Returning to the Arlington Park stakes calendar this year is the Sea O' Erin Stakes. When last seen on the calendar in 2009, it was raced at a mile on the grass near Labor Day. It had been a Grade 3 stakes once upon a time. This year it returns as an overnight stakes (a typically minor stakes that doesn't require an advanced nomination payment), and its June placement has it as a race that may produce a runner or two in the Arlington Handicap (the local steppingstone to the Arlington Million).
There was a horse, in fact, called Sea o' Erin. He raced 85 times in the 1950s, winning the Phoenix Handicap (twice), the Ben Ali, and the New Orleans Handicap. On the local circuit, he won a number of local stakes and hit the board in seminal handicap races like the Washington Park Handicap and the Hawthorne Gold Cup. Sea o' Erin had career earnings of over $400K (at a time when million-dollar earners were few and far between) and a lifetime record of eighty-five starts, nineteen winners, twelve seconds, and ten thirds.
Past winners of note include two local turf stars and Illinois Horses of the Year (IL HoTY) who each earned over a million dollars: Mystery Giver (won 2002 G2 Muniz in his IL HoTY campaign) and Fort Prado (won 2006 G3 Fair Grounds Handicap in his IL HoTY campaign).
Arlington -- Race 9 -- Sea o'Erin Stakes -- 1 1/16 miles on turf -- post time 4:50 CT
As of publish time, the rail will be in Lane 1, ten feet from the zero position. There are two recent polytrack starts in NIKKI'S SANDCASTLE. The one at Keeneland is on dry polytack and he checked in with a dismal sixth. The one last time out at Arlington is on wet polytrack, and he was beaten in a photo by GLEAM OF HOPE. The wet polytrack race and solid turf record over the winter indicate that the Keeneland Fall polytrack race can be tossed out, and we also get a runner that wasn't far removed from runners like Data Link (won G1 at Keeneland in the Spring) and Bad Debt (win and a third in two Florida-bred stakes). MR. VEGAS may not have cared for the Hawthorne grass when he had a even fourth in the Carey last fall, but he looked much better when he scored two top-two finishes in the feeders to the G2 Muniz Handicap. Returns to a grass course where he has a win and three seconds in five career tries. Trainer has a positive $1.51 ROI. SERUNI is half of an entry, and is the stronger half based on a win in a listed-stakes quality allowance during Derby week. Has a win over the local sod and six top-three finishes in ten grass starts. Think he wasn't fully fresh in the G3 earlier in the year at Gulfstream, nor is he meeting anyone of that caliber.
#2 NIKKI'S SANDCASTLE (8/1)
#3 MR. VEGAS (4/1)
#1 SERUNI (part of entry) (5/2)
Longshot: #5 ACHAEMENES (12/1) scratched out of the G3 Hanshin Cup to finish third in a Churchill N3X dirt allowance. He returns to Arlington, where he put up a fast, with respect to the clock, workout earlier this week. He also goes third off the layoff, an eighteen percent winning situation that also shows a flat bet profit. Able to lead (as he did going a single turn mile last year) or come off the pace (as he did over the Fair Grounds grass), and such pace versatility will be an asset in a crowded field.
Look for on-the-scene recaps from Arlington Park on Saturday from Twitter.
The biggest event on this day, however, is the Belmont Stakes. As with Preakness Day, look for Arlington to interrupt its live racing for coverage of the Belmont. Head over to this post to see its picks and ponderings. The Belmont Stakes is set to go between Arlington Race 10 and Arlington Race 11. (Be aware that the post is made before the news of the scratch of I'll Have Another; revisions were made.)
On track, look for three dollar food specials in the early afternoon. Also, the first 3,333 to buy online tickets for Saturday receive mystery win vouchers. Said vouchers are essentially free money that can be used at the windows.
Good luck this weekend!