ARLINGTON HEIGHTS--The 1-3 finishers from last year's Washington Park Handicap returned to Arlington Park this year for another shot at stakes glory. And a cloudy, breezy afternoon neither MISTER MARDI GRAS, the defending champ, nor WORKIN FOR HOPS would have the picture taken.
Instead it was MIDDIE, a four-year old gelding by Officer, who took down winning honors in the Grade 3 $150,000 Washington Park Handicap.
MIDDIE, piloted by meet's leading rider Cisco Torres, won the nine furlong Washington Park on polytrack. On a polytrack tightened up by spotty rains, he won in a course record 1:49.27 for the mile and eighth. Said record shaved three hundredths a second off the prior polytrack record. (Course record for nine furlongs: Spectacular Bid, 1980 Washington Park H., 1:46 1/5) It was the first stakes win MIDDIE, whose last stakes appearance was a seventh on the undercard of the West Virginia Derby Day program. He was the third-longest choice on the tote at 14-1 odds and rewarded correct punters with $30.80 win payouts.
MIDDIE winning in course record time in the Washington Park Handicap. Photo from Four Footed Fotos.
From the opening bell, WORKIN FOR HOPS took control through sensible fractions of :24.55 and :48.86 for the opening quarter and half. MIDDIE, within two lengths the entire race, took control on the far turn. The three-quarter mile time was 1:13.65. Winning rider Torres explained the move in a post-race interview.
"Around the three-eighths pole, I had so much horse. When I found a seam between the horse in front of me and the outside of me, I went ahead and stole it. I got out, opened up, and held on." --Cisco Torres after the Washington Park H.
Stand-in trainer Neil Pessin noted the lack of pace and instructed Torres MIDDIE "to lay closer to the pace than he normally does." MIDDIE grabbed the lead on the turn, building up a five length advantage at the stretch call. Defending champion MISTER MARDI GRAS came from the rear to grab second. Grade one winner POOL PLAY came from last to get third. HATTASH completed the superfecta, a half length ahead of WORKIN FOR HOPS. 8-5 favorite PRAYER FOR RELIEF ran sixth, and BALLYJAMESDUFF did not finish.
Plans for MIDDIE were unclear after the race, with connections mentioning staying on polytrack for Keeneland's fall meet.
The $2 2-4 exacta of MIDDIE and MISTER MARDI GRAS returned $111.20. The fifty cent 2-4-7 trifecta of MIDDIE, MISTER MARDI GRAS, and POOL PLAY returned $138.50 Dime 2-4-7-5 superfectas including HATTASH in the fourth position returned $156.53.
Special thanks to Sr. Communications Mgr. Dave Zenner for considerations.