The stakes portion of the Arlington racing season drew to a close with the meet's only juvenile stakes races: the Grade III, $100,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity and the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie. Both covered a trip of seven furlongs on the polytrack.
Both races drew large, competitive fields...but in the end, both the Futurity and the Lassie went decisively to the horses fancied by the wagering public.
Arlington-Washington Futurity: WELLABLED Marks Firsts for Sire, Trainer, and Jockey
Of course, WELLABLED was sire Shackleford's first ever chance to sire an Arlington-Washington Futurity winner: his initial crop is just two years old. It even made sense, given how few of his progeny had run so far, that Shackleford still awaited his first stakes winner going into today's race.
More surprising was that neither trainer Larry Rivelli nor jockey E. T. Baird, the team behind WELLABLED, had previously won the Arlington-Washington Futurity. Rivelli, on his own as a trainer since 1999, has sent out a slew of precocious two-year-olds, but none had hit the wire first in Arlington's premier juvenile race. Baird, a regular on the local circuit since 1985, has been excellent on lightly-raced horses and had won the Arlington-Washington Lassie twice. But, he had never crossed the wire first in the Futurity.
The betting public thought today would be Shackleford's day, Rivelli's day, and Baird's day. WELLABLED opened the defined favourite, hovering close to even-money through much of the wagering, and went off the clear 3/2 favourite. Wesley Ward trainee Star Empire, the only two-time winner in the field, was a clear second choice at 7/2.
WELLABLED broke on top and got going quickly. STAR EMPIRE quickly settled in to press his outside flank, and that is how the front stayed through an opening quarter of 23:42 and a half of 46.08. The next flight comprised PTOLEMY along the rail and ROMEO O ROMEO to his outside, two to three lengths off the leader.
Through the far turn, ROMEO O ROMEO began his run. STAR EMPIRE, from his stalking spot, went under a drive. But, WELLABLED had plenty of run left in him. He opened up daylight past the three sixteenths pole, and drew easily off to win by seven and three quarters lengths. ROMEO O ROMEO never threatened the winner, but he had enough to get a head in front of STAR EMPIRE for place. It was another two and a quarter lengths back to STAND AND CHEER, who rallied from last early to round out the superfecta. SEVEN FORTY SEVEN, ST. LOUIE GUY, MAXUS, OSO READY, PTOLEMY, and BIRDSNEST PARTY completed the order of finish. BRAVE BENNY and EN HANSE were trainer's scratches.
WELLABLED is a two-year-old bay colt by Shackleford out of the In Excess mare Expressive Diva. Bred in Kentucky by PTS Ranch, LLC, WELLABLED is owned by Carolyn Wilson, who purchased the colt this year for $340,000 as a two-year-old in training at OBS April. WELLABLED is trained by Larry Rivelli, and was ridden to victory by E. T. Baird. Baird had also ridden WELLABLED to his maiden victory on July 9. The Arlington-Washington Futurity was WELLABLED's first stakes win, making him the first stakes winner by sire Shackleford as well. WELLABLED now has two wins and a second-place finish in three starts, and the $57,000 winner's share of the purse took his career earnings up to $96,200.
By rider E. T. Baird's description, WELLABLED's victory was as easy as it looked. “He was just doing it naturally.” Baird asked “just enough to keep him occupied. I never turned over my stick, just hit him on the shoulder.” The performance backed up the confidence with which trainer Larry Rivelli entered the race. "I thought he was better than these horses. I’m thinking he’s a pretty special horse. You never know until they run…but I’m proud of him. He’s got a good mind on him."
As for a next spot for WELLABLED, Rivelli has not mapped that out yet. “Before the race, I wasn’t even thinking about where we’re going to go next. I’m going to try to assess a few things, whether to try him on the dirt, see if we can go further, go to a Breeders’ Cup race if he’s that good of a horse, or look for maybe a Woodbine Poly [editor's note -- Woodbine currently has Tapeta, not Polytrack] race."
Though Rivelli remains undecided, dirt remains under consideration. "I definitely want to try him on the dirt, but he just didn’t work good at all at Saratoga. But, a lot of horses don’t work good on that track. That’s a funny track. You can have a good one and they can get beat there just because they don’t like the track.”
And, how did it feel to get that first Arlington-Washington Futurity win? "Nice," said Rivelli. "It's nice to win it at home." Baird echoed the sentiment: "It's always good to win."
WELLABLED returned $5.00 to win. The $1 exacta with ROMEO O ROMEO underneath (7-3) paid $18.40. A trifecta with STAR EMPIRE in the third rung (7-3-9) came back with $20.95 for each $0.50 on the combination. The superfecta with STAND AND CHEER below (7-3-9-6) paid $32.38 for each dime on the combination. Finally, the jackpot super high five with SEVEN FORTY SEVEN in fifth (7-3-9-6-4) returned $1,045.00 for a $1 bet. There were multiple winners; $203,150 carries over to the super high five pool for Thursday, September 15.
Arlington-Washington Lassie: Stidham, Marquez Reunite for a Lassie win with DIADURA
Twelve years ago, trainer Michael Stidham and jockey Carlos Marquez, Jr. won the Arlington-Washington Lassie with Culinary. Despite entering the race off an impressive eleven-length maiden win, Culinary went off at 7/1 in her Lassie. Marquez ran near the back of the field, made his move, and annexed the Lassie by two lengths.
Today, Stidham and Marquez returned to the Lassie with another last-out debut maiden winner, DIADURA. Though DIADURA's margin of victory was not as eye-popping as Culinary's a dozen years before -- she won by half a length, not eleven -- she had done it with grit and maturity.
Also different was the public's faith in Stidham and Marquez's horse. Unlike their filly twelve years before, DIADURA took attention from the time wagering opened to the time the gates flung open. 7/5 in the early money, she stayed a well-defined favourite throughout, and went off the 3/2 choice in the field of ten. SPIRITUALITY, an impressive last-out maiden winner at Delaware Park, also took interest and went to post at 7/2, the clearly defined second choice.
The gates opened. Though it was R NAJA who broke like a shot, it was instead rail-drawn ROYALTY PRINCESS who made her rush to the lead. She quickly opened up daylight on the chasing LISA'S PREMIER and RICHIESDREAMGIRL, carving out uncontested yet swift fractions of 22.07 for the quarter and 44.95 for the half.
Through the far turn, LISA'S PREMIER and RICHIESDREAMGIRL began to drop back. ROYALTY PRINCESS maintained the lead, but the field was coming. SPIRITUALITY made first run. PRINCESS LA QUINTA was gaining on the rail, and R NAJA was coming back on the outside.
Then, there was DIADURA. Near the back of the pack early, she advanced along the rail into the far turn, then angled off to find room. The slightest hole opened between PRINCESS LA QUINTA and SPIRITUALITY. It closed, but not before DIADURA could poke her nose into it. She pushed between that pair, stumbled, but kept her momentum going. DIADURA drew away from the field, crossing the wire five and a half lengths clear. BENNER ISLAND, near the back of the pack early, rallied late to nab second from R NAJA, wide and drifting. MO'S M V P, hung on the far outside turning for home, gained well enough late to complete the superfecta. PRINCESS LA QUINTA, HIDENSEEK SALLY, SISTER KAN, LISA'S PREMIER, SPIRITUALITY, RICHIESDREAMGIRL, and ROYALTY PRINCESS completed the order of finish. QUE HANSEN was a trainer's scratch.
DIADURA is a two-year-old daughter of Hard Spun out of the Five Star Day mare Daytime Promise. She was bred in Florida by Inversiones FL, LLC, and is owned by Empyrean Stables and Two Princesses Stable. Empyrean Stable had purchased DIADURA as a yearling for $50,000 at OBS August last year. Ridden to victory by Carlos Marquez, DIADURA is conditioned by Michael Stidham, who also trains third-place R NAJA. The Arlington-Washington Lassie was DIADURA's second career start, second career win, and first stakes win. The $42,300 winner's share of the purse brought her lifetime earnings up to $57,660.
Carlos Marquez described his gutsy move with DIADURA: "They were all coming back, and she's just taking me. There was room. But then, when the outside horse took a step in, then we started bumping each other. It didn't bother her. She just kept going." Marquez praised his mount's maturity. "Especially with two-year-olds: something like that happens, usually they get intimidated. But she just went on."
About DIADURA's move, Trainer Michael Stidham remarked, "That was a little concerning: she went through a hole that didn't exist. But, luckily, her head was in there." But, it was no surprise to Stidham that DIADURA has turned out to be a good horse. "She's very talented. The first time Hilary [Pridham, Stidham's assistant trainer] breezed her, it was like, this is the real deal. That's how impressive she was."
Stidham indicated that he did not have a next spot completely set for DIADURA, but that the Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland was a possibility. "She was working down in Ocala on the dirt, and they were impressed with her down there on the dirt. Certainly, the obvious thing to do is try the dirt since that's where the money is for young horses. We'll work her on the dirt at Keeneland, and go from there. If she impresses on the dirt, we'll definitely be looking along those lines."
Stidham stated that he planned to return third-place R NAJA to maiden special weight company.
DIADURA paid $5.00 to win. The $1 exacta with BENNER ISLAND (5-12) second returned $13.10. A trifecta with R NAJA in third (5-12-11) came back with $48.15 for each $0.50 on the combination. The dime superfecta with MO'S M V P in the lowest rung paid $90.76.
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