ONE LIZ began her racing career in this state for her co-breeders, longtime Illinois owners and breeders Joe and Don Cochonour. The grey daughter of Kitalpha, in the barn of conditioner Wayne Catalano, fired off a five-win streak through 2014 and 2015. After four wins in a row at Arlington, she then defeated eventual Grade 2 winner Streamline in an October 2015 starter allowance at Keeneland. By then, the Cochonour brothers knew they had a racehorse.
Even so, in the winter of 2016, they privately sold several of their horses, including ONE LIZ, to owner Frank Carl Calabrese, for whom she continued her racing career in Florida. She did not meet with the same success in Hallandale Beach as she did in Arlington Heights and even Lexington, going winless in seven starts for four different trainers during that time.
"We always wanted her back for a broodmare, even when we sold her," remarked Joe Cochonour. "She didn’t run well for him like she was running for us, so he dropped her into the claiming ranks, and she was claimed. They dropped her into the claiming ranks. She was claimed again. And then, when they ran her back for $10,000, we claimed her back."
Buying ONE LIZ back proved a shrewd move. Bringing her back with Catalano and back on the racetrack before sending her to the breeding shed, however, proved even smarter. Today ONE LIZ rewarded her once and present connections with the first stakes victory of her career, over fellow Illinois-bred mares in the Isaac Murphy Handicap.
PUNTSVILLE, the defending champion and 4/5 favourite, sped out of the gate and quickly assumed the rail. ONE LIZ, sharp early, settled just behind and to her outside. CHURCH ROAD soon ranged up three wide, coming forward to press the pace early, with the rest behind -- farthest of all MY MERTIE, after some gate antics had her slow into stride and almost half a dozen lengths in arrears through the first stages.
As PUNTSVILLE ticked off a 22.44 opening quarter, CHURCH ROAD filed a length and a half behind, with ONE LIZ tracking third on the inside. PUNTSVILLE continued to lead the field around the turn, through a half in 45.55. Past the 3/16 pole, ONE LIZ switched out off the rail and made her charge just outside PUNTSVILLE. The leader ran on, but was no match for her foe. ONE LIZ powered past, found her next gear, and hit the wire three lengths clear. PUNTSVILLE held on for second, two lengths clear of MY MERTIE, who had overcome her poor start to close ground outside late. CHURCH ROAD faded to fourth, another 1 3/4 lengths back. DANDY GAL and GO LADY JAY completed the order of finish. ENCHANTED FACTS and KARLA WITH A K were both trainer scratches.
ONE LIZ stopped the clock in 1:09.58 for six furlongs on the polytrack, and paid her backers $12.80. The $1 exacta with PUNTSVILLE in second (5-4) returned $15.50. A trifecta with MY MERTIE in the third slot (5-4-2) came back with $15.10 for each $0.50 base bet. The dime superfecta with CHURCH ROAD fourth (5-4-2-7) paid $11.72.
ONE LIZ is a six-year-old grey or roan mare by Kitalpha out of the El Prado mare Elle Belle. Bred by Triple C Thorobred and Dick Lossen, she is owned by his co-breeders Joe and Don Cochonour. ONE LIZ is the second stakes winner out of Elle Belle; Stormin Elle (Stormello) won the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap last year at Arlington, and is expected to defend her crown next week. Elle Belle also produced Christian C (Kitalpha), winner of a maiden special weight at Arlington on June 2 of this year.
The 2017 Isaac Murphy Handicap was ONE LIZ's first attempt in stakes company, and the win marked her seventh score in 18 career starts. ONE LIZ has particularly shined on the Arlington all-weather, with four wins in five starts over the course. The $31,809 winner's share of the purse brought ONE LIZ's career earnings to $152,986.
Rider Jose Valdivia, whose win with ONE LIZ was his fourth of five on the day, found her early pep surprising. "Wayne had her ready," Valdivia assessed. "Her dropping back in distance, I did not think that I was going to be that close to the pace. I thought I’d be running last: six, seven lengths off the lead, and try to run them down. But, he had her ready. She put me there."
Trainer Wayne Catalano was less surprised by ONE LIZ's role in the pace of the Isaac Murphy. "She was acting sharp," he noted. "I figured she’d be right there." Though ONE LIZ had won a two-turn open allowance last out, Catalano explained after the race that her presence in the Isaac Murphy was a question of the condition book. "We had to cut her back, because the races were there." At this point, Catalano has not identified a next race for ONE LIZ.
After the race, ONE LIZ's victory was still a pleasant surprise for her owners. Remarked Joe Cochonour after the race, "I looked and studied the form — I didn’t think One Liz could beat [PUNTSVILLE]. I didn’t think we could beat her today. We did." Acknowledging that, he also underscored the camaraderie in the sport. "There are so many good people in the horse business. You root for everybody. If you happen to have the one that’s the fastest that day, God bless you. ‘Cause you can get outrun anytime."
You can take "Picks & 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.