The second of six stakes races on Saturday's Arlington card, the Bruce D. Memorial Stakes is the only one carded for the polytrack, and the only ungraded stakes of the six. Originally run as the Straight Line Stakes between 2012 and 2014, it was renamed in 2015 to honour R. Bruce Duchossois (1950-2014), son of Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois. Bruce Duchossois was involved in horse sports as well -- though he made his name in the eventing world, not the racing world. He rode Kim's Song to the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year title in 1973, and served as vice president of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.
Though the race is an open stakes race, the locals have done extremely well over its history. Local trainers Greg Geier, Tom Swearingen, Jim DiVito, and Chris Block have all had winners of the race: Fordubai, I Got It All, Recount, and Yo Carm, respectively. And, even though its first winner was in the Eddie Kenneally barn (typically based in New York) that inaugural winner is still gritty, game, and winning on the Chicago circuit: Francois.
This is just one of six stakes races on Arlington Million Day; we have a separate page with links to all of our previews and analysis for Saturday at Arlington.
Race 8: Bruce D. Memorial Stakes, three-year-olds, one mile on the polytrack, post time 4:23pm CST
The Bruce D. drew a field of ten to vie for a $75,000 purse. UNCONTESTED is the likely favourite, and makes perfect sense to use on tickets. He is proven at a mile -- even at a one-turn mile, with a third-place finish in a tough rendition of the Pat Day Mile (G3) earlier this year. The son of Tiz Wonderful has been in good flesh in the mornings, leading into the race, and Jose Valdivia has been on him in the morning. And, though UNCONTESTED has not tried the polytrack before, there is precedent for him to take well to it: he is a half-brother to 2013 Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) winner Solitary Ranger. The biggest question for UNCONTESTED is the pace scenario. He like to lead -- uncontested, if possible -- and yet SMOKE 'N' GLOAT and YORKTON may not make it easy for him. The pace could get a bit hot.
And so, between the pace scenario and the fact that the locals have done so well here, let's go with a horse from a local barn who has some experience over the Arlington main already: GAIN GROUND. The Eoin Harty trainee graduated at Presque Isle at first asking, going just six furlongs. He stepped up against winners last out, stretched out to two turns for the first time, and finished second behind an older horse in good form, Fort Ridge. That came despite a suboptimal start. That proved he could handle the polytrack. GAIN GROUND is still relatively unexposed, as he has started just those two times and done well in both of those starts. But, his connections saw enough in him to supplement the Gainesway homebred son of Tapit into the Bruce D., and he should get plenty of pace to run at.
YORKTON ships in from Woodbine. Last out he won an open stakes race -- the Charlie Barley, a turf mile on the Queen's Plate undercard. The outing before that, he won an Ontario-bred stakes race on the Tapeta. The footing is a question, as YORKTON has run well on Tapeta, but never tried polytrack. But? That two-back win was a seven-furlong victory, and even his last-out win was a one-turn turf mile. So, the track configuration in the Bruce D. stands to play to YORKTON's strengths. Also positive is the versatility he showed in the Charlie Barley. Previously looking like a need-to-lead type, YORKTON instead employed a rate-and-rally style to annex the Charlie Barley. With UNCONTESTED and SMOKE 'N' GLOAT to deal with, that style may serve him better than his old run-and-gun one would.
#6 GAIN GROUND (12/1)
#8 UNCONTESTED (3/1)
#7 YORKTON (5/1)
Longshot: #9 MEMORY BANK (12/1) scratched from a salty Illinois-bred turf allowance against older horses last Sunday (the one won by longshot Fort Dixie) to run against his own age group here instead. The son of Misremembered finished a troubled second on debut over the grass, and did one better second time out. Though the race was a wash off from the turf to the polytrack, it did come against open company, and won it easily enough to suggest he has some further upside. MEMORY BANK should be tactical enough to rate in range and rally, and he keeps red-hot Mitchell Murrill aboard from his maiden victory. This will not be an easy first try against winners for MEMORY BANK, but a reasonable step forward from his maiden victory puts him right in contention at a nice price.
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