Situated in mid-July, four weeks away from the Arlington Million and run at the same 1 1/4 mile turf distance, the ten furlong, $200,000 G3 Arlington Handicap is the Million's local prep race. A Grade 1 race in the 1980s, it's fallen to the Grade 3 level. Past winners feature the likes of Round Table (Hall of Famer), Sky Classic (who set the stakes record and won the Older Turf Male Eclipse in 1992). Recent winners like Just As Well and two-time winner RAHYSTRADA have turned victories here into solid minor awards in the Arlington Million.
Runners here can move on to the Million, or perhaps stretch out to the new Arlington St. Leger at 1 11/16 miles on grass the same afternoon.
Arlington Park -- Race 10 -- Grade 3 Arlington Handicap -- 1 1/4 miles on turf -- post time 5:25 pm CT
Horse for course is the angle in play, and RAHYSTRADA seems to flourish on the Arlington grass. He's made six starts over the Arlington grass, with three wins, a third, and two off-the-board finishes. Those two off-the-board finishes came in Arlington Millions, races of higher prestige and purse than today. And as mentioned above, he's won this race twice before: in 2010 and last year going from gate-to-wire on the lead. He's tactical enough to rally or go on the front end. He enters off a wide trip last time in the G2 where the winner, Boisterous, goes in the G1 Man O'War and the second place finisher just annexed the G1 United Nations. No disgrace in losing his allowance race to Big Blue Kitten, and a return call for Ms. Naprvanik in this spot. KEEP UP won the side-door prep to this race, the $65K Swoon's Son over this course going a mile and a sixteenth. Prior to the local Swoon's Son win, he checked in with two disposable allowance finishes, but the Churchill him saw him behind Big Blue Kitten (who won the G1 United Nations) and RAHYSTRADA, the Keeneland one saw him behind Mister Mardi Gras, runner up in the G3 Hanshin Cup and campaigning this weekend in Minnesota. Getting Graham on him helps and trainer Clarkson had this race on the radar after the Swoon's Son. COALPORT comes out of the Black Tie Affair, where the 2-4 finishers will have went long earlier on the card in the three turn G3 Stars and Stripes. A Hill/Catalano production, he won an Illinois-bred N2X two back stalking a slow pace and kicking home. His form has livened up as a four-year-old, starting the year with a win on dirt at cross-town Hawthorne in a six figure state-bred stake. The water gets deeper here, but he did beat a good group of in-state types last time and deserves to take this acid test.
#6 RAHYSTRADA (5/2)
#1 KEEP UP (4/1)
#7 COALPORT (7/2)
Longshot: #3 NAJJAAR (8/1) perked up this year when he found the green. After stumbling and sputtering on the dirt (and getting his behind kicked in the G3 Razorback), the connections put him on the grass during Keeneland Spring, and he closed to be second that day. Next time, it was in the G3 Louisville going three turns and twelve furlongs. Losing to Dark Cove (who is the 1-1 favorite in the G3 Stars and Stripes) has no shame with it. Neither is a second to Atigun, who was a check casher in the G2 Colonial Turf Cup.