04/16/2012 3:15PM

Hawthorne: Plenty of questions in featured allowance

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STICKNEY, Ill. – There are all sorts of little issues to ponder when handicapping the featured seventh race on Wednesday at Hawthorne, a second-level, two-turn dirt allowance race also open to $35,000 claimers. In fact, while the race looks decent for Chicago in April, a skeptical eye can be cast on all seven entrants.

What, for instance, about 3-1 morning-line favorite Berry Knoll’s field-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure earned two starts ago in a first-level allowance romp at Oaklawn Park? The number is a full 23 points higher than any other Beyer Figure showing on Berry Knoll’s past performance lines, and while Berry Knoll won by seven lengths that day, beating a subsequent next-out winner, she had only five rivals in one of those somewhat funky Oaklawn mile races that ends at the sixteenth pole. Still, the long stretch at Hawthorne should not be Berry Knoll’s undoing, since she won well here going 1 1/16 miles last fall. Also on the positive side of Berry Knoll’s ledger are her recent morning works, which, in a word, look strong.

How about Sacred Honor? She won her most recent start, a first-level route allowance last month at Hawthorne, but 10 lengths. Yet her connections, the Bluegrass VI partnership and trainer Wayne Catalano, respond by entering Sacred Honor under Thursday’s race’s $35,000 claiming option. That’s not entirely damning, since Sacred Honor raced for a $14,000 price only a few starts ago, but if the human side of this horse felt Sacred Honor truly was on the rise, wouldn’t they utilize the allowance condition Wednesday?

Gimme the Crown brings her own area of intrigue, namely trainer Darrell Lunsford. Until 2012, Lunsford, who participates more regularly downstate at Fairmount Park than in this area, had not won a spring race in Chicago since 2007. This meet, he has compiled a more-than-respectable record of 3-1-4 from 15 starters, one of those wins coming from Gimme the Crown, a 3-year-old filly who beat older foes in a 10-horse first-level allowance on March 31.

Maude S, meanwhile, must show she can successfully negotiate a second turn. A fairly solid sprinter at both Arlington and Hawthorne, Maude S has made only a couple of route starts during a 14-race career. One of them came Feb. 26, and while she finished second in that race, it was not with a powerful stretch kick.

Awalkinthemoonlite and Perfect Stranger do not look quite good enough. Anewpairofshoes might be. Four-year-old Anewpairofshoes raced only three times last year, her first season at the track, but won two of those starts. Her second win came in her route debut, but the victory was over Illinois-bred foes, and while trainer Chris Block brings horses back from winter breaks ready, there’s still a quality question to be asked of this filly.