Previewing the 2018 Ride to the Million: Modesty Handicap Preview

The Modesty Handicap will be run for the 62nd time this year, and offers a purse of $100,000.  It began at Washington Park in 1942, and has been run at Arlington almost steadily since 1962, though did move to Hawthorne in 1985.  The race takes its name from Modesty -- a filly who beat males in the first American Derby in 1884.  Her rider that day was none other than a fellow Arlington Park stakes namesake: Isaac Murphy, who has an Illinois-bred filly and mare sprint run in his name each summer.  Murphy also won the Kentucky Oaks with Modesty earlier that year, the only Kentucky Oaks win of his illustrious riding career.

Nowadays, the Modesty Handicap serves as the local prep for the Beverly D. (G1), covering the same course and distance.  Originally run on dirt, but moved to the grass in the 1960s, the race's winners include current Keeneland stakes namesake Bewitch (1948), onetime Hawthorne stakes namesake Indian Maid (1960, 1961), Illinois-bred Grade 1 winner (and Grade 1 producer) Lady Shirl (1991), and recent Grade 1 producer Chic Dancer (2006).

In separate pieces, we preview the Arlington Handicap (G3), the American Derby (G3), the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3), and the Hatoof Stakes.

Selections have been made for turf only.  Morning lines were not available at original publish time.  Updated Thursday, July 5 with morning lines.

Arlington Park - Saturday, July 7

Race 6: Modesty Handicap (G3), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and three sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 4:16pm CDT

DADDYS LIL DARLING is the class of this field, and the distance should suit her comfortably.  She is a closer who reliably fires, and even though she can sit closer if she has to, she probably doesn't have to (and won't want to) with SULLY'S DREAM and DARING DUCHESS likely to fight out the pace, and GO BABY RUN possible to hound them for a while early.  The concern with DADDYS LIL DARLING is the win record: she often takes a lot of money, only to rally on for second or third.  She can win this, and she wins just often enough not to toss out completely for the top spot.  But, this spot sees some alternatives who could win this at a more attractive price.

PRINCESS LA QUINTA was good at three, but has blossomed into herself at four.  The daughter of Quality Road won an allowance to kick off the meet, then was just as sharp when winning the Grade 3 Arlington Matron.  Both of those races were at two turns over polytrack.  She shortened up to seven furlongs for the Chicago Handicap (G3).  She finished second, well beaten behind a track record performance by Hotshot Anna.  Though part of that could be attributable to a brilliant inside ride by Sophie Doyle on a day when the rail was golden, it also serves as a testament to her continued good form that she could cut back to one turn and still run so well.  Now, PRINCESS LA QUINTA stretches back out.  Turf is the question, as she is winless in ten tries over the footing.  But, she has hit the board in six of those tries, and has not been back on grass since finding her stride this summer. She also gets back regular rider Carlos Marquez.  He was out riding in stakes at Canterbury on the day of the Chicago Handicap, but now he returns to Arlington, where he has won five of the ten stakes of the meet leading into Ride to the Million Day. He can make it six with PRINCESS LA QUINTA.

CELESTIAL INSIGHT also deserves a strong look.  She was hit-or-miss with previous trainer Wesley Ward last year, but the daughter of Scat Daddy was a close second in the Mint Julep (G3) on June 9.  That was her first start for new trainer Graham Motion, and her first start of the year.  Though she gets a new jockey for this outing, she gets as good a new jockey as possible: Florent Geroux, who knows the Arlington turf on big days as well as anyone.  Though CELESTIAL INSIGHT showed speed early in her career, more recently her more successful style has had her coming from midpack or father back, and that style should suit her well here.  If she can take even a modest step forward second off the layoff, CELESTIAL INSIGHT could win.

If you're spreading out in this race, it may be worth watching the tote board on CHURCH SOCIAL.  The connections are top-notch: Shug McGaughey wouldn't be shipping if he didn't think he has a shot, and top jockey Jose Valdivia will ride.  She won't be a minuscule price, since DADDYS LIL DARLING will likely go off the defined favourite.  But, the question is whether her connections drive her price too low.  CHURCH SOCIAL can contend with her best -- but will she bring her best fresh off a one-other-than win, facing stakes company for the first time?  Don't take too short a price to find out.

Selections:

#7 PRINCESS LA QUINTA (15/1)

#4 CELESTIAL INSIGHT (5/1)

#13 DADDYS LIL DARLING (9/5)

Longshot:  #9 PRADO'S SWEET RIDE (10/1) finished second in this race last year, proving that the Illinois-bred daughter of Fort Prado can stay the trip, but may be overlooked on recent form.  She was well-beaten as the favourite last up in a state-bred stakes, but it was washed from the turf away to the polytrack.  PRADO'S SWEET RIDE has only run on poly twice in her career, but both starts suggest she just runs below her best on that surface.  The return to grass helps her.  PRADO'S SWEET RIDE also has the tactical versatility to track close to the pace or settle a bit further back as necessary -- depending on how enthusiastically DARING DUCHESS and SULLY'S DREAM make the pace.  Finally, Jose Lopez returns to the irons with PRADO'S SWEET RIDE.  Lopez has some form with this mare and often gets live horses for the Chris Block barn, so that's a positive to see him back.  This mare can contend at her best, and there are enough reasons to suggest she can bring her best to make her attractive at the price.

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