 2-5 chalk in the Sept. 7 Governor's Cup at Remington Park. In his previous start on June 27, Jonesboro turned in one of the best races of a 41-start career, winning the Grade 2 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows by almost two lengths.

California-based Awesome Gem has raced almost exclusively on turf and synthetics in recent seasons but finished a fast-closing second on dirt in the Aug. 16 Longacres Mile. His sire, Awesome Again, won the 1998 Gold Cup before capturing the Breeders' Cup Classic.

You and I Forever has started only three times in 2009 after undergoing knee surgery following a mildly promising 3-year-old campaign while trained by Bill Mott. Most recently, the colt finished second on a sloppy Monmouth Park track in the Grade 3 Iselin, and Wolfson said he chose the Gold Cup because of the race's 1 1/4-mile distance.

"He's beautifully bred, and this is the distance I've been looking for," Wolfson said.

Other possible starters (listed by weight in descending order) are Shadowbdancing, Alcomo, Eldaafer, Stonehouse, Going Ballistic, Sebastian County, and Lowther Street.

Chicago riders heading to Keeneland

Junior Alvarado, 24, wrapped up the Arlington riding title - his first title at any track - on Sunday's closing-day card and will shift his tack to Hawthorne for opening week. But Alvarado left Chicago soon after the Hawthorne fall meet got underway in 2008 and he is likely to wind up at another venue long before this meet concludes in January.

Alvarado is expected to ride in Saturday's Gold Cup and will travel to Keeneland for stakes action next weekend, his agent, Oscar Sanchez, said Monday.

Alvarado edged James Graham at Arlington, but Graham goes to Keeneland, which is where Chicago veteran Chris Emigh will hang his tack in October as well. All of which suggests the major players atop the Hawthorne standings this fall could be same three as in the spring meet here: Tim Thornton, Inez Karlsson, and Lyndie Wade.

Block on a hot streak, eyes stakes

No trainer finished the Arlington meet hotter than Chris Block, who won seven races the last two weeks of Arlington and went 5 for 12 during the closing four-day week. Two of those five recent winners, Striking Hight and Lunar Mist, were first-time starters in 2-year-old races, but Block said he wasn't holding live youngsters back for the end of the meet.

"That's just the way it worked out," Block said. "Striking Hight was castrated in the middle of the season, and Lunar Mist got a little sick."

The Block barn should have action in plenty of upcoming stakes, but not necessarily at Hawthorne. Giant Oak was entered Tuesday in the Ohio Derby and will be entered Wednesday in the Indiana Derby. Block wasn't happy with Giant Oak's draw in Ohio, post 11 of 13, but said he wouldn't decide where Giant Oak would be shipped until getting a look at the fields in both spots.

Ageless Fort Prado, who just won the Kentucky Cup Dash at Kentucky Downs, is on track to run in the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland. And Keeneland remains the intended destination for Grade 3 Stars and Stripes winner Free Fighter, who is slated to race in the Sycamore Stakes there.