ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- Before today, Work All Week had sprinted eleven times before. Ten times, he got the early lead, did not look back, and crossed the wire first. The only exception was in last year's Addison Cammack Handicap at Arlington, when Nagy's Piggy Bank pressed him early, and Sweet Luca flew in late to nip him by a nose. A year later, their paths had diverged a bit. Work All Week had won all seven races since, including a rematch over Sweet Luca as well as two open stakes at Oaklawn and Prairie Meadows. Sweet Luca raced in allowances and state-bred stakes on the Chicagoland circuit, never finishing better than third in six tries. The two met again today in the Addison Cammack Handicap, a $100,000 stakes for Illinois-bred horses at six furlongs over the Polytrack.
The cards were as stacked against Work All Week as they possibly could be. Arlington Park took the "handicap" aspect of the race seriously, assigning him 130 pounds. No one else in the field toted more than 119. He drew outside in the field of nine. The majority of the field wanted to be near or on the early speed, so there would be no free ride on the front end. Despite this, Work All Week was the 7/5 morning line favourite. The early bettors had even more faith in his class; he opened at 3/5 on the early money. Sweet Luca opened the early second choice at 5/1, with 2014 Milwaukee Avenue Handicap winner Big Looie at 7/1. In the paddock, they all looked healthy and ready to run, though it was Sweet Luca who looked particularly up on his toes to run. Though his odds drifted a bit between 3/5 and even money, Work All Week always remained the betting favourite, and went off at 7/10. Sweet Luca went off the second favourite at 9/2, and the late money also liked Four Left Feet (6/1) and Sir Applesolutely (7/1). The late money was less keen on Big Looie, who went off at 14/1.
The gates sprung open, and for once it was not Work All Week ticking off the fractions. It was instead 45/1 shot Roarin Missile who shot to the lead, with Work All Week outside and a length behind. Mish Mosh briefly tried to run with them, but settled a few lengths off along the rail, with the rest chasing from farther back. Roarin Missile set a brisk pace: the quarter in 22:01, the half in 44:60. Just past the furlong pole, Roarin Missile was fading, and Work All Week took the lead. Sweet Luca, over fifteen lengths back early, had begun to roll in the final furlongs. Still last entering the far turn, he angled off the rail, swung outside, and started picking off horses approaching the quarter pole. Entering the final furlong Sweet Luca was sixth, and had nothing but open track on the outside. He passed the stalking Mish Mosh, the fading Roarin Missile, the closing Sir Applesolutely, and finally the tiring Work All Week. Sweet Luca won by a widening 1 1/4 lengths. Despite the impost, Work All Week still repelled the closing run from Sir Applesolutely; he held on to win the place photo by a head. Mish Mosh continued on evenly for fourth, checking in 5 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Four Left Feet, Massive Explosion, Vbreeze, Roarin Missile, and Big Looie completed the order of finish.
Sweet Luca is a five-year-old gelding by Candy Ride out of the Lord Avie mare Grand Crossing. This edition of the Addison Cammack Handicap was his fifth career win, and his third stakes victory. In addition to last year's Addison Cammack, he also won the Sun Power Stakes at Hawthorne in 2011. The race was Sweet Luca's third start this year. Last out he tried stretching out for the 1 1/16 mile Black Tie Affair Handicap over the turf, and finished a respectable fourth. He came in just a length and a quarter behind The Pizza Man, who returned from that start in the Black Tie Affair to win the Stars And Stripes Stakes (GIII) on Million Preview Day. This effort had him back to a six-furlong distance at which he had won twice before.
Jockey Carlos Marquez, Jr. first rode Sweet Luca in a race today, though he had gained familiarity with his mount in the morning. "I worked him the other morning and he worked super," said Marquez. "Today, the instructions he [trainer Chris Block] gave me were, 'You have the 1 hole. Save all the ground you can. When you feel you can, go to the inside but if you have to come around make sure you switch to the right lead and come and get him."
Trainer Chris Block recognized the role of the Black Tie Affair Handicap last out in getting Sweet Luca ready to run strongly today. After Sweet Luca was defeated in a June 6 allowance, "I told Ed [Fortino, owner] 'Let's put him in the grass. He's equbally as good on the grass as he is on the Poly. The two-turn race would set him up for this, and it all worked out.'" The win in the Addison Cammack specifically meant a lot to Block due to its namesake. "This is a special race for me," he said. "It's named after a dear friend of mine. To win it twice with Sweet Luca is really special and I am sure my friend Addison is looking down on us."
Jockey Chris Emigh, who rode Work All Week, cited the 130 pound impost as the reason for the defeat. "It was a good trip, I just think giving away 11 pounds got to him a little bit. When we got into the turn he felt like he was a little more dead than usual. Usually he's dragging you and you're trying to slow him down. He tried turning for home, but you could feel the weight exhausting him." Emigh also shed light on some big plans that may have to be reevaluated in light of this race. "I just hope it doesn't mess up his Breeders' Cup trail. That was the idea before. Now he might be off it."
Sweet Luca stopped the clock at 1:10.65 for the six furlongs, and paid his backers $10.60 to win. The exacta over Work All Week returned $26.80 for each $2 bet. The $0.50 trifecta with Sir Applesolutely on the bottom rung paid $28.30. The $0.10 superfecta with Mish Mosh slotted fourth returned $33.75 for each dime on the combination.
All photos courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.
You can take "Picks and Ponderings" with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Arlington International Racecourse. And you can get "Picks and Ponderings" in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking "Create Subscription." It's a FREE service, and you'll never get any unwanted spam.