Lots of Options for Illinois Champions Day

Six $100,000 stakes events restricted to Prairie State performers will be presented at Hawthorne on Saturday's Illinois Champions Day program. The stakes will be run consecutively (races four through nine).

A field of eight older female routers is set to leave the starting gate in the Peach of It Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. Asiel Stable's Meadow Bride is the lukewarm 7-2 choice. The Richard Hazleton-trained 4-year-old defeated her elders in the Illini Princess Handicap as a sophomore at Hawthorne last fall, and swings back off a second place run behind Sunset Kisses in an open allowance at Hawthorne on April 2.

Patrick Walsh's Toll Taker, the second choice in the program at 4-1, has campaigned outside of her home state for all but one of her 18 career starts. The Peach of It high weight at 122 pounds, this stakes winning 4-year-old has competed in several graded events for trainer Tim Hills. In her only previous appearance at Hawthorne, during the fall of her 2-year-old season, Toll Taker stumbled out of the gate and lost her jockey as the overwhelming favorite in the Showtime Deb Stakes. Toll Taker returns to Chicago off a seventh-place effort in the seven furlong Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.

A field of eight older male routers is entered in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap with Nancy A. Vanier's Air Academy listed as the morning line choice at 7-2. A turf horse most of his career, the 5-year-old Brian Williamson-trainee has flourished on the dirt this meet, posting consecutive open company allowance wins, the most recent on March 25.

William Pacella, Joseph Rizza, and Ronald Schwed's multiple stakes winning Wiggins, the high weight in the field at 123 pounds, is the 4-1 second choice in the program. The 6-year-old overwhelmed his Illinois competition over similar conditions in the High Alexander Handicap at Hawthorne last fall for trainer Dale Romans, defeating fellow Milwaukee Avenue contender High Expectations by nearly five lengths. The winner of 12 of his 29 lifetime starts, Wiggins has banked $628,742.

A wide-open field of 13 sophomore fillies is slated for the Lady Hallie Stakes, and eight of them have won at least one race at this meet. The ever so slight program choice is Oxbow Racing's Rich Fantasy at 4-1. She scored a game win in the Showtime Deb Stakes at Hawthorne on Nov. 12 for trainer Ronnie Werner, and just missed posting an open company stakes tally in her follow-up start in the Dixie Belle at Oaklawn. In her most recent run in Arkansas Feb. 24, Rich Fantasy checked in fifth in the Martha Washington Stakes.

The Brian Williamson-trained entry of Nancy Vanier and Lyda Williamson's Albata and Nancy Vanier and Cartwright Thoroughbred's Lampoon are next in the odds at 9-2. Albata cuts back off a trio of route races at the meet, two of which produced romping allowance scores. Lampoon swings back off a seventh-place performance in the open Meafara Stakes at Hawthorne on Illinois Derby Day (April 8).

A dozen sophomore colts and geldings, eight of which have posted at least one win at the meet, have been entered for the Land of Lincoln. Once again a lukewarm morning-line favorite has been tabbed in Centerfire 3's Rochester Cat at 4-1, a sharp winner of the ITBOF Sales Stakes as the overwhelming 1-9 favorite for trainer Andy Hansen on April 9 at Hawthorne.

Scott E. Ricker and Richard S. Kaster's Silver Titan, the runner-up in the Sun Power Stakes at Hawthorne last November for conditioner Ronnie Werner, is the second choice at 5-1. He finished second in a second-level optional claiming allowance at Oaklawn March 17 in his only appearance of the year.

A field of ten older female sprinters is slated to leave the starting gate in the Governor's Lady Handicap, and another 4-1 shot, Robert Bockel and Dwight Espenschied's Denoun N Deverb, the gate to wire winner in the Powerless Handicap at Hawthorne in her final start of 2005 for trainer Leroy Hellman, has emerged as the slight 4-1 program choice. She has not raced this year.

Bob and Nancy Bartels' Bluesbdancing, the high weight at 120 pounds, is the second choice at 9-2. A two-time Illinois-bred stakes winner for trainer Terrell Gore, she swings back off an impressive conditioned allowance win over open foes here on March 18.

Last year's Governor's Lady Handicap winner, Jim Edgar's Fighting Fever, is an early 20-1 shot for trainer Tom Dorris in this year's edition. The 2005 Illinois-bred 3-year-old filly champ, Arbaway Farm and Carson Springs Farm's Pretty Jenny, the winner of the Lady Hallies Stakes on Illinois Champions Day last year for Christine Janks, is 5-1.

The Chicagoland Handicap 123-pound high weight, Ben Dover Stable's defending race champ Take Achance On Me, has been pegged as the 7-2 morning-line choice to defend his title. Based in Maryland with Michael Trombetta, the trainer who captured the Illinois Derby earlier in the meet with Sweetnorthernsaint, the 8-year-old gelded son of American Chance has won eight of 45 career starts en route to banking $472,561. He recently returned from a nine-month layoff to finish second in a high-level optional claiming allowance dash at Laurel Park.

The second choice is Eugene Young's multiple Illinois-bred stakes winner Silver Bid. Trained by Joel Berndt, the ageless 8-year-old gelding will eclipse $700,000 in career earnings with a top five finish on Saturday. In his only start of the meet, Silver Bid finished a gutsy second behind the classy Fifteen Rounds in an open allowance dash on March 10.