ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL -- Though rain washed Saturday's pair of Illinois-bred stakes races off the grass, the races held together well and still featured some of Illinois's most talented two-turn horses. All six entrants remained to contest the Black Tie Affair Handicap, in which favoured Christian C stalked and pounced his way to victory. Two races later, in the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap, polytrack maven Dreamofjean E. scored the gate-to-wire upset.
Black Tie Affair Handicap: CHRISTIAN C Gets a Confidence Boost
A promising new face on the Chicago racing circuit, Christian C won four times during last summer's Arlington meet. Though his three subsequent starts had him finish off the board, they were all in graded stakes. The five-year-old gelding returned to Illinois-bred company for Saturday's Black Tie Affair Handicap. The public figured that Christian C would find his best form again, and sent him off the 8/5 choice. Christian C did not disappoint.
Don'task Don'ttell, one of three for trainer Chris Block, cleared to the early lead. Christian C settled to stalk two wide, just outside of Memory Bank. Cammack and Fort Ridge, Block's two other entries, were the next two behind, with Fort Dixie bringing up the rear. Don'task Don'ttell set an easy early pace: 25.96 for the quarter. Christian C inched forward to press at the leader's flank on the backstretch, but not hard -- Don'task Don'ttell got the half in 51.39.
The scrum began in the far turn. Christian C drew closer, almost on even terms near the three eighths mark. Cammack ranged up three wide, and Fort Ridge ranged up four wide. Memory Bank loomed just behind then, biding his time on the rail.
Into the stretch, Christian C and Don'task Don'ttell reasserted themselves, kicking clear of the chasing throng. But, approaching the furlong pole, Christian C was moving the better of the two. He went on with it, leaving Don'task Don'ttell to weaken on the rail. Memory Bank two wide and Cammack three wide gave chase, but Christian C was gone. He stopped the timer in 1:44.55 for the mile and a sixteenth on polytrack, two and a quarter lengths clear of a chasing Memory Bank. Cammack finished third, another half-length back. Don'task Don'ttell, Fort Ridge, and Fort Dixie completed the order of finish.
Christian C is a five-year-old chestnut gelding by Kitalpha out of the El Prado mare Elle Belle. Bred in Illinois by Arapaho LLC and Dick Lossen, he is owned by his co-breeders (as part of Arapaho LLC) Don and Joe Cochonour. He is trained by Wayne Catalano, and Julio Felix rode him to victory. The win was his fifth in twelve career starts, and his first in stakes company. It was his first stakes triumph, but such success runs in his family. Christian C is now the third stakes winner out of his dam. Elle Belle produced his full sister One Liz, second in the Spellman earlier in the card, and winner of the 2017 Isaac Murphy Memorial Handicap. She also produced his half-sister Stormin Elle (Stormello), winner of the 2o16 Spellman.
Rider Julio Felix had the utmost confidence in Christian C. “I really wasn’t worried about him because Boss Man (Joe Cochonour) here told me I was going to win,” laughed Felix. “I knew that I could take control of the race anytime I wanted, so I waited as long as I could and when I asked him he was full of run.”
Christian C paid his backers $5.20 to win. The exacta over Memory Bank (5-1) returned $6.90 for each dollar on the combination. The $0.50 trifecta with Cammack third (5-1-3) returned $8.65. A superfecta with Don'task Don'ttell in the lowest rung (5-1-6-4) paid $2.80 for each dime on the combination.
Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap: DREAMOFJEAN E. Game in Seven-Year-Old Debut
Dreamofjean E. has been a Chicago fixture since 2013, when she was racing as a two-year-old for trainer Larry Rivelli. She had tried stakes company twice before and finished off the board, but both of those attempts came on dirt: she was eighth behind Sasy Ms Elizabeth in the 2013 All Sold Out Stakes at Fairmount Park, and fifth behind Prado's Sweet Ride in last year's Illini Princess Handicap, washed off to the Hawthorne dirt last November.
After a long winter and spring layoff, Dreamofjean E. returned for her seven-year-old debut in another washed-off stakes race -- but this one was on the polytrack at Arlington. She has always been at her best on the polytrack at Arlington Park, and on Saturday, she showed that side of herself once again.
Breaking from the rail, Dreamofjean E. soon led and opened up a clear advantage. One Liz chased closest, with Ima Little Kitten tracking inside and 1/2 favourite Prado's Sweet Ride just to her outside. Chlobee trailed early. Dreamofjean E. set uncontested fractions of 25.12 for the quarter and 49.88 for the half.
With three eighths of a mile to go, the cavalry charged. One Liz descended outside Dreamofjean E., and Prado's Sweet Ride loomed three wide.
Like magic, the mare had another gear. Dreamofjean E. kicked clear again in the stretch. One Liz chased her doggedly all the way to the wire, but could not close the gap. Dreamofjean E. sailed home two and three quarters lengths clear of the grey mare, in a final time of 1:44.02 for the mile and a sixteenth on polytrack. One Liz finished another five lengths clear of a weakening Prado's Sweet Ride, who outbattled Chlobee to get the show by a head. Ima Little Kitten completed the order of finish. Lovely Loyree scratched due to the race being taken off the turf. Goddess of Kip was a trainer's scratch; Jere R. Smith instead opted to run her in an allowance later on the card, where she finished third.
Dreamofjean E. is a seven-year-old mare by Bring the Heat out of the Numerous mare Deceitful Darling. Bred in Illinois by Richard Ravin, he is owned by his breeder in partnership with Vince Foglia's Patricia's Hope LLC. She is trained by Larry Rivelli, and was ridden to victory by Chris Emigh. This is her first stakes victory, and she is the first stakes winner out of her dam. The victory was Dreamofjean E.'s thirteenth in 30 career starts, and the $32,655 winner's share of the purse brought her career earnings to $286,059.
The ride went just as Chris Emigh planned. “If we got the lead we were hopeful we could slow it down, and I think we did,” he said. “I had plenty of horse left. I didn’t take out my stick because the horse had run hard for me and I didn’t want to mess around, I just held on.”
Julio Felix, on second-place One Liz, agreed that the pace was the key to the race. “In the (Black Tie Affair Handicap) I got lucky,” Felix said. “I was right up in the pace in the other race but in here [Dreamofjean E.] opened up and Chris did a good job slowing it down. I got right up to her behind in the turn and she sprinted away from us.”
Dreamofjean E. paid $12.00 to win. The exacta over One Liz (1-5) returned $16.50 for each dollar on the combination. A $0.50 trifecta with Prado's Sweet Ride third (1-5-7) came back with $11.30. The superfecta with Chlobee fourth (1-5-7-2) paid $6.86 for each dime on the combination.
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