A Summer Feeling as Winter Nears

Trainer Anthony Mitchell has trained a couple of precocious two-year-olds, but the ones that come to mind are fillies: Original Spin and Summer Mis. The latter just happens to be the dam of Summer’s Empire, the probable favorite in the $100,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity for two-year-old colts and geldings.

“His (Summer’s Empire) mother figured it out real easy,” said Mitchell. “Some of them get it straight away and others take a little more time. This colt is only now beginning to learn the game and it’s pretty exciting when they do.”

Summer’s Empire has a ways to go before equaling his mother’s racing accomplishments. After all, Summer Mis was the Illinois Horse of the Year in 2003, and was a graded stakes winner as well. However, Mitchell likes the progress the son of Empire Maker has shown to date and he expects another sharp performance this afternoon.

“Although I’m not sure how good a field he beat in his last start, he won impressively and he’s obviously taken a liking to the dirt. And more importantly, he’s doing great right now so I like my chances.”

The mile and one-sixteenths race did attract eight other runners, two of them from the white-hot barn of Brian Williamson.

“Last Demand and Ocean Ace both deserve a chance in here,” said Williamson, speaking from the paddock, only moments before winning with longshot Daniel’s Magic in Wednesday’s opener. “I’ve had a lot of success in this race with winners and maidens and anything is possible with lightly-raced babies.”

Last Demand and Ocean Ace each have only a maiden victory so far, but the same can be said for every other runner besides Summer’s Empire, so the leap of faith seems entirely plausible.

Charter Class should probably be given some consideration following his second-place finish at this distance in his last start, but alas, the winner of that race was Summer’s Empire, so improvement will likely be necessary if he is to challenge the chalk.

Money Line and Weggie both enter this race seeking their first career victories, but such was the case with Ava Mae before she went on to win last Saturday’s Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante.

The field in post position order, jockey and morning line odds:

Money Line, Sanchez (12-1); Devil Me Not, Compton (10-1); Summer’s Empire, Campbell, Je (7-2); Last Demand, Emigh (4-1); Kokomo Gypsy, La Sala (8-1); Big Smooth, Thornton (6-1); Charter Class, Fogelsonger (9-2); Ocean Ace, Wade (8-1); Weggie, Razo Jr. (6-1)

Track Record for Starter Handicap

Yes, I consider myself a good handicapper, but no, I don’t generally predict track records. Today, I go out on a limb, as seven are entered in the first-ever one mile and nine-sixteenths dirt race here at Hawthorne. Like the grassy mile and nine-sixteenths run here last fall, the race is the brainchild of Racing Secretary Gary Duch.

“Sometimes you have to be creative late in the year,” said Duch. “I was looking at a race we could fill and at the same time set a track record. This is the first time we’ve run this distance on the dirt, so go ahead and put it in the books.”