The 2008 edition of Illinois Champions Day will be contested Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course.
The day's program will feature six $100,000 stakes races restricted to horses foaled and/or conceived in the state of Illinois.
The Illinois Champion's lineup will be carded as races 4 though 9 on the 10-race program and will have three races apiece for both sexes. Four races will be run at the classic sprint distance of six furlongs, while the two handicap races for 3-year-olds and upward (one per gender) will be run at one-mile and one-sixteenths.
Here is a run-down on the six stakes races, followed by post position order, morning line odds, and jockey assignment.
The Lady Hallie Stakes: Six furlongs, filly 3-year-olds. Big Lou has returned at age three, a seemingly much improved filly. Speed sort must contend with Carts Italian Rose early, but the potential closers hardly seem menacing enough to threaten Big Lou late. The Kelly Ackerman-trained daughter of Malibu Moon looks for her third straight victory. Silver Stairs and Missy Biscuit could make up ground late.
Lavaliere, Silva (8-1); Nevercomingback, Graham (6-1); Missy Biscuit, Razo Jr.(4-1); Mythical Star, Thornton (6-1); Carts Italian Rose, Ocampo (7-2); Silver Stairs, Riggs (9-2); Big Lou, Houghton (5-2).
Milwaukee Avenue: One mile and one-sixteenths, 3-year-olds and upward. With two-time defending champion Wiggins on the sidelines, Stonehouse has been assigned high weight of 119 pounds and has been installed the 3-1 morning line favorite. He's been facing much tougher in recent starts at the Fair Grounds, and draws the rail in here. He'll probably look to take this group wire to wire as not much speed is signed on. Instill won the Illinois Futurity back in December and looks to rebound from recent poor performances. Win Me Over has earned the bulk of his $270,051 career earnings in Illinois-bred events and may add to his bankroll in this spot.
Stonehouse, Graham (3-1); Stumbling Block, Thornton (9-2); Instill, Campbell, Je (6-1); Batten, Perez (7-2); Creative Force, Riggs (5-1); Navy Wings, Ferrer (6-1); Win Me Over, Emigh (5-1).
Land of Lincoln Stakes: Six furlongs, 3-year-old colts and geldings. River Bear was made a 4-1 morning line favorite by linesmaker Jim Miller, which gives you a good indication as to the depth of the competition. While River Bear has clearly faced tougher opposition of late, the hot horse might be Denos Keys, who sports a perfect 2-2 record. Interestingly enough, jockey Tim Thornton who has piloted Denos Keys in both career outings, moves to the Mike Reavis trained Michael's Dreamin', while Chris Emigh assumes the mount on Denos Keys. Dakota Rebel, Brixton's Conte and Classic R.J. all have enough speed to factor strongly.
Denos Keys, Emigh (6-1); Dakota Rebel, Meier (9-2); Brixton's Conte, Karlsson (5-1); Classic R.J., Graham (6-1); D D Cannon, Campbell Je (8-1); River Bear, Ocampo (4-1); Michael's Dreamin', Thornton (5-1); U Teachem Cart, Houghton (8-1).
Peach Of It Handicap: One mile and one-sixteenths, fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward. The 6-year-old mare Stop a Train is the high weight at 120 pounds, but the second choice in the morning line (4-1) behind Copper State (7-2). Stop a Train finished third in this race last year and enters off a hard fought victory on March 31, against the classy Coolwind. If Stop a Train has recovered from that effort, she is a likely winner. Copper State was third to Stop a Train in the aforementioned March 31 event, but that was run in the slop and her recent efforts over a fast track (albeit last fall) would make her a serious contender. Home's the Best is 2-2 over the racetrack and would be no surprise.
Sandpit Cart, Betancourt (6-1); Denouncer's Gal, Thornton (8-1); Home's the Best, Ferrer (6-1); Copper State, Silva (7-2); Stop a Train, Emigh (4-1); Slewtini, Lopez (10-1); Jermidy, Graham (5-1); Labar, Sukie (8-1).
Governor's Lady Handicap: Six furlongs, fillies and mares 4-years-old and up. Trainer Christine Janks sends out top-weight and morning line choice, Pretty Jenny (4-1). In 2005 Pretty Jenny was 3-year-old Illinois filly of the year, and will start on Saturday for the first time as a 6-year-old. She has won five times at Hawthorne, and she'll prove tough if fit enough for her first start since November. A win by Pretty Jenny will push her lifetime earning ($457,318) past the half-million mark. Bluesbdancing won this race in 2006, but would need to improve off her most recent effort. Janks also sends out returning Modjadji, a deep closer who has also performed well at Hawthorne.
Modjadji, Graham (9-2); Precious Zeal, Lopez (12-1); Cheyenne Spirit, Campbell Je (10-1); Bluesbdancing, Thornton (15-1); Pretty Jenny, Emigh (4-1); Magnetic Miss, Fires (8-1); Ally's Little Sis, Meier (15-1); Taylor Madison, Montalvo (6-1); Secret Kin, Perez (6-1); Ripe Tomato, Houghton (5-1).
Chicagoland Handicap: Six furlongs, 4-years-old and upward. High Expectations will look to defend his title against nine worthy (mostly) opponents and will carry high weight of 121 pounds including jockey Chris Emigh. He is not the morning line favorite, however. That distinction goes to his stablemate (both are trained by Christine Janks), Mighty Rule, (4-1) who enters off a wide-trip third to Distorted Groom in a restricted stake on Illinois Derby day. Distorted Groom is the second choice at 9-2, after sporting a game front-running score in that April 5 contest. The race also features the return of the speedy Caruso, although this will be Caruso's first start as a 4-year-old and he has not raced in over seven months. Holy Thursday and Lil Brian Too may be two interesting horse to keep an eye on; both have won two straight sprints during the current meet and look to prove they can run with much classier opponents than each has been facing.
Rochester Cat, Medina Jr. (15-1); Distorted Groom, Lantz (9-2); He's Hot Sauce, Campbell, Je (10-1); Mighty Rule, Graham (4-1); High Expectations, Emigh (5-1); Sub Futz Jr, Perez (6-1); Holy Thursday, Riggs (6-1); Lil Brian Too, Ferrer (8-1); Caruso, Silva (8-1); Infectious Spirit, Thornton (12-1).