Updated on 09/18/2011 2:46AM

No one's hotter than Ocampo


STICKNEY, Ill. - Bringing home purse money is good anytime of the year, but taking down some extra dough just before Christmas is especially sweet. And no one at Hawthorne during the week before Christmas had a bigger bonanza than jockey Israel Ocampo.

Ocampo, a young Mexican-born rider, showed up at Hawthorne this past spring. Eddie Razo, the well-respected journeyman rider, spoke highly of his skills and character, and Ocampo showed more substance than many obscure riders who pass into and out of Hawthorne. Ocampo summered at Canterbury and did well, and has turned in a solid Hawthorne fall meet, through Friday riding 45 winners from 320 mounts to rank fourth in the standings. But in the last few days Ocampo has been on top, riding seven winners the first three days of this racing week, three each Thursday and Friday.

On a rare Tuesday of racing at Hawthorne, Ocampo will team with a hot pre-Christmas trainer, Mark Cristel, in the featured eighth race, a second-level Illinois-bred allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Cristel's stable has seemed on the verge of breaking through for the last few weeks, and won two races Thursday with Ocampo riding, the fifth with 5-1 Lord Jones and the eighth with 16-1 Cart's on Cruise.

The team's horse for Tuesday's eighth is Sanpit Cart, who has had an interesting fall. Sanpit Cart looked hapless over the summer at Arlington, losing five races and being pulled up in the last of them. When Cristel brought Sanpit Cart back in a $10,000 maiden claiming sprint here Sept. 22, the horse promptly won by more than 11 lengths. Stretched out to a route two races later, Sanpit Cart finished third in an Illinois-bred entry-level allowance, and in his last start, on Nov. 27, he cleared that condition with a 5 1/4-length victory.

Sanpit Cart has the rail Tuesday, and while certain to race forwardly, he doesn't need the lead, which might be a good thing. Play Dixie, part of a Brian Williamson-trained coupled entry with Love Handles, tends to go to the front in her route starts. Daisy Mountain, a stretch-out sprinter, and Hey Cutie, who led all the way winning her most recent start, also should inject some early pace.

Love Handles deserves consideration as a potential winner, though she hasn't raced since April 30. Love Handles won two straight races over this track in the spring, and Williamson has been winning at a 17-percent clip with long layoff horses.