Arlington's Polytrack presented a new challenge for horseplayers this summer, and it will be interesting to see how the return to Hawthorne's traditional dirt surface will affect the productivity of Chicago's horses, stables and public handicappers. According to racetrack officials, a new sand and additional clay have been added to Hawthorne's main track mixture with the hope that it will retain moisture better. In the past, when the temperature is below freezing, the surface became very beach-like and speed-favoring. Certain trainers point for Hawthorne, including defending titlist Roger Brueggemann, who followed up a 25-for-103 spring with just eight summer wins at Arlington. Other trainers primed for a successful fall are Tom Tomillo, Mike Reavis, Frank Kirby, Richard Hazelton, Jimmy DiVito, Steve Asmussen and Canterbury sharpshooters Jamie Ness and Justin Evans.
Israel Ocampo denied perennial leader Chris Emigh his sixth consecutive Hawthorne crown by edging the veteran reinsman to take down his first-ever title this spring. They're the fall favorites, but E.T. Baird, Jose Ferrer, Eddie Razo Jr., Diego Sanchez, Trey Aguilar, Carlos Montalvo, Carlos Silva, Randy Meier and newcomer Tyler Riggs should all win their share of races. A trio of bug riders -- Sally Mitchellhill, Inez Karlsson and Wayne Robison -- will also ply their trade at Hawthorne.
Best bet: Soar Slew Soar (1st)
Price play: Alone At Last (6th)