When Arlington Park jiggled its stakes schedule before the meet, the G3 Hanshin Cup was moved from mid-May to serve as a supporting feature and add strength to the Arlington Classic/Arlington Matron Day.
So for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, there are three six figure stakes with Grade 3 status on the Saturday card, which is one of the best early season-cards of the meet.
The first of them is the Arlington Matron, a Grade 3 for older females. They'll go one and one-eighth miles, a full lap around the Arlington polytrack oval. Past winners of note include Pucker Up (who has a stakes in her namesake later in the Arlington meet), two-time winner Sixty Sails (who has a stakes in her honor across town at Hawthorne), and hall-of-famers like Bewitch, Real Delight, and Tosmah.
The second of the three races is the G3 Hanshin Cup, carded for a one-turn polytrack mile. Prior to being the Hanshin Cup, the race was formerly known as the Equipoise Mile, paying honor to Equipoise, one of the best handicap horses of the 1930s. Past winners of note include Smile (won during his Champion Sprinter season in 1986) and Black Tie Affair (1991 Horse of the Year, 1990 Hanshin Cup winner).
The third of the three is the Arlington Classic, a G3 (upgraded this year, listed stakes last year) stakes with a purse of $150,000 for three-year-olds on the turf at one and one-sixteenth miles. It's the first leg of the Mid America Triple, a sophomore turf stakes series. You can read more about the Arlington Classic and the Mid America Triple here.
Arlington Park -- Race 7 -- G3 Arlington Matron -- 1 1/8 miles on polytrack -- post time 4:08 PM CT.
In foal to Leroidesanimaeux, HOOH WHY will have just a few starts left before she goes off to motherhood. However, she's a hard-knocking mare that gets on her best surface (polytrack), acquires the meet's leading rider in five-pound apprentice E. Esquivel, and showed she can make one run last time winning a minor stake at Tampa Bay. She wasn't that far behind Old Tune at Tampa, who had an okay fifth in the G1 Wiley and whose one-run closing style was compromised by a speed-friendly Preakness Day turf. An honest mare who always provides wagering value. IMPOSING GRACE chased around 2012 Kentucky Oaks winnner Believe You Can through the winter in New Orleans and later Louisville. Perhaps getting away from her will help. But perhaps going back to Arlington polytrack will help too, as she's hit the superfecta in all three starts on the local main track. The Catalano/Hill Team that have hit at a 50% win rate the past two weeks are behind this runner. ICE CREAM SILENCE won the G3 Doubledogdare last time out over the Keeneland polytrack. She put on a solid speed number on the polytrack that day, so she stays on the polytrack for today's G3 Arlington Matron. She's never been nine furlongs, but having the Street Sense-Street Cry sire line in the pedigree suggests a mile and an eighth should be within her scope.
#8 HOOH WHY (3/1)
#7 IMPOSING GRACE (6/1)
#2 ICE CREAM SILENCE (6/1)
Not often you get trainer Al Stall, Jr. and rider Garrett Gomez at potentially high odds, but you might get high odds on #1 DISTORTED LEGACY (5/1). The last time she won? July 2011. Nearly two years ago. However, her speed figures haven't tumbled horribly from her 2011 campaign despite the starts and stops. She had trouble last time at Churchill on the dirt, so maybe she's in better-than-it-looks form. And if you dig into her past, you'll find a horse that was three of five in the money on polytrack at Woodbine. Could easily drift up on the tote.
Arlington Park -- Race 9 -- G3 Hanshin Cup -- 1 mile (1 turn) on polytrack -- post time 5:08 pm CT
One for the home team, as MISTER MARDI GRAS returns to the scene of his G3 triumphs two summers ago. An honest G3 type, he held his form last year despite not winning a stakes. He closed out his 2012 campaign closing for a victory on a speed-biased track across town at Hawthorne. And he started his 2013 campaign with a second in an upper-crust Keeneland allowance. It's second off the shelf for a horse that has hit the board in all four career tries on polytrack. When HOGY last saw the starter, it was to ship to Keeneland to run in the G3 Shakertown on Blue Grass Day. He was only beaten 2 1/2 lengths on the sod, and he comes back to what this observer feels is his best surface. A mile may be not his optimal distance, but he wasn't flummoxed by it on Million Day last year in the Straight Line. Brought to you by the Stiritz/Becker jockey team. HAMMERS TERROR was the even money favorite last year in the one mile one-turn Straight Line on Million Day. He pressed and tired to fourth. Still, he might have been on the wrong side of the curve that day. He goes second off the layoff for trainer M. Stidham.
#9 MISTER MARDI GRAS (3/1)
#10 HOGY (8/1)
#5 HAMMERS TERROR (10/1)
Longshot: Traditionally the Hanshin Cup is a race that features longshots. (Spotsgone, Havelock,...) Let's take a trainer that's spending his first season with a permanent string at Arlington, Mark Casse. He's got three Arlington starts, with a win and a second. He puts out G2-placed #8 PATRIOTICANDPROUD (15/1) in the Hanshin Cup. Eight of nine in the money on polytrack, and you can cross out the dirt try last time in the Alysheba. He was mostly a speed horse going two turns, but he rated off the pace with no issue going one turn in Canada.
Arlington Park -- Race 10 -- G3 Arlington Classic -- 1 1/16 miles on turf -- post time 5:38 pm CT
Each year, trainer Michael Stidham seems to have a solid sophomore turf horse that gobbles up some stakes prizes. Willcox Inn and Workin' For Hops come to mind as examples. Maybe Stidham has another with DORSETT, who broke his maiden two back at Fair Grounds on the grass. Cross out the first lifetime start (wide) and two back (off the turf). He's also a speed/presser horse that may have been compromised by the typical "pick-a-closer" profile of the New Orleans course. Let's take him in an upset. PROCUREMENT is the likely post-time favorite, based off the solid connections of owner/trainer Glen Hill Farm/Tom Proctor and a sterling Brisnet figure earned last out in the La Puente. Connections have had many quality sod stars through the years; they trained last year's Beverly D. runner-up Marketing Mix. It's rare to see an Arlington stakes race without Chris Block, and he's represented with BAMBAZONKI. Runner-up to Kentucky Derby starter Charming Kitten two back in the Kitten's Joy at Gulfstream, he turned in a meh effort in the G3 Transylvania last out. Maybe getting back to his home barn will jump-start his form. Graduated over this course last September.
#9 PROCUREMENT (4/1)
#12 BAMBAZONKI (8/1)
I'm picking a horse trained by Gennardi Dorochenko in this space. Go ahead: do your spit take, spit out your beverage, and lift your jaw off the floor. Point and laugh. When Dorochenko wins, it's usually at ginormous payoffs. And with horses with subtle form. Perhaps they intersect here on #2 GEFEST (30/1) who wired a first-level allowance field on Keeneland polytrack. He was trying to close on wintertime Turfway polytrack, which is easier said than done. He's trying grass for the first time, and has a very favorable pedigree for it. Has the riding services of R. Homeister, Jr., who is quite capable booting home price horses.
Full card picks will be offered for Arlington Matron Day at the link given, and doubly posted in a separate post to "Picks and Ponderings". Be sure to check out Twitter (@heylaserbeam) for all-day on-the-scene updates at Arlington Park.