This year at Arlington Park, the Prairie State Festival was split over three weekends with two stakes each weekend. It's not a new idea to split the marquee Illinois-bred stakes; Hawthorne Race Course across town did it with the Illinois Festival last fall. The result is this week's Picks and Ponderings is the second of three devoted to the six stakes that in past year compromised the Prairie State Festival.
The two state-bred stakes featured this week are both for three-year-olds and older on the polytrack going six furlongs. For the fillies and mares, it's the Isaac Murphy Handicap. Purple Violet Stakes. For the open company, it's the Addison Cammack Handicap. Each carries a pot of $100,000.
Also on the program are a pair of overnight turf stakes at a mile and a sixteenth and each with a purse of $65,000. For the females, it's the Gaily Gaily Stakes. For the open company, it's the Swoon's Son Stakes.
Arlington Park -- Race 1 -- Addison Cammack Handicap -- Six Furlongs on Polytrack -- post time 1:00 PM CT
Formerly known as the White Oak Handicap, the race honors Addison Cammack. Cammack was a fixture on the local backstretches and plied his trade in equine transport.
A field of five here, and WORK ALL WEEK likely scared all the state-bred sprinters away. Last time in an open N1X allowance, he won by five and beat Static Kill (who was second last week in a similar condition) and Hughes The Daddy, a next-out winner. Prior to that, he turned heads winning by a zip code at Hawthorne after setting a zippy :21 opening split. The water gets deeper here in the Cammack, but it's a short field and he may just out-break the field and take them coast to coast. Do watch for negative show pools, however, as he's a horse with buzz. NAGYS PIGGY BANK goes second off the layoff, and he came out of the mothballs last time in the Molaro Handicap, the spring iteration of this race at Hawthorne. He made the lead then threw out the anchor. However, he has run well in the second start post-layoff (and that's a 27% winning situation for the trainer) in the past: last year he won a N1X allowance on the local grounds going second-off. Perhaps SWEET LUCA is a touch better on dirt, but SWEET LUCA does have six top three finishes in seven synthetic starts. While he's been trolling around in second-level allowances, trainer C. Block rarely sends out duds in the Illinois-bred stakes. Goes second off the layoff in today's Cammack. Usually gets on the board and almost always finds a way to cash a check.
#2 WORK ALL WEEK (4/5)
#4 NAGYS PIGGY BANK (5/2)
#3 SWEET LUCA (5/1)
Longshot: Only a field of five, but WORK ALL WEEK is no slam dunk. Midwest Thoroughbreds sends out the prohibitive favorite, but they have two in the field. #5 SACRED GIFT (9/2) is the other, and he gets a rider switch from F. Torres to S. Martinez. That's a big deal when Torres--who won the title last year--is off to a 0-for-31 start. Given the attention on WORK ALL WEEK, he should certainly hold his odds.
Arlington Park -- Race 4 -- Swoon's Son Stakes -- 1 1/16 miles on turf -- post time 2:21 PM CT
Run under these conditions last year as the Sea O' Erin, this race honors racing Hall of Famer Swoon's Son. Campaigning in the 1950s, he won stakes (that today are graded) at Arlington at ages two, three, four, and five.
At publish time, the rail is slated to be in Lane 4. A possible feeder to the Arlington Handicap.
After the Washington Park Handicap last fall, I (on Twitter) divorced myself from WORKIN FOR HOPS after he went splat in the Washington Park, I divorced him. Next out, trainer C. Block claimed him for $40,000. After a stay in New Orleans in the titular barn of Neil Pessin), Block brings him back. Last time in an upper-crust allowance he was third at 17-10 odds. However, as seen (left/above), I'm making a deal with the devil and taking WORKIN FOR HOPS. His forward style didn't mesh with the "pick-a-closer" style of Fair Grounds grass. When he won for $50,000 at Gulfstream two back, he beat a next-out G2 winner. And if you strike out a disastrous experiment in the Stars and Stripes, he's never been off the board over this course. There's not a lot of pace, and he may be dictating all the terms. CORPORATE JUNGLE makes his first start for the Tom Proctor barn, after a mostly east-coast campaign last year. He is perhaps best known as one of Wise Dan's punching bags as he was second to the incumbent Horse of the Year in the G2 Fourstardave at Saratoga. A G3 winner, he makes his first start off the shelf. Trainer is 26% wins with long respites. CHEROKEE LORD was the horse that beat WORKIN FOR HOPS last out in the allowance. While WORKIN FOR HOPS was the 17-10 favorite, CHEROKEE LORD was a 19-1 outsider. Don't think you'll get even 19-1 on CHEROKEE LORD this go-around. Four of his five career wins are here at Arlington on the grass. Had a lost year last year, going zero-for-seven. But that was a stakes-quality field that CHEROKEE LORD beat in that allowance and he deserves inclusion off that, as well making start three of the form cycle.
#2 WORKIN FOR HOPS (9/2)
#6 CORPORATE JUNGLE (9/5)
#4 CHEROKEE LORD (8/1)
Longshot: #7 FRANCOIS (15/1) looks to have figures going the wrong way. So why take him? We can make excuses for his two most recent bad starts. Last time out was sprinting, which is likely too short for this miler. Two back in a starter allowance, he got a crappy ride from (shock!) K. Desormaeux. Cycle back to three starts ago on the Hawthorne dirt, where he was second and the 1-3 finishers came back to go 3-1 in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap for Illinois-breds. Four starts ago, he was in the same zip code as Hogy, and all he did was win the Hanshin Cup. Anything like three and four back (or when he won the Straight Line last year on Million Day) makes him a player.
Arlington Park -- Race 5 -- Gaily Gaily Stakes -- 1 1/16 miles on turf -- post time 2:50 PM CT
Perhaps added due to a suggestion posed last year, (or not) this race honors two time Modesty winner Gaily Gaily, a G1 winning turf mare of the late 1980s trained by W. Mott.
At publish time, the rail is slated to be in Lane 4. A possible Modesty prep. The top pick is cross-entered to the G3 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap the same day at Churchill Downs. HEAVENLY LANDING, if she goes, was second in last year's G3 Mint Julep and acquitted herself as a decent B-team female turfer (the A-team being Zagora, Daisy Devine, etc.) She appears to be at that level this year, and this minor stakes should hit her between the eyes. Third in two consective upper-crust allowances at Churchill. Should also get some pace to chase from CLOSING RANGE. CLOSING RANGE should be the speed of the speed. She went wire-to-wire three back at a mile and half at Calder, but set a slower pace than last time out, trying to dictate terms in the Orchid against the likes of Regalo Mia. She threw two clunkers at Gulfstream, so perhaps she doesn't like the course there. The "substitute top pick" should HEAVENLY LANDING not go here. One more time to the well with pregnant mare HOOH WHY. She appeared to take a step backward on the Beyer Scale in the G3 Matron last time, but her BRISnet figures have her holding serve with this group. She's won over the course before, as she won the Illinois Owners' Stakes in2011 and has a fourth in the Illinois Owners' Stakes last year. Always has value, and seems to throw a good race when you kick her to the curb.
#4 HEAVENLY LANDING (5/2)
#8 CLOSING RANGE (5/1)
#5 HOOH WHY (2/1)
Longshot: #6 GRANDMA'S RULES (12/1) really came alive last year on the Arlington weeds. She gets back on the weeds, where she has four starts, three wins, and a third. Rider J. Graham was aboard those wins and he's aboard here. There should be an adequate target in CLOSING RANGE for this closer to have, and Graham is one of the best finishers on the grounds. Team is three-for-twelve with a positive ROI in starts dating back to 2012.
Arlington Park -- Race 7 -- Isaac Murphy Handicap -- Six Furlongs on Polytrack -- post time 3:52 PM CT
This race honors Isaac Murphy, a Hall of Fame jockey who won three Kentucky Derbies.
I've been patiently waiting for FIRE TRICKS to get back on polytrack. She came alive last fall on the local polytrack, sailing through the allowance conditions. She was even good enough to get third in the Powerless last fall (second that day was ALGONQUIN POSSE) and has been nibbling and collecting checks, even being fourth in the Third Chance at Hawthorne. Toss the last start where she was eight wide on the sod. KIP BERRIES likes synthetic, as she's eight of eleven in the money on the local polytrack. Chased around buzzsaw Third Chance last summer in the Murphy and paid the price. Chased her again in an allowance, a better second. Without the award-winning Illinois-bred and cross-town stakes namesake in the field, she could be the speed of the speed and get a free lunch on the front end, if ALGONQUIN POSSE lets her alone. Issue with the trending downward figures, but, you know she'll be involved from the get-go. ALGONQUIN POSSE dictated most of the terms in the Third Chance last out, getting the lead from a backpedaling pacesetter then staying clear for the picture. She likely won't get the lead here (that going to KIP BERRIES), but hard to argue with four wins and seven money finishes in eight career polytrack tries.
#5 FIRE TRICKS (8/1)
#4 KIP BERRIES (4/1)
#3 ALGONQUIN POSSE (2/1)
Longshot: FIRE TRICKS? You might just be coming over to the dark side. Too bad she hasn't won a race since last Fall. After a dismal 2012, #8 WILD HOPE (9/2) may have regained the form she had in2011 when she cashed checks in stakes and won allowances. She was down near the rail two back in the Powerless on a day when the rail was radioactive. She ran well last time to cash a check in the Third Chance, the spring iteration of this stakes. Although she's one-for-seven in the win column on polytrack, there are two seconds and a Murphy win two years ago on file. Think the price on this one inflates.
After the Arlington stakes are through, stick around (or flip your TV to NBC) for the Belmont Stakes. You'll find the Picks and Ponderings for the Belmont here.
Look for on-scene Arlington reports on Twitter, and recaps released the following Sunday after the races. Good luck!