12/20/2012 6:03PM

Hawthorne: Unable to travel, Mister Marti Gras, Shadowbdancing grab chance to run

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Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Shadowbdancing, easy winner of this year's Prairie Meadows Handicap, will try to use his speed to control the pace of Saturday's 1 1/16-mile allowance.

STICKNEY, Ill. – The featured sixth race Saturday at Hawthorne is an allowance race open to anyone who wants to run, no conditions attached. If there was a condition, it would read something like, “For horses stuck in Stickney.”

The equine herpesvirus outbreak at Hawthorne is well into its second month, an Illinois state Department of Agriculture quarantine on leaving Hawthorne for another racetrack having been in place since late October. In a normal year, horses such as Mister Marti Gras and Afford would have taken up residence at winter quarters in warmer climates. Shadowbdancing would be in the middle of a winter rest period. This is no normal year, and instead, those horses form the core of a high-level, 1 1/16-mile dirt race.

“I’m not wild about running Mister Marti Gras in December at Hawthorne, but I’ve got nothing else to do with him,” said trainer Chris Block, who also entered an entrymate, Hope for Today, in the race.

Mister Marti Gras is a solid Grade 3-type performer who has trained steadily through the fall. He has raced before at Keeneland in the autumn and Fair Grounds during winter, but this year, it’s Hawthorne for Mister Marti Gras. He has already won one allowance race at the meet, overcoming a ridiculously wide trip to prevail on turf, and Mister Marti Gras is at least as good on dirt as grass. A closer, Mister Marti Gras might get help from his stablemate, Hope for Today, who can apply at least light pressure to front-running Shadowbdancing. What Block worries most about is track conditions: The first snow of the winter was forecast to fall in Chicago on Thursday night, followed by the coldest temperatures this meet. Hawthorne’s track could hover somewhere between freeze and thaw.

It’s not a situation trainer Terrel Gore expected to be encountering with Shadowbdancing. Gore intended to race his million-dollar earner in stakes at Mountaineer and Penn National in late fall, then give Shadowbdancing a break until the spring meet here. The quarantine quashed those plans.

“He’s like all these other horses that are stuck in jail here,” Gore said. “They said they would make some race in December for him go, which is why I kept him in training.”

Shadowbdancing, who drew the rail and figures to go straight to the lead, has run well before at Hawthorne, but never has raced here in December. Gore said he thinks the winter surface won’t get him beat.

“He pretty much runs on anything,” he said.

Afford made a powerful, premature, and very wide move in the Indiana Derby in October, understandably flattening out to finish fifth. He returned to win a Hawthorne allowance race and is not without a chance Saturday. Nor is P D Q Kiddo, who has shown the best form of his life in recent starts for leading Hawthorne trainer Roger Brueggemann.