Today is not a stakes day at Arlington, but there is still a full card of nine races happening at Arlington today. Picks and Ponderings is on site for the Sunday card; join us all afternoon for live paddock picks and results on Twitter at @picksponderings.
Due to the rainstorms last night the races have been pulled off of the turf; all selections and analysis reflect the race-day scratches, and the fact that all races are on the synthetic track.
Race 1: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, six furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Try a Lemon Drop (1), Event Center (4), Illusive Fugitive (6)
This race is full of early speed. Try A Lemon Drop is the only one in the field who sees success coming from significantly off the pace, so the pace should favour him here. He comes in here second off the lay, and finished second by just half a length last out at this same level and distance. All four time he has hit the board have been at six furlongs, suggesting it is his best distance. Event Center is the only one on the front end who has shown much interest in rating. He has been N2L since March of 2012, which would usually make him an auto-toss, but has run only in stakes and allowance company since then until his last start, when he ran for a $30,000 tag. He drops here to the easiest company of his career, and has hit the board six of seven times at this distance. Illusive Fugitive drops here from $25,000 N2L company, where he finished fourth beaten three and a half lengths. The track has been friendly to early speed, and this one has been putting up better recent speed than the rest of the speedballs here.
Race 2: $15,000-$10,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Bullet Bob (8), Doze (7), Yankee Hater (3)
Bullet Bob is second off the lay, and drops in here from maiden special to maiden claiming for the first time. He races for the Wayne Catalano barn that hits with 22% of horses on that drop. Channing Hill rides; the combination of Catalano and Hill has been hitting at 29% in the last two months, and is three-f0r-seven this week. Doze starts for the first time, but races for a Hugh Robertson barn that hits with 32% of its first-time starters in claiming races, and 21% with first-time starters overall. This suggests he will be ready to run, and in at the right lever. Sheldon Russell, particularly strong on the synthetic this meet, rides. Yankee Hater has raced five times before, and has put up decent speeds for this field in four of his five starts. Last out he finished second at this level and distance on the synthetic. The Scott Becker barn hits a quarter of the time at sprints, and a quarter of the time in maiden claimers.
Race 3: Starter optional claiming ($14,500 purse), three-year-olds and up, started for a claiming price of $7,500 or less since June 22,2012 OR claiming price $14,000, six furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Razzo Succo (3), Expecting Cash (7), Luck With a Kiss (6)
Razzo Succo makes a small rise in class here, but appears to be right up to it. He has won his last two starts at the $10,000 starter optional claiming level, and is showing good speed for the field. He handles synthetic beautifully, being 7-4-1-1 on the Arlington poly. The pace should be fairly balanced here, so his stalking style will put him in striking distance late. Finally, he races for trainer Ingrid Mason and jockey Rosemary Homeister: a pair who has won 48% of their races in the last sixty days, and been in the money 77% of the time. Expecting Cash drops in here from the $30,000 starter optional level, where he finished a close second on turf last out. He is undefeated in two starts on the Keeneland poly, and 11-5-1-3 career at six furlongs. His speed is good for the field, and he has consistently fired from his mid-pack placing early. He races for the all-around strong barn of Tom Amoss, who has won with four of his nine starters at Arlington this meet, and with 35% of his horses so far this year. Luck With a Kiss is one of the two need-the-lead horses, but if he can shake clear of U Step Aside early, he could be the one to beat. He drops in as well from the $30,000 starter optional level, where he beat Expecting Cash by half a length last out. He is 5-3-1-0 on synthetic for his career, and 16-7-5-1 at this distance.
Race 4: $25,000-$20,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, five and a half furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Wishful Melody (8), Betterthandiamonds (7), Bunratty (4)
Wishful Melody has only raced once, a third-place finish at this level, distance, and track. She has posted a strong work since. She has the combination of trainer Michael Stidham and jockey James Graham behind her: a combination that is 4-2-2-0 in the last two weeks, and winning 31% of the time in the last two months. Betterthandiamonds drops into the claiming ranks for the first time after three starts in special weight company. She also cuts to the shortest distance of her career here. Even though she finished up the track her last two times out, she still put up speeds that rival just about anything that the horses racing here have shown. The class drop should help, and trainer Michael Stidham wins at a 25% clip with horses on the MSW-MCl drop. Bunratty is a long shot selection: as well he should be, as he races for the barn of John Haran, which is notoriously terrible with first time starters. However, he has posted a couple of decent works coming into this race: something atypical for a Haran firstie. Bunratty has one half sibling who has raced, Direct Breeze, who did not take too long to break her maiden; she did it in her third start. On his worktab, he looks useful for at least lower rungs of exotics.
Race 5: Allowance ($36,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, non-winners of $8,800 other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, six furlongs on the synthetic
Selections: Nevrmesswithrichie (1), Agile Wonder (5), Pine Lake (2)
With the scratch of Dreamofjean E., there won't be anyone in the field keen to mess with Nevrmesswithrichie on the lead. She comes into this race on a three-race win streak, and even though she steps up in class here, this looks like the perfect time. She is four years old, and it appears the light has come on. Her speeds in his last three races are good for this field, and she is three-for-four over the all-weather. Finally, she races for the trainer/jockey combination of Larry Rivelli and E. T. Baird: a pair that has hit at a 50% rate in the last two months. Given the pace, Nevrmesswithrichie is a logical single here. Agile Wonder has been a different horse since moving to the Steve Manley barn. After seven unsuccessful starts in other barns, she broke his maiden in his first start with Manley, and followed that up with a close third-place finish at this level last out. The biggest problem she is going to face here is pace: he is a stone closer, and Pine Lake and Sheza Ruler are going to have to press Nevrmesswithrichie pretty hard to get him to win. However, an on-the-board finish is a realistic proposition given the competition. Pine Lake tends to stalk fairly close to the lead. It's questionable whether she will be able to keep close to the likely leader, but she does have the better early pace of the two stalking types here, making it more likely to at least be up for a share.
Race 6: $25,000-$20,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, one mile on the synthetic (originally one mile on the turf)
Selections: Mr. Num Num (12), Wise Crossing (6), Strike Impact (3)
Even with the scratches, there is still a decent likelihood among the horses left that there will be a hot pace up front. Mr. Num Num looks likely to pick up the pieces. He is a strong 9-2-2-2 on synthetic for his career, and drops in here from running in allowance and starter optional company over the last year. He was claimed out of one of the starter optional races two back, and new trainer Michael Reavis wins at a 19% clip second off the claim. Wise Crossing will probably be up near the pace, but can rate from just off it. He has a win at this distance, and a win over the all-weather. He is second off the lay, though the lay was a long one: two and a half years. He was fourth beaten only 3 1/2 lengths on June 5, though, against tougher. Between that and a bullet work at Keeneland on June 18, he is worth using. Strike Impact, another one likely to rate just off the pace, has won in 11 of 32 starts on synthetic. However, he has not won a race since the Buddy Diliberto at Fair Grounds in late 2012. Most of his speeds are fine for this field, and until recently he was racing in allowance optional company. Given the long time between drinks he is not a strong win candidate, but for lower rungs of exotics, his strong synthetic record cannot be ignored.
Race 7: $12,500-$10,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, one and ohane sixteenth miles on the synthetic
Selections: Dittman Thunder (9), Wedding Savior (4), Ormond Quay (6)
Dittman Thunder tries open maiden $12,500 after his last two starts in state-bred maiden $15,000. He has put up speeds that compare well with much of the field, and returns to strong route jockey James Graham, who rode him two times ago to a defeat by only 1 3/4 lengths. His dam Glenbriar Girl has produced four other racers, all winners, suggesting the light should eventually come on. Wedding Savior has started once before, in a maiden special at Monmouth last September. He has a decent string of works dating back to April, and in a weaker field such as this, these are enough to make him stand out. Ormond Quay is the quintessential paddock play. He drops in here from maiden special company, but he last raced in December of 2012 at Hollywood Park. The speeds he put up in those races were strong, but we cannot expect he is anywhere near the same horse. He also hasn't published enough works to tell much. If he looks strong in the paddock, he is worth using. If he looks anxious or unfit, he is an easy toss.
Worth taking a particular stand against here is That's a Kitten. He has failed as the betting favourite in his last four starts, including the last two at this level. Nothing appears to have changed substantively enough to suggest he will break through here.
Race 8: $12,500-$10,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, one mile on the synthetic (originally one mile on the turf)
Selections: Exchanging Kisses (1A), Fun on the Bayou (13) Greytap (5)
Exchanging Kisses comes in here second off the lay for the red-hot combination of Larry Rivelli and E. T. Baird. This is his first ride for Rivelli, though Baird has ridden him and won before. Rivelli wins at a 22% rate first off the claim, and a 27% rate second off the lay. He has shown aptitude on the synthetic, winning two of his four starts over the surface, though he has not raced on it since 2012. In light of the scratches, Fun on the Bayou is the only horse left who likes coming from off the pace and has good synthetic form. He has won over the synthetic before, and hit the board in four of seven attempts. He struggled in his last time out, but has had a sharp work since the last race, and stands to improve when moving to synthetic -- especially against a field of turfers with dubious synthetic form. Greytap is not a strong selection to win, but is a good choice for lower rungs of exotics. He was second in two of his five starts on synthetics, including his last time out, in $16,000 N2L company. In his last eight races, he has been second five times and third once, with mainly solid speeds for the group -- suggesting that he doesn't have that killer instinct to win, but does have enough aptitude to hit the board.
Race 9: Starter allowance ($12,500 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, starters for a claiming price of $5,000 or less since June 22, 2012, five furlongs on the synthetic (originally five furlongs on the turf)
Selections: Fleet Encounter (2), A Shot Away (7), Indian Artifact (1)
Even with the race washed off the turf, Fleet Encounter is the class of the field, and a good single on any multi-race wager covering this race. There is a ton of early speed in this race, setting up perfectly for her to come mow the field down late. She drops in here from a win in allowance company last out. In the race before that, another allowance, she missed by a head behind Frabster, who crossed the wire first in the Isaac Murphy Handicap last weekend (though was disqualified to third). She is stronger on the turf than on the all-weather, but is 6-1-2-0 career on the synthetic -- showing that she does have the ability to run on it. Her form over the last year has never been better, and she is the one to beat. A Shot Away will be up near the early lead, but has seen success rating just off it: important in a race with such a mob of early speed. She has good speed for the field, and drops in class here from a fourth-place in allowance company last out. She is okay on turf, but very good on polytrack: 23-5-3-9 career on the surface. The move to synthetic benefits her most of all, and if Fleet Encounter falters, A Shot Away is the biggest threat to take it. Indian Artifact is another horse dropping into here off allowance company. She drew the rail, so should be in the best position of any of the "need the lead" horses. She does most of her racing at six furlongs, so cuts back here, but has enough early pace to pose a threat if Tim Thornton rides her well on the rail.
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