This weekend, Picks & Ponderings stays in the Midwest for a majority of its previews. Among this week's pieces is a detailed look below at Arlington's G3 Hanshin Cup. The weekend also features a look at action from Indiana Downs with Nicolle Neulist tackling their sophomore features - the G2 Indiana Derby and G2 Indiana Oaks. Picks & Ponderings also has Paul Mazur previewing the G1 Delaware Handicap.
Beyond the Million Preview Day and Million Day Stakes, only a few unrestricted stakes survived the purge between the 2014 and 2015 stakes dockets. One stakes that did survive the purge was the G3 Hanshin Cup, contested this year in July after a number of years in late May. 2015 will mark the sixty-third running of the G3 Hanshin Cup, which goes at a one-turn mile on Arlington's polytrack for a purse of one hundred thousand dollars. As a result of Arlington's stakes purge, the Hanshin Cup becomes Arlington's richest three-and-up race not contested on the turf course.
Prior to being the Hanshin Cup, the race was formerly known as the Equipoise Mile, paying honor to Equipoise, one of the best handicap horses of the 1930s. Past winners of note include Smile (won during his Champion Sprinter season in 1986) and Black Tie Affair (1991 Horse of the Year, 1990 Hanshin Cup winner). Locals have gotten winners' pictures in the Hanshin Cup as well, such as Lord of the Game (2005) and HOGY (2013).
HOGY makes a three-wide move to nail down a mild upset in the 2013 Hanshin Cup. Video courtesy Youtube.
Morning lines were not available at original publish time for this race scheduled on Saturday July 18th. LAHSHAD is cross-entered in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Grand on the same day as the Hanshin Cup.
Arlington International -- Race 7 -- G3 Hanshin Cup Stakes-- One Mile (one turn) on polytrack -- post time 4:25 pm CDT
For the third straight year, HOGY makes an appearance in the $100,000 G3 Hanshin Cup at a single-turn synthetic mile. In this spot he makes a good bit of sense as a top selection. Sure, the Emigh/Becker team is clipping along at a fine rate at Arlington - 23% wins, 53 top three for the bulk of the meet. But even if those humans weren't at the controls, it's hard to look past a runner that's got a 9:5-1-0 record over Arlington's synthetic and goes third off the layoff. One of those clunkers was last year, a lost year of sorts as he was wickedly off form after a win in a top-shelf allowance race early in the meet. HOGY is a last out winner of a seven-panel allowance where he closed off the quick pace of Good Bye Greg. There should be an honest pace from new Joiner acquisition TAKEN BY THE STORM, and HOGY could settle into a nice pressing trip from the first flight. While the jockey move on TAKEN BY THE STORM to Esquivel means they want a slower, more patient ride - HOGY could be on the lead if no one wants it. STORMY PACIFIC should get some pace targets to run down in the G3 Hanshin Cup. He chased around some good horses last year like Heart to Heart, Cool Cowboy, and was third in Dramedy's allowance win at Tampa. Last seen winning an N2X/AOC, he was ahead of next-out winner and IL-bred stakes nibbler Dad Are We Here when clearing that second-level allowance condition. While he got a good set-up, it's interesting to note he did close off more modest fractions last year in the Straight Line on Million Day. That race was also at a one turn mile and he hit the podium. While he could be left with too much too do his closing kick will be useful and could be productive. This space tabs an Illinois-bred to round out this section. Before you cry home team play, this one has some credible races at the stakes level. LAHSHAD, while cross-entered to a race on the Indiana Derby Day undercard, has credible runs on dirt in the Milwaukee Avenue on Hawthorne dirt and the Rasmussen on Prairie Meadows dirt. Stakes placed at the open level, LAHSHAD did clear the a-other-than condition last year at Arlington and his forward style could be useful here if TAKEN BY THE STORM goes too slow or if Arlington's polytrack promotes inside and forward runners.
#3 HOGY (3/1)
#4 STORMY PACIFIC (15/1)
#7 LAHSHAD (15/1)
Longshot: The G3 Hanshin Cup marks the first time that #2 MIDNIGHT CELLO (5/1) will set foot on polytrack. But MIDNIGHT CELLO's sire is MIDNIGHT LUTE - who as a three-year old whistled in a polytrack stakes at Keeneland and has seen progeny take well to the synthetic- think Midnight Aria in the 2014 Queen's Plate. As such, there 's reason to think MIDNIGHT CELLO will like the Arlington polytrack. He acquires Florent Geroux to ride, and Geroux is more than able at putting a horse into the thick of the early action if needed. The fact MIDNIGHT CELLO got thumped in the G3 Hooper at Gulfstream and hasn't hit the board since the day after last Christmas will scare bettors away. But quality humans and a solid polytrack pedigree (Midnight Lute was detailed above; being by a Johannesburg mare helps too) make it easy to the sing the merits of MIDNIGHT CELLO.
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