Hawthorne isn't wasting any time presenting its premier event. Just two days into the meeting, the Chicago track will host the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II), and those ready to battle it out in Saturday's 1 1/4-mile race include the past two winners.
Perfect Drift, the 2003 winner, will carry top weight of 122 pounds, the same as when he won as the heavy favorite. Perfect Drift appears at the top of his game by virtue of a victory in the Washington Park Handicap (gr. II) at nearby Arlington Park and a close runner-up effort in the Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I) at the Gold Cup distance at Del Mar in his last two starts. A victory will up his earnings past $4 million.
Freefourinternet, last year's winner at 112 pounds over Perfect Drift, will get in light again, this time at 113 pounds. He has lost his last 11 starts, but his late running style got him within a neck of winning the Fort Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The only other millionaire in the race, he ran second at Ellis Park in his last start.
Popular Chicago runner Lord of the Game, whose 115-pound impost is the next highest, started his career with a 22 3/4 win at Hawthorne and has won eight of 11 lifetime. He has captured this year's Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) and the Hanshin Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Arlington.
Desert Boom figures to provide the early speed. He set the pace in winning both the Berkley Handicap (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields in June and the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes at Canterbury Downs a month later. He comes into the race off a close third-place finish in the Longacres Miles Handicap (gr. III) at Emerald Downs.
Good Reward, last year's Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) winner, will be making his first start on dirt since finishing fourth in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita in February. Since then, he won the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT), placed in two other graded stakes, and ran unplaced in the Arlington Million (gr. IT).
Home of Stars, another popular Chicago runner, goes into the Gold Cup off a neck victory in the John Henry Stakes at Arlington.
Others entered in the Gold Cup are Collateral Damage, Fantasticat, Mambo Train, and Super Frolic.
Hawthorne Gold Cup H. (gr. II)
Race 7 Post 4:13
Post Horse Weight Jockey
1 Lord of the Game 115 Eusebio Razo, Jr.
2 Freefourinternet 113 Greta Kuntzweiler
3 Super Frolic 114 Victor Espinoza
4 Desert Boom 113 Roberto M. Gonzalez
5 Perfect Drift 122 Mark Guidry
6 Fantasticat 113 Gerard Melancon
7 Collateral Damage 110 Roman Chapa
8 Mambo Train 113 E. T. Baird
9 Good Reward 114 Shaun Bridgmohan
10 Home of Stars 113 James Graham