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 third 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 turf going a mile and a sixteenth. For the fillies and mares, it's the Lincoln Heritage Handicap. For the open company, it's the Black Tie Affair Handicap. Each carries a pot of $100,000.
At original publish time, morning line odds were not available.
(Update, June 13: Morning line odds are added.)
Arlington Park -- Race 2 -- Lincoln Heritage Handicap-- 1 1/16 miles on turf -- post time 1:32 pm CT
Only a field of six here in the Lincoln Heritage in a division that has neither depth nor breadth. Guess LA TIA, winner of last year's G3 Arlington Oaks, serves as this division's bogeyman. LA TIA won an open upper-crust allowance on May 11, covering a mile in a snappy (for the course) 1:37 3/5 and doing so on the lead, which hasn't been the place to be. Defeated fellow entrant GOLDWAY in the allowance, and that race was flattered when the 3rd place finisher won the Gaily Gaily last week. With trainer W. Catalano winning over forty percent of races he enters, anything he sends, even if it's a cardboard cutout of a horse, is live. So TIPSY deserves inclusion. It also helps when has a win over this grass course at today's 1 1/16 mile distance. Catalano also sends this out for owners K. Ramsey and S. Ramsey, so it's well meant purely off the human connections. GOLDWAY was second in the May 11 allowance and ahead of next out $65K stakes winner Grandma's Rules. Shows two post-race bullet workouts since that allowance. Do note the ice cold zero-for-thirty seven trainer.
#5 LA TIA (8/5)
#6 TIPSY (6/1)
#4 GOLDWAY (7/2)
Longshot: Wait at a second. The stupidhead who now gets to vote for the NTRA Top 10 talks about speed winning this race, yet speed isn't winning at all on the Arlington turf? Here's a good time to be a Block-head: #3 MOURETTE (9/2) showed a good closing kick at the end of the season in the Illini Princess on grass across town. She goes second off the layoff after being third in an open two-other-than behind a next-out winner. It's a C. Block trained horse, but with a "B" rider. There could be fireworks on the front end (LA TIA and GOLDWAY as one way speed?) to help this late rallier make fireworks.
Arlington Park -- Race 7 -- Black Tie Affair Handicap-- 1 1/16 miles on turf -- post time 4:05 pm CT
This race honors Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year. He was based out of Chicago for the late trainer Ernie Poulos. He capped his 1991 season winning the Breeders' Cup Classic.
A solid state-bred stakes. The presence of one-way speed and defending champion MR. MISCHIEF ensures a solid pace for closers to attack. I like the aggressive move two back to put THE PIZZA MAN into a third-level allowance, even though he qualified for a two-other-condition. He won the third level allowance two back at Fair Grounds, then got a trip from hell on the Kentucky Derby undercard in a second, but much stronger, N3X. Atigun, one of the horses ahead of him, cashed a check recently in the G3 Louisville. Taking the 2012 State Champion Sophomore going third off the layoff. At a longer distance, SUNTRACER would be easy to endorse. He was fourth in an upper-crust allowance that saw him behind TAZZ and Workin For Hops, who was third in the Swoon's Son last week. A dead one-run closer, he'll get pace to attack and he nailed MR. MISCHIEF on the line in the Illinois Owners' Stakes last year. He goes second off the shelf, but he could get flung wide here. If so, he could run up the track like he did in the Buck's Boy across town last October. Do note the popular connections. The obligatory must-bet-because-the-trainer-hits-at-forty-percent Catalano horse in this event is COALPORT, who was second on dirt two back at Hawthorne in the IL-bred Milwaukee Avenue. Sure he won on dirt, but he also won a state-bred allowance last out with flair over this course. Perhaps the light bulb went on after this one had a lost year at three. The high-powered Ramseys own, and C. Hill is slated to ride, shoulder permitting.
#6 THE PIZZA MAN (3/1)
#9 SUNTRACER (5/2)
#3 COALPORT (7/2)
Longshot: After #4 MAVERICKING (12/1) got smoked in the G3 Arlington Handicap last July, he smartly came back to earth and cashed checks in the Illinois Owners' (behind SUNTRACER), the Tex's Zing (behind THE PIZZA MAN). Toss the first-off-the-layoff Milwaukee Avenue last time. And perhaps the switch from Eduardo Perez--who may have taken him too far back--to the more aggressive S. Martinez might help. Yours truly may be a sucker for the uncoupled entry, but it's either this or Kent Desormaeux (ugh) on a nutjob horse (double ugh) breaking from the rail (triple ugh) after a running a good race when he can't put together in a row (quadruple ugh). Block-heads again we'll be.
Be sure to check out Twitter (@heylaserbeam) for all-day on-the-scene updates at Arlington Park. Good luck!