ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- On a seasonable but cloudy afternoon, the first of three June weekends featuring Illinois-bred stakes that were packaged together in prior years as part of the Prairie State Festival were contested. The two stakes held on the first of June were for the sophomores.
Meafara Stakes: FLOWER SPELL Blossoms
In a post-race interview, trainer Ingrid Mason had conjectured that CHORTLE, the 3-1 second choice, would fold up if she didn't get an easy lead in the $65,000 Meafara Stakes for three-year-old filly sprinters at six furlongs. The plan was to have her horse, FLOWER SPELL, outbreak CHORTLE to the front end and go as far as she could on the front end. The plan appeared to work, as she broke to the front clicked off splits of :22.40 and :44.89 for the opening quarter and half. CHORTLE, without the benefit of the easy lead, went backwards in the stretch. And on a polytrack that was kind to forwardly placed rail-skimming runners, that clean break was all FLOWER SPELL needed. It was a wire-to-wire victory for the Mason trainee as she won by six lengths, stopping the clock in 1:11.27. GHOST FLOWER finished second, three-quarters of a length to the good of GOLD EDGE, who was third. GOLD EDGE was three-quarters of a length ahead of AWESOME MAMA, who was fourth. 17-10 favorite I'm ALREADY SEXY was pulled up and did not finish.
FLOWER SPELL goes wire-to-wire in the Meafara Stakes.
Rosemary Homeister, Jr. was aboard the winner for aforementioned trainer Ingrid Mason. The three-year-old filly by Flower Alley went off the 4-1 third choice and paid $10.00 to win.
Homeister "called on her to get and into position and she just opened up easily. Down there in the last sixteenth I just idled her down because she was going so easily."
Mason also said after the race how "FLOWER SPELL likes the one hole, she's won from it before. I've always thought a lot of her since I got her." Mason didn't close clear plans for a next start.
The $2 1-8 exacta of FLOWER SPELL and GHOST FLOWER paid $131.00. The fifty-cent 1-8-5 trifecta of FLOWER SPELL, GHOST FLOWER, and GOLD EDGE paid $139.80. Dime superfectas with AWESOME MAMA in the fourth position returned $146.10.
Purple Violet Stakes: BOLD KITTEN Makes the Winning Move
If you watched the Keeneland Spring meet, you saw Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey win race after race at the polytrack oval in Kentucky. In the Purple Violet, the Ramseys annexed the $100,000 Purple Violet Stakes for three-year-old fillies traveling a one-turn polytrack mile.
3-5 post time favorite MY OPTION was sent to the lead along with SCARLET POWER and the pair dueled through zippy opening splits of :22.72 and :46.71. While MY OPTION was near the up-front pace, it was a quick pace that proved to be too much for the Pretty Jenny winner. BOLD KITTEN, who moved from sixth to second during the race's only turn, cut the corner going into the stretch when the three-quarter mile split was posted in 1:10.93. BOLD KITTEN and MY OPTION battled through the stretch, with BOLD KITTEN at the rail gaining a short advantage that was extended to a half-length at the wire. Eight lengths behind BOLD KITTEN and MY OPTION was ALETTE. BEEWAY rounded out the superfecta.
BOLD KITTEN (red cap) skims the rail to take the Purple Violet Stakes.
BOLD KITTEN, a three-year-old by Kitten's Joy, was timed in 1:37.54 for the single-turn polytrack mile. Sent off at nearly 10-1, she returned $21.80 to her backers. Florent Geroux and Wayne Catalano were the winning jockey-trainer pair.
Winning trainer Wayne Catalano commented post-race how "[BOLD KITTEN] is more of a polytrack or grass horse. The Hawthorne [dirt] track wasn't quite the track she wanted last time coming off the bench. She didn't care for it that day. Today she had a great trip. Everything fell into place." After the race, Catalano mentioned how the Ramseys will want to keep BOLD KITTEN in stakes company next time, with the Arlington Oaks a possiblity, though nothing is certain at publish time. Winning rider Florent Geroux was "lucky when BEEWAY opened the fence for me. I just went through in there and my filly ran well."
The $2 exacta of 3-8 BOLD KITTEN and MY OPTION paid out to the tune of $61.80. The fifty-cent 3-8-6 trifecta of BOLD KITTEN, MY OPTION,and ALETTE paid $71.95. Dime superfectas of 3-8-6-1 returned $56.74.
Springfield Stakes: REIGNING CATFISH Posts the Upset
Even though the traditional state-bred stakes at Arlington aren't held on the same weekend, the Illinois-bred stakes universe remained in order. When the second-longest shot on the board crosses the wire, you have the resident "state-bred bomb" that is a feature on nearly every Illinois-bred program. Said bomb was detonated in the $100,000 Springfield Stakes, the open complement of the Purple Violet also at a one-turn polytrack mile.
But before the race, the sky opened, soaking the grounds and the polytrack. It helped speed and inside draws, which had already been doing well on the afternoon. So when MASSIVE EXPLOSION, a rail-drawn horse with speed, broke on the lead when the bell rang, could there be another wire-to-wire winner? It appeared so as he led through the opening quarter in :22.90, the opening half in :45.86, and the three quarters in1:10.50. But REIGNING CATFISH reeled him in, moving from the back of the pack to grab the lead from the inside vacated by MASSIVE EXPLOSION and scoot away to a 1 1/4 length triumph. For REIGNING CATFISH, it was not only his first stakes victory but also his first career victory. Seth Martinez was aboard REIGNING CATFISH for trainer Tom Swearingen.
MASSIVE EXPLOSION held on for second behing REIGNING CATFISH. LASSELL was third and 3-5 post time favorite FEAR THE KITTEN checked in fourth. Final time was 1:37.78.
REIGNING CATFISH (right, red silks and red cap) breaks his maiden in the Springfield Stakes.
REIGNING CATFISH, a three-year-old son of Bellamy Road, was the second-longest price on the toteboard at 31-1. A $2 win ticket on him yielded a $64.60 return.
Winning trainer Swearingen commented how REIGNING CATFISH was his best colt last year at Arlington and "was working great over the polytrack. I thought of Hawthorne but couldn't get a start in because of the [EHV-1] quarantine so I waited till Spring. I ran him at Hawthorne [Spring] and he wasn't as comfortable. We had the option of a maiden race [at Arlington] or the Springfield, asked the owner, and he said let's give it a go."
Citing the new-found affinity for polytrack, winning rider Seth Martinez noted that he "just exploded. He really flies and opens up [on polytrack]." Martinez also said how "I left the gate with him and he got comfortable, set his head. At the five-sixteenths pole, I started to move on him and every time I asked him he kept picking up."
With 31-1 REIGNING CATFISH on top, exotic payouts were very generous. The $2 3-1 exacta of REIGNING CATFISH and MASSIVE EXPLOSION returned $912.40. The fifty-cent 3-1-8 trifecta of REIGNING CATFISH, MASSIVE EXPLOSION, and LASSELL yielded $3105.50. Dime superfectas with FEAR THE KITTEN in the fourth position paid $3701.06.
All photos courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.