The stakes season at Arlington Park picks up this week and shifts to the turf with two state-bred stakes on the turf, the Black Tie Affair Handicap and the Lincoln Heritage Handicap. The former features the return of The Pizza Man for the first time since winning the Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne last fall; the latter field includes La Tia in her first race since her Arlington Matron (GIII) win. Mister Marti Gras, second in the Hanshin Cup (GIII) also returns Saturday, in one of two strong turf allowances on the card. Below, read my selections and analysis for these, and all eleven races on the Arlington card.
Make sure to read Paul Mazur's selections and analysis for the Black Tie Affair and the Lincoln Heritage as well, published here at Picks and Ponderings!
The below selections are jointly published at Danonymous Racing.
Race 1: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races in 2014 OR N4L, five furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Jost Van Dyke (1), I’ll Show Them (4), Peters Rock (1A)
Enough of this field likes to be near the front that Jost Van Dyke will likely get the setup he needs to close. He comes in here on a class drop from $25,000 company, and trainer Dale Bennett wins at a 37% clip with drops of two classes or more. He comes in on a lay since December, but his workouts have been good for the level, and Bennett wins at a 29% rate on horses on 90+ day lays. I’ll Show Them is an amazingly consistent horse for this level: he has been on the board in his last five starts, and in eight of his last ten. He is solid on the synthetic: 6-2-0-3 career. Finally, he can come from varying lengths off the pace, making him very unlikely to be pace-compromised. Finally Peters Rock, who drops in from the $16,000 level last out, is the class of the early speed. Most of his speeds are good, and he can either take the lead or rate off of it if there’s a bit too much zip up front. He comes in third off the lay, and is in first off the claim for the Dale Bennett barn. Bennett wins with 20% of his horses who drop first off the claim.
Race 2: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N2L, five and a half furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Teachem Ruler (4), Easy Emma (5), It’s Delectable (2)
This race is a speed-fest. Even though Teachem Ruler is on a class rise, the race sets up well for her. She can rate from off the pace, which much of this field can’t do. She has won before at this distance, and at least hit the board on synthetic. Unless one of the speedballs shows more grit than they’ve ever shown before, this race will set up for her to mow them down late. Easy Emma is one of the speedsters, but was able to shake off an early challenge for that lead early in her maiden win. That ability will be important in a race with this much early speed. That maiden win was at this distance on the Arlington poly. She is working strongly, and running for a Tammy Domenosky barn that sees success with horses who won their maiden race last out. It’s Delectable drops in here from the $25,000 level, and is third off the lay. She rated from off the pace in her maiden win, an ability that will help her here. She retains the services of strong polytrack jockey (and current season wins laeader) Florent Geroux, who also rode her to her maiden win at Fair Grounds in February.
Race 3: Allowance optional claiming ($35,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N3L OR claiming price $40,000, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Merilore (1), Allegheny Angel (9), Who’s Mary’s Daddy (3)
Merilore is second off the lay, and working well coming into this race. She has seen success coming from either close off the pace or a bit farther back, an adaptability that will serve her well given how many horses in this race may either run on the speed or try to rate. Finally, she cuts in distance; last out she raced in a strong 1 ⅛ mile turf allowance, and finished second just half a length behind Lincoln Heritage Handicap contender Alette. Allegheny Angel comes in here second off the lay. She faltered last out, but that was her first race in six months. She has won at this distance, and been on the board in four of six starts on the turf. James Graham, the strongest turf jockey in the colony, rides her. Who’s Mary’s Daddy moves up in class here, but her speeds compare well with the field. She likes the distance, having finished on the board four out of her five times trying it. She usually runs right on the early speed, but has shown the ability to rate off it when necessary, bolstering her chances here.
Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of two races since September 21, 2013 OR N4L, seven furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: My Contender (8), Amazing Results (10), Flashy Green (1)
The top selection in this race is My Contender. His speeds are good for the group, and he has been working well. He has won on the Arlington poly before, at a mile last year, and trainer Bradlee Rainwater has a 13-3-2-2 record this meet. Finally, his stalking style should put him right in the thick of this race. Amazing Results is another strong possibility for this race. The Team Block homebred comes in on a class drop, to the lowest level of his career. The nine-year-old horse has put up a series of strong works since his last race, his first off a spring layoff. He has shown aptitude on synthetic, being 13-3-3-1 over it in his career. He cuts back to seven furlongs: a distance at which he has only raced twice over the main track, but has won once and come in second once. His form isn’t what it used to be, but even his form last year runs circles around most of this field. Flashy Green finished second at this level and distance last out. He is 11-2-2-3 on synthetic, a strong record in light of the level of the race. His ability to stalk near the pace or come in from midpack early will help given the likely balanced pace scenario of the race. At anywhere near his 10/1 morning line, Flashy Green is a good choice to bring value to intra-race exotics.
Race 5: Allowance optional claiming ($36,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 three times other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred OR non-winners of two races in 2014 OR N4L OR claiming price $100,000, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Big Looie (5), Live In Joy (3), Mister Marti Gras (1)
Big Looie is the only real speed horse in this field, assuming he stays in this race instead of scratching in favour of the Black Tie Affair (Race 6). He has never won on turf, but has been strong at this distance on dirt. If he is ever going to win on turf, he should do so here, given the Arlington turf’s bias toward early speed this meet. Live In Joy has seen success stalking close to the early speed, and has a chance to stop Big Looie from getting too loose on the lead. Four of his five career wins are on turf, and has won at this distance on the all-weather. He comes in off a two month lay, but trainer Mike Maker wins at a 20% rate with similar lays. Mister Marti Gras will likely be the chalk of this race, but for good reason. He drops in here from a second-place finish behind Nikki’s Sandcastle in the Hanshin Cup Stakes (GIII) on May 24. He has won twice in five attempts at this distance on turf, and is 16-4-4-2 lifetime on the green. Even if he regresses from his last out, which he may given the jump in speed, regression to his mean still makes him tough competition here.
Race 6: Black Tie Affair Handicap, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: The Pizza Man (3), Tazz (7), Sweet Luca (4)
The Pizza Man has won nine of his 13 career turf starts, and six of his eight starts at this distance over turf. He enters this race first off the winter lay, but trainer Roger Brueggemann sends horses ready off long lays. Specifically, The Pizza Man won his first race off a five-month lay last year, and comes into this one on a string of strong works. His speeds are good for the field, and given the significant amount of early speed in the race, the pace will set up for him to charge in from off it. If anyone from the front end early is able to take the race, it will be Tazz (7). Tazz comes into this race second off the winter lay, and has consistently stronger early pace than the other speed threats, Big Looie (1) and Domain’s Rap (2). If he shakes clear early, he will be hard to catch. For a longer shot, consider Sweet Luca (4). He rises in class here, but is a stakes winner over the polytrack. He has only raced twice on turf, but is coming in here second off the lay, and bred well to handle it. He has been working well coming into this, including his last work on the Arlington turf. The big advantage he has is pace: assuming anyone goes with Tazz early, he should be able to take advantage and hit the board (if not win) at a nice price. These picks are predicated on the race being run on turf. If it is washed off, both Tazz and Sweet Luca have strong enough records on the synthetic to warrant particular consideration.
Race 7: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners since December 21, 2013 OR N4L, one and one sixteenth miles on the synthetic
Selections: No Time To Kid (7), Ideal Alluvial (8), Balega (2)
This is a tale of two flights: seven horses who want to be on or near the lead, and four who can close. This should set up for a strong closer to take it, and that closer is No Time To Kid. He won at this distance on the poly last out, in a $7,500 N2L race. All three of his wins have been on the synthetic, and two of the three have been at this distance. This will be his second race off a spring layoff; if he even runs back to his last, much less improves, this field is in trouble. Ideal Alluvial will be closer to the front end, but has shown he can rate. His last three speeds have been very strong, and he has hit the board in six of his last eight starts. However, the only win in that sequence was by disqualification, suggesting he may not love to win. In fact, his second-itis is so strong that I suggest betting a cold exacta here: No Time To kid over Ideal Alluvial. Another horse to consider in this race is Balega. He will be close to the front end, but can either take it or rate. He drops in from the $7,500 beaten level, and will appreciate a bit softer company. Finally, the race is Balega’s best distance; in nine starts, he is 9-3-1-2, and this tally includes all of his career wins.
Race 8: Allowance ($34,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 ince other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, one mile on the turf
Selections: Song to You (1), He’s Dann Good (3), Revolt (4)
Ghostly Wonder, Song To You, and Smarty Boy (if he draws in off the AE list) are the only ones likely to be right on the front end. Song to You runs consistently fast, unlike Ghostly Wonder who ran well on the front end first out, but faltered the next two times. He has not raced since the beginning of May, but trainer Michael Stidham sends his charges ready, and his recent works are very strong. He has little turf experience, but has hit the board once in two tries. He’s Dann Good is second off the lay here, and cuts in distance. He is a horse for the Arlington turf course: 6-3-2-0 on it career, with his only off-the-board attempt last out, in his first race in almost seven months. Even then, he was sixth beaten just 4 ½ lengths all told. If he is fresher here, he can come it at a good price. Revolt may not have the most pace to close into, but the surface is his advantage here. He has won his last two races on yielding turf, and with the rain in Chicago this week, he should find the turf to his liking. This will be his first race off the winter lay, but trainer Chris Block wins at a 24% rate off lays of three months or longer.
Race 9: Lincoln Heritage Handicap, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, fillies and mares, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Kepi (3), La Tia (2), Sydneyrella (4)
Kepi comes into this race second off the winter lay. In her first race, she won an upper-crust allowance at a mile over the Arlington turf. She will benefit from Katie the Lady, La Tia, and Goldway disputing the early pace; she typically chases midpack, and accelerates down the stretch. It hardly gets more consistent on turf than Kepi is: she is 19-7-5-5 overall on the green stuff. La Tia, who won the Arlington Matron (GIII) last out, is the second choice. She may be pace compromised; she doesn’t tend to rate, and that may mean trouble since she has competition from other horses who don’t tend to rate, either. However, she is the class of the speed, and frequently turns in the best speeds in the field. She cuts back in distance here and faces slightly easier company, and maintains jockey E. T. Baird from her last out. The price on her won’t be good, especially given the possible pace compromise, but her class makes her a must-use in multi-race wagers at least. Sydneyrella is one other horse worth looking at, due to the combination of her stalking or midpack success and her good recent speed.. The Larry Rivelli trainee comes in off of two allowance wins and, before that, a second-place finish in The Peach of It Handicap (a state-bred dirt stakes at this distance at Hawthorne in April). She runs more often on dirt and synthetics, but hasn’t missed the board on three starts on turf. If the race is washed off the turf, Kepi becomes a bit more questionable, since she has only raced once on the synthetic, and she finished off the board. Her form would still make her attractive, though. La Tia, a graded stakes winner on polytrack, remains a strong choice; a washout would make Sydneyrella an even stronger play, since she is 9-4-2-1 lifetime on the synthetic.
Race 10: Maiden special weight ($36,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Leon Robert (8), Superstar Leo (1), Disorderly Conduct (4)
Leon Robert, a first-time starter, has been working very well coming into this race. He runs for the Wayne Catalano barn, which hits at 17% with first-time starters in maiden specials. He is half to multiple stakes winner Class Break, and two of his half-siblings won their first time out: Jose Adan and Mark Thescore Even. Superstar Leo races for another strong first-time starter barn, Hugh Robertson. He has been winning at a 21% clip with first-time starters. He drew the rail here, and there has been an advantage this meet being along the rail. This is compounded with early speed, which we don’t know if he has -- but from such a first-time starter barn, at anywhere near his 15/1 morning line odds, he is a great bet unless he looks terrible in the paddock. Disorderly Conduct has started five times, and has hit the board twice in his two attempts on synthetic. There are so many first-time starters that gauging the pace is difficult, but if anyone gets too eager on the front end, Disorderly Conduct could pick up the pieces.
Race 11: $25,000-$20,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Child of God (8), Dynagreen (2), Cindy’s Uproar (9)
Child of God, a first-time starter, races for trainer Pavel Vashchenko. He hits with 19% of his first-time starters, and with three of his twelve first-time turf starters. She is bred well to run on the turf, and there is close family precedent for winning first out: Miss Dejavu, her two-year-old half-sister by Tizdejavu, won at first asking on May 26 of this year. Dynagreen is impeccably bred for this middle-distance turf run. She has raced six times before, and is second off the lay here. However, she is finally making a critical change that helps her chances: dropping from maiden special to maiden claiming for the first time. On top of that, she is working well, and will have speed to close into from Baby Face Nelson and anyone else who runs with her. Finally, Cindy’s Uproar comes in here off a third-place finish at this distance and level over the Arlington turf. That race was her first turf race, and she was only beaten half a length all told. She races for trainer Ingrid Mason and jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr., an ironclad combination who has won with 45% of their 33 starts in the last 60 days. As long as she doesn’t bounce from the last out, she could easily spell trouble for this field.
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