The Hawthorne Gold Cup drew a field of nine and will go as race eight on the Saturday card at Hawthorne Race Course, slated for the classic 1 1/4-mile distance on the Chicagoland oval's main track. It will be the highlight of a one-hour live broadcast on the local WGN Television station, from 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Last Gunfighter, trained by Chad Brown for breeder John Gunther, has won four of seven starts this year, three in grade III company. He took the March 23 Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, the Pimlico Special at Pimlico Race Course on May 17, and the Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 18. After a fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), the 4-year-old son of First Samurai closed late in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Classic to finish fifth at Santa Anita Park. The 9-5 favorite on the morning line, he'll be ridden from Post 3 by Joe Bravo as the 120-pound highweight.
Second choice in the Gold Cup at 3-1 is Godolphin Racing's Alpha, who comes off a troubled eighth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) and a similarly uninspiring sixth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, yet upset the Aug. 31 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course in his first win since dead-heating with Golden Ticket in the 2012 Travers Stakes (gr. I). The 4-year-old son of Bernardini is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and gets Eddie Castro in the irons from Post 5 while carrying an impost of 118.
Zayat Stable's Prayer for Relief is the third choice on the morning line at 7-2, but has been cross-entered by trainer Steve Asmussen in the Nov. 29 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. A decision is expected Nov. 27 on the target for the 5-year-old Jump Start runner, who took the Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) at Prairie Meadows earlier this season and was fifth in the Sept. 28 Homecoming Classic Stakes at Churchill last time out. Chris Emigh has the mount from the 7 hole; Prayer for Relief is assigned 117.
Also coming out of the Breeders' Cup is West Point Thoroughbreds' 4-year-old Empire Maker colt Suns Out Guns Out, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Marathon (gr. II) Nov. 1. Trained by Dale Romans, Suns Out Guns Out has a pair of wins in 2013 and has hit the board in six of his 10 lifetime starts. Local favorite Francisco Torres is listed to ride from Post 8 at odds of 8-1 on the morning line.
Trainer Greg Geier has a pair owned by Jim Tafel entered in the Gold Cup as 3-year-olds Street Spice and Fordubai will take to the track. Street Spice has posted three wins at Hawthorne, most recently defeating older runners in an optional claiming allowance event. Fordubai finished second in the spring's Illinois Derby (gr. III), and posted a pair of victories during the summer at Arlington Park. Alex Canchari rides Street Spice at 20-1 from the outside and Diego Sanchez will be aboard 30-1 shot Fordubai from Post 6. Both carry 113 pounds.
From the barn of Mike Maker, grade III winner Derby Kitten comes in for top owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. A winner twice in 2013, Derby Kitten has hit the board in seven of eight starts this year and is 10-1 on the morning line. Channing Hill will ride the 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy from the 2 hole as part of a 114-pound assignment.
Local runner Mister Marti Gras draws the rail for trainer Chris Block and Lothenbach Stables. The 6-year-old Belong to Me gelding is approaching the $1 million mark in earnings and won this summer's Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury Park. He finished fourth in last year's edition of the Hawthorne Gold Cup and has been competitive in other high-level graded stakes on various surfaces, including a fourth in the 2011 Clark Handicap and a runner-up finish in the American Derby (gr. IIT) in 2010. Eddie Perez gets the mount; at 12-1, Mister Marti Gras will carry 115.
The 6-year-old Strong Hope gelding Hattaash comes from the barn of trainer Cheryl Winebaugh for owner Kenneth Fishbein. A four-time winner in 2013, Hattaash nearly pulled off the upset in the Aug. 31 Washington Park Handicap (gr. III), running third by less than a length on the Arlington Park Polytrack. A winner over the Hawthorne surface earlier in the meet, Hattaash gets Emanuel Esquivel aboard once again and will depart Post 4.