ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- The last stakes of the 2013 Arlington Park season, the $65,000 Charles Springer Memorial Illinois Owners Stake, was contested on a crisp afternoon.
From the first flash opening, THE PIZZA MAN was made a strong favorite in the wagering, the price below even odds until the post parade. And THE PIZZA MAN would go the gate well supported, having eschewed a $150K open stakes last week for this week's feature at Arlington for majority Illinois Owners and half the cash.
Seven saw the starter in this restricted stakes, and both NATES MINESHAFT and MR. VEGAS would head out for the early lead. The pair would go 1-2 around the track, trading the top two spots at the end of the backstretch run as clock splits of :24.39, :48.05, and 1:12.11 were recorded for the quarter, half, and three-quarters. On the second turn, THE PIZZA MAN was sent to the rail for his patented stretch drive, hoping to deliver for the bettors that made him the strong favorite throughout, 11-10 the final price. Graham had to get by the MR. VEGAS-NATES MINESHAFT tandem, and squirt through an opening at the rail. .
THE PIZZA MAN would get the cheese in the Illinois Owners, with that rail-skimming rally. One of the pacesetters, MR. VEGAS was second, a neck behind. SWEET LUCA checked home third, one length behind the top two and a length and quarter to the good of WARBIRD. THE PIZZA MAN, a four-year-old by English Channel, stopped the clock in the mile on turf rated "good" in 1:37.16. James Graham was aboard for conditioner Tom Amoss.
Winning rider James Graham commented post race how "the horse outside was laying on me" as THE PIZZA MAN looked from room at the rail. But Graham wasn't that concerned, in retrospect. "When he got that seam, I knew I could go through. He's a superior animal to these."
The $2 3-6 exacta of THE PIZZA MAN and MR. VEGAS netted $28.20. The fifty-cent 3-6-4 trifecta of THE PIZZA MAN, MR. VEGAS, and SWEET LUCA paid $60.45. Dime 3-6-4-8 superfectas with WARBIRD in the fourth slot netted $30.07.
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