March 2, 2001

Hello, Hawthorne!
Chicagoland gets back on the Thoroughbred scene this weekend when Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero (or is it Stickney?), Ill., resumes live racing.

All recent discussion on layoffs will apply, and it'll be a reverse of what the old-timey wise guys expect. Remember those guys? Never bet a horse that hasn't raced in the last 14 days? That sort of thing?

That'll be all you'll get at Hawthorne for the next few weeks, babe. So look out for fresh runners who've done well off the bench in the past, perhaps in combination with a trainer who is similarly sharp with that move.

How does this weird track play? It's no frontrunner's paradise.

At six furlongs in 2000, the front (horses no more than a length back at the second call) won 101 times from 227 races, or not even 45 percent.

And in all the six-furlong races, the way-back ralliers (five lengths back at both the first and second calls) came home a pretty fair 14.5 percent of the time, leaving the midpack-types to account for around 42 percent of the winners.

At six and a half furlongs, it was even bleaker for the speed. Since Hawthorne doesn't card a seven-furlong sprint, the six-and-a-half-furlong trip is where the deep-rally sprinters are going to have to do well.

And that they did. The front could hold up its end of the bargain only 38 times in 106 races at six and a half furlongs, translating to a woeful 36 percent conversion rate. That's hardly sparkling.

Conversely, the closers (again, five lengths back or farther at both early calls) came through at a 19.8 percent clip, making this trip one of the best in the nation for the come-from-behinders.

The front rebounded some at a mile and 70 yards, but still couldn't break through the 50 percent threshhold, winning 45 percent of the time. And the deep closers got up in time 17 percent of the time.

And at the mile-and-a-sixteenth distance, it was a similar 44 percent hit rate for the leading-types, while the back managed its (at this particular track, anyway) usual 17 percent frequency of success.

Moral of the story? Look out for the rear markers at Hawthorne, and temper any enthusiasm you have for freerunning early-types and tight pressers over there. The surface underfoot at Hawthorne might drag them down.

Turf? Let 'em dig out of winter first!

Big 'Cap = Big Umbrella?
OK, so Super Track Racing never got to see the light of the Southern California day. Not much has here in the last few weeks.

That won't put a damper on the proceedings in Arcadia, however. Nothing eclipses the pageantry and prestige of the Santa Anita Handicap, and even if the heavens resume their sob story tomorrow, the racing world won't turn away, even if it must open up a bumpershooter to be able to follow the action.

Tiznow is in the third race of his current form cycle, which should mean no more excuses due to a lack of conditioning. However, a cracked hoof is a cracked hoof, and the recent inclement weather in these parts hasn't made morning workouts a given. Will the reigning HOY rebound here? Or will he be thwarted by one of the dozen signed on to challenge him?

Wooden Phone took it to the champ last time, going gate to wire and repelling all sorts of challenges before maintaining his margin in the lane. Will Tiznow let him get away with another theft? Tiznow is best when he's active up front, especially at this classic American distance. But maybe Wooden Phone is ready to blossom.

Bienamado makes his main-track debut. If he takes to the surface at all tomorrow afternoon the way he has shown he might in his morning works, it might not matter. This guy will be ready to roll late.

Then there are your underachieving, good-but-not-yet-great horses. Tribunal was hyped all last year, but in this lineup gets little respect. Ditto Jimmy Z. Will they be the late-bloomers now that the sophomore-year pressure is off?

Guided Tour stayed, then shipped back to New Orleans, and is back again.

That's a lot of horseflesh for a single animal to hold off, but Tiznow has already proven he can beat a baker's dozen for seven figures at a mile and a quarter. The others will have to gain that measure of talent and experience this time. Can they?

We all want the answers, maybe before the race so that wagering on it will be academic and highly profitable. But that ain't gonna happen, not the first part, anyway, so they'll line 'em up at the starting gate tomorrow and draw the conclusions after they cross the wire.

As for the phantasmagoric ALL-IN-ONE V5 forecast, in some of the most recognizable words ever to be uttered in the English language, perhaps it "had a hemorrhage." Tiznow gets buried in the middle of the pack, without a fair oddsline (gee, didn't know the paceline modeler could take a cracked hoof into account).

Wooden Phone, the second choice in the race, comes up top-rated. Maybe. And the slacking Tribunal is below that one, with Irisheyesareflying also a tempting value at 10-1 on the morning line.

This should be a fascinating race to watch. Hey, for a million and 13 horses to keep track of, you gotta love it.

Next time: Who on earth will win the Florida Derby?

Major Doings
If this is your first time with us, welcome. We repeat this madness every Friday evening. But don't forgo your plans to see that new Julia Roberts movie tonight, either, just to sit here and wait for this electronic newsleter, OK?

If you want to catch up with us, go to the Cynthia Publishing Company Web site and click on the "Short Line" link. There are archives of the old issues submitted for your approval, or otherwise, as is sometimes the case. Hey, it happens.

And speaking of madness, please do check out the new prize structure for this month's March Madness! edition of the Big-Prize Handicapping Contest. This is the no-cost competition that can pay you some decent spending money, not a bunch of hot-air explanations after the race. Do it now.

Finally, the clock is ticking. The 2001 par times book and PARS PLUS printed supplemental materials continue to ship, and by this time next week, you'll have but 24 hours left to take advantage of our special offer on these outstanding handicapping materials. Don't miss out. And if you've already ordered, thanks, and we appreciate your patience. Delivery (and deliverance) is nigh!

Until then, good luck at Hawthorne, Santa Anita and whatever other hippodromes you are fortunate enough to play at. We will see you next time.

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