10/10/2011 2:55PM

Hawthorne: Headache likely headed to Breeders' Cup Classic

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Four Footed Fotos
Headache outfinishes Where’s Sterling and Cease to win the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup. Headache will likely make his next start in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

STICKNEY, Ill. – Watching three horses – Headache, Where’s Sterling, and Cease – with no Grade 1 credentials slog through the Hawthorne Race Course homestretch in Saturday’s Hawthorne Gold Cup hardly put one in a Breeders’ Cup state of mind. But despite appearances, the Gold Cup, it turns out, could produce several Breeders’ Cup starters.

Headache, who won the race by a half-length, is a likely runner in the BC Classic, trainer Mike Maker said Monday morning. A 5-year-old Tapit gelding, Headache scored the richest and most important win of a 26-start career by running 1 1/4- miles in 2:04.68, including a final quarter-mile in about 25 seconds. The raw time produced a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, just about on par with the 99 Headache earned in the Whitney Handicap and the 100 his win in the Cornhusker Handicap produced. The Whitney, however, was a Grade 1 that included top Classic contenders Tizway and Flat Out, and Headache finished just fifth in that race, albeit with a difficult trip.

Headache has improved considerably in 2011, thanks, perhaps, to simple maturation.

“He’s always had a few quirks – making the lead too early, being in front of horses, stringing together a bunch of second-place finishes,” said Maker, who trains Headache for Ken and Sarah Ramsey. “He’s always trained like we were underachieving with him. We feel like we’re getting the best out of his abilities now.”

While Headache returned to Maker’s Kentucky base Sunday, runner-up Where’s Sterling remained at Hawthorne as of Monday, though trainer Nick Canani said Where’s Sterling was scheduled to ship to south Florida in coming days.

“I thought he ran super,” said Canani, who trains Where’s Sterling for Frank Calabrese.

No firm plans have been set for Where’s Sterling, but third-place Cease might run back in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon if, during the next two weeks, he appears to have come out of the Gold Cup in good shape, trainer Al Stall said. Cease was making just his sixth career start Saturday, and was caught five paths wide around the first turn and four-wide on the second. Still, he battled on resolutely after turning for home in front, and ran well for third.

“He’s got a lot of fight to him,” said Stall. “I think this horse could be a real, real player next year.”

Fourth-place Mister Marti Gras will race next at Churchill Downs, either in the River Cities on turf or the Clark on dirt, trainer Chris Block said. Giant Oak, the Gold Cup fifth-place finisher, is likely to run back in the Breeders’ Cup, with the Marathon a slightly more likely destination than the Classic, Block said.

Lopez’s Gold Cup ride under scrutiny

Hawthorne stewards might take action against jockey Paco Lopez, who guided Headache to victory in the Gold Cup. Just past the finish line, Lopez and Headache came in sharply, impeding Where’s Sterling, who bumped hard with Cease nearest the rail. Cease was turned almost sideways, but appeared to have averted serious injury, according to Stall. Lopez, who rode Headache for the first time, had been aboard Where’s Sterling in that horse’s most recent race, a win in the Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.

◗ Trainer Michele Boyce had a productive Saturday, winning both $60,000 turf stakes on the Gold Cup card. Happy Henrietta led all the way capturing the Indian Maid by a half-length, while Princeville Condo rallied resolutely to win the Carey Memorial by the same margin. Jozbin Santana was aboard both horses.