2018 Arlington Classic Preview

The Arlington Classic has been run in some form since 1929, though it has only been run on grass since 1994, and at its current distance since 2002.  It began at the American Classic distance - a mile and a quarter on the dirt -- but has been run at distances as short as a mile.  It has been limited to three-year-olds through its entire history except for 1977, when it was run as the Arlington Classic Invitational Handicap, and was open to the handicap division.  A pair of Triple Crown winners count the Arlington Classic among their victories -- Gallant Fox (1930) and his son Omaha (1935).  Alydar (1978), second behind Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races, found the winners' circle here as well.  Other top horses who counted the Arlington Classic among their wins include Hall of Fame inductees Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Swoon's Son (1956), Buckpasser (1966), Dr. Fager (1967), and other Champions T. V. Lark (1960), Tom Rolfe (1965), and Smile (1985).

Nowadays, the $100,000 race is the first in Arlington's series of sophomore turf races.  It serves as a local prep for the American Derby (G3) on Ride to the Million Day (Saturday, July 7), which in turn prepares runners for the Secretariat Stakes (G1) on Million Day (Saturday, August 11).  In the Arlington Classic's turf era, Hawk Attack (1995) and Honor Glide (1997) went on to win the Secretariat later in the meet.  Illinois-bred Giant Oak, a multiple Grade 1 winner on dirt, also won the Arlington Classic on grass in 2009.

Selections are made for turf only.  Morning lines were not available at original publish time.   Edited Thursday, May 24 to add morning lines.

Saturday, May 26: Arlington Park

Race 8: Arlington Classic (G3), three-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 5:13pm CDT

ALTERNATIVE ROUTE tries the grass for the first time here, but if he takes to it, he will be dangerous.  He has the versatility to win on both dirt and polytrack, and there is some turf pedigree: his dam La Suena produced Enstone, a Grade 3 winner on the grass last year. Blinkers on means he stands to be up there, keeping the likes of CUESTION DE TIEMPO and PAPA RIZZO honest -- but he won after forcing the issue in the Rushaway, so he is proven on that kind of trip.  He also comes from the barn of Al Stall, a trainer who does well enough with first-time blinkers to suggest this is no chance move.  Speaking of connections, he has Mitchell Murrill in the irons.  Murrill is not only a 20% jockey so far at Arlington this summer, but also ALTERNATIVE ROUTE's regular rider, and one who hops off another entrant who he rides regularly (WILDSCORE) to take this call.  He has been in the saddle for all four of ALTERNATIVE ROUTE's races, and should know him well enough to get the best of him here.

EZMOSH, with Jose Valdivia in the irons for the Brad Cox barn, is the likely favourite.  Among the most experienced in the field, with eight starts under him, he has only won twice but one of those wins came in his only start on the grass.  EZMOSH has shown early speed in many of his starts, but he showed the important ability to rate a bit in that turf debut, a N1X at Fair Grounds going the same distance as the Arlington Classic.  Though that last race was two months ago, EZMOSH does have a consistent enough worktab leading into this race to suggest that he is fit, trainer Brad Cox excels with fresh horses, and EZMOSH himself finished second beaten a neck by next-out Risen Star winner (and eventual Preakness 2nd) Bravazo in an Oaklawn allowance first off a freshening in January.

THE MONEY DANCE tries the grass for the first time in the Arlington Classic.  Though it took him seven tries to break his maiden, the light is well and truly on, as he followed his maiden special weight win at Oaklawn up with a one-other-than win at Belmont.  If he can run back to that form he is fast enough to figure, and he has proven he has the versatility to race close to a slower pace or sit a bit farther off a faster one.  The surface is the major question, of course.  The son of Jimmy Creed does have some turf pedigree, as his dam Whistlin' Jean was an allowance winner and stakes-placed on the grass for THE MONEY DANCE's owner Penny Lauer and trainer Michael Lauer.  All in all he has figured out how to be a racehorse this spring, has whispers of turf aptitude in his breeding, and between the surface question and the under-the-radar Indiana connections he should be a fair price to use on tickets.

Selections:

#3 ALTERNATIVE ROUTE (5/2)

#4 EZMOSH (9/5)

#1 THE MONEY DANCE (7/2)

Longshot:  Trainer Ignacio Correas is hard to ignore on the grass, particularly at a price.  He sends a pair into the Arlington Classic, and both of his horses will be longshots.  CUESTION DE TIEMPO will likely be part of the pace, along with PAPA RIZZO, but when the real running begins he hasn't shown he is as good as his foes.  #6 PONT DU GARD (8/1), on the other hand, has some upside to threaten at a price.  He was in over his head in the American Turf (G2) last out, but now comes here second off a break and gets firmer going that he did on the boggy Kentucky Derby undercard.  His one race at Arlington, his debut last year, was a good one: he kicked on into a pace that wasn't especially fast, winning with authority at north of 30/1.  Jose Lopez rode that day, and Lopez returns to the irons here.  That kind of trip could serve well here, too, and he should be rallying more strongly than the other longshot closer KITTEN A GETTIN.  All in all, PONT DU GARD looks like the live one from the Correas barn, so don't let a good effort from him take you by surprise.

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