ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- On a sunny and seasonable Saturday afternoon in the northwest suburbs, Arlington Park ran four stakes--two for Illinois-breds and two minor stakes on the grass. They all served as an appetizer to the Belmont Stakes that followed later. Here's a look back.
Addison Cammack Handicap: A Sweet Victory for SWEET LUCA
The very first race of the Saturday program was a stakes for Illinois-bred sprinters, the $100,000 Addison Cammack Handicap at six furlongs. WORK ALL WEEK, who beat the competition two starts ago across town by a zip code, scared many of the sprinters away, and only four other older males saw the starter. One who wasn't scared was trainer Chris Block. Always a force in Illinois-bred stakes, he wasn't as deterred and put SWEET LUCA in, where he drew post three, next to 1-5 favorite WORK ALL WEEK.
WORK ALL WEEK did break on top in the sprint, but unlike in the past two races, there was no free lunch on the front end. NAGYS PIGGY BANK flanked and stalked the prohibitive favorite throughout the backstretch run, making WORK ALL WEEK work on the front end through opening splits of :22.34 and :45.40 for the opening quarter and half-mile.
In the stretch, WORK ALL WEEK turned back the challenge of NAGYS PIGGY BANK. But SWEET LUCA, who had been gobbling up ground on the outside, forged to within a head at the stretch call and was on even terms through the stretch. At the wire, it was a tight photo between SWEET LUCA and WORK ALL WEEK. The win, officially by a nose, went to SWEET LUCA over WORK ALL WEEK. FOUR LEFT FEET was third, 1 3/4 lengths behind the top pair.
SWEET LUCA (front, yellow cap) narrowly prevails in the Cammack.
SWEET LUCA, a four-year-old Illinois-bred son of Candy Ride, stopped the clock n 1:10.92 for the six furlongs. Sent off at between 9-1 and 10-1, he returned $21.20 to win. Trainer Chris Block saddled the winner (giving him the requisite "Prairie State" win), and his first-call rider Eduardo Perez was aboard.
Trainer Chris Block was thrilled to win the Cammack, as the late namesake of the race "was a dear, dear, dear friend of mine and to win this was pretty special. I was proud to run in the race. I'm hoping SWEET LUCA gets better with age." Although SWEET LUCA is eligible for a second-level (N2X allowance), he told Picks and Ponderings post-race that "the July 6 Arlington Sprint is a possibility."
Winning rider Eduardo Perez reflected that "they would be going pretty quick and my horse has a really good kick from the three-sixteenths to the wire. I made him switch leads and he responded all the week."
The $2 3-2 exacta of SWEET LUCA and WORK ALL WEEK paid $49.40. Fifty-cent 3-2-1 trifectas of SWEET LUCA, WORK ALL WEEK, and FOUR LEFT FEET returned $36.40. Superfecta wagering was not offered in the race.
Swoon's Son: KEEP UP gets Back Up on Top
The action shifted to the turf course for the $65,000 Swoon's Son Stakes, an overnight stakes for older types. Back in the winners' circle for the first time since the 2012 G3 River City Handicap was KEEP UP who closed from the back off of slow splits, a growing trend this year on the Arlington turf.
CHEROKEE LORD went to the front from the opening bell, and set those opening fractions of :25.08 for the first quarter and :50.17 for the first half. In close attendance to the early splits was WORKIN FOR HOPS, who slowly but steadily got closer to the early leader. The recent Arlington allowance winner yielded the lead to WORKIN FOR HOPS when they hit the three-quarters mark in a tepid 1:14.21. In the stretch, WORKIN FOR HOPS took a short lead in the lane was overtaken by two rally-wide rivals. One of them was eventual winner KEEP UP, the other was 9-5 favorite CORPORATE JUNGLE. CORPORATE JUNGLE had been mid-pack for most of the race, while KEEP UP was last of the seven before making his rally.
KEEP UP would get the rally-wide victory, three-quarters of a length in front of CORPORATE JUNGLE. Another three-quarters back was WORKIN FOR HOPS in third. FRANCOIS was fourth, 3 1/2 lengths behind the top trio.
KEEP UP (right, blue cap) goes last-to-first in the Swoon's Son.
KEEP UP, a six-year-old by Unbridled's Song, traversed the mile and a sixteenths on the weeds in 1:44.59. The course was rated "good", though winning rider James Graham remarked (through winning trainer Alex Clarkson) the course was "a little soft" and perhaps further from firm than indicated.
Winning rider James Graham post-race that KEEP UP "didn't get away all that sharp but I left him alone, let him settle (as per trainer's instructions). At the half-mile pole, he started taking (the bit). I started looking for a spot and hopefully wouldn't have to go too wide."
Winning trainer Alex Clarkson "wasn't concerned with the slow splits. I told (winning rider James) Graham to let the others go, let him find his feet." Clarkson further commented that "he had a couple of compromising races the last two (times) so we gave him a good chance to overcome those two. James (Graham) has done well for us; he gave him every chance and that's what he wanted."
While summertime turf races like the G2 Firecracker and the G2 Colonial Turf Cup are possible, KEEP UP is nominated to the July 13 G3 Arlington Handicap and may return to Arlington Park for that ten-furlong turf test on Million Preview Day, a move mentioned by Clarkson post-race and confirmed by Arlington's in-house June 9 Barn Notes.
The $2 1-6 exacta of KEEP UP and CORPORATE JUNGLE returned $36.40. Fifty-cent 1-6-2 trifectas of KEEP UP, CORPORATE JUNGLE, and WORKIN FOR HOPS dispensed $42.75. Dime superfectas with FRANCOIS in the fourth position paid $55.22.
Gaily Gaily Stakes: GRANDMA'S RULES gives Graham a Stakes Double
One race after James Graham piloted Keep UP in the Swoon's Son, he returned to the winners' circle in the $65,000 Gaily Gaily, the restricted-to-females complement of the race prior. Graham would annex both grass stakes (the two dollar double linking them paying $49.20), the later with GRANDMA'S RULES.
GRANDMA'S RULES would come from off the pace as well, but Graham was closer to the forward types in this event. Carving out the early fractions was outsider DOLL DREAMS, who led for the first three-quarters of a mile. The early fractions were :25.03 (quarter), :50.55 (half), 1:15.54 (three-quarters). DOLL DREAMS had the until the stretch, until GRANDMA'S RULES and 7-5 favorite HOOH WHY came at the early pacesetter. HOOH WHY had tighter quarters to navigate through, but GRANDMA'S RULES had the outside position. She was victorious by a length over HOOH WHY. DRAMA DRAMA was third, a length behind HOOH WHY and a length in front of aforementioned pacesetter DOLL DREAMS who reported home in fourth.
GRANDMA'S RULES (red sliks and red cap) rules in the Gaily Gaily.
GRANDMA'S RULES covered the one and one-sixteenth miles of the Gaily Gaily in 1:45.76. Sent off at 2.70-1 as the second choice in the wagering, backers collected $7.40 for each wagered $2 win ticket. GRANDMA'S RULES is a four-year old by Orientate.
Winning rider James Graham "thought (she would handle the step up from allowance company) the right way. Her last race (against a possible in next week's Lincoln Heritage, La Tia) was a very good race. The horse that ran behind her came back to win. She ran a really good race and she finished up awfully well. She was sprinting home."
Clyde Peterson, the winning co-owner of GRANDMA'S RULES, "claimed her and she's been improving every race but you never know if they're going to take that next step. (Trainer) Richie (Scherer) felt good about her but you never know until you get into that race. When they got to the sixteenth pole and she had to dig in, she's all heart."
Peterson indicated to Picks and Ponderings a desire to keep GRANDMA'S RULES at mile and mile-like distances. The Lady Canterbury Stakes, at a mile on grass near the Twin Cities on July 13 for $100,000, will be the next possible target.
The $2 6-5 exacta of GRANDMA'S RULES and HOOH WHY returned $17.00. Fifty-cent 6-5-2 trifectas of GRANDMA'S RULES, HOOH WHY, and DRAMA DRAMA yielded $11.95. Dime superfectas with DOLL DREAMS in the fourth spot paid $14.35.
Isaac Murphy Handicap: KIP BERRIES Leads Every Step
About sixty minutes after the Gaily Gaily and carded as the seventh race on the program was the Isaac Murphy for older female sprinters chasing a pot of a hundred grand. Here, trainer Tom Swearingen was back in the Illinois-bred stakes winners' circle with KIP BERRIES.
It was a wire-to wire triumph for the seven-year-old Illinois-bred daughter of KIPLING. After chasing around a stakes namesake last year, she got a free lunch on the front end when 7-10 favorite ALGONQUIN POSSE broke alertly, then threw out the parachute. That left KIP BERRIES all alone on the front end, a few lengths in front through the early stages of the race, and with plenty of energy to turn back the bid of SMILING GAMBLER, who pressed and attempted to close, but came up short. KIP BERRIES and SMILING GAMBLER were 1-2 all the way around through clock times of :22.71 for the first quarter, :46.25 for the first half, and a final time for six furloings in1:10.94. KIP BERRIES's margin at the line was 1 3/4 lengths in front of SMILING GAMBLER. ROYAL POSH checked home in third, a neck behind second and a neck to the better of DOLLY PEACH. 7-10 favorite ALGONQUIN POSSE was seventh of eight.
KIP BERRIES wires the field in the Isaac Murphy Handicap.
KIP BERRIES was the 7-2 second choice in the wagering, and winning punters collected nine dollars for each two dollar win wager. The winning jockey/trainer combination was Seth Martinez and Tom Swearingen.
Winning rider Seth Martinez reflected that KIP BERRIES "was pretty relaxed going into the turn and she took a bid deep breath around the three-eighths pole. After that, at the top of the lane she switches (leads) and when I smooched her her she took off. When she felt a little bit of pressure, she grabbed the bit again."
Winning trainer (and part-owner) Tom Swearingen was "glad we finally got a stakes win with her." He further dictated that he "was really happy that (winning jockey) Seth (Martinez) was able to relax her. She had an extra gear left in her and held them off. That's the way she likes to run."
Swearingen gave indefinite next race plans for the stakes-winning mare.
The $2 4-1 exacta of KIP BERRIES and SMILING GAMBLER paid $107.60. Fifty-cent 4-1-7 trifectas of KIP BERRIES, SMILING GAMBLER, and ROYAL POSH returned $127.35. Dime superfectas with DOLLY PEACH in the fourth position yielded $162.74.
In the 9th race yesterday at Arlington, top rider Channing Hill's mount of BASIC VALUES unseated the rider during the course of the race. Hill fell and was taken to Northwest Community Hospital. He suffered a broken scapula and will be sidelined with that injury, according to Hill's tweets. Hill's mount, BASIC VALUES, had to be euthanized due to injuries sustained during the race.
After all the stakes at Arlington, and placed between the last two races at Arlington was the G1 Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of the Triple Crown. PALACE MALICE was first with Preakness winner OXBOW second and Kentucky Derby winner ORB third. INCOGNITO completed the superfecta.
All photos courtesy Four Footed Fotos.