Saturday's Arlington card concludes with a maiden special weight turf mile for juveniles. Given that we're into August, the race is a mix of experienced horses and first-timers: six of the ten starters have raced already, including three who have already gone this two-turn turf trip.
As so often happens in these juvenile races, there are a few same-trainer entries. Chris Block has a pair of first-time starters for Lothenbach Stables, More Than A. P. and Whata Perfect Day. Pavel Vashchenko has Air Balloon and Courtyard, the same twosome he sent out for a turf mile maiden last month, both for his usual owner Glockenburg LLC. Both Vashchenko horses add Lasix for the first time. Chris Davis has a pair for different owners: Hurrican Hank for Jeffrey Holcomb and Bosharon Stable, and Best You Ever Seen for Town and Country Racing (thus far his highest-profile owner) and George Saufley.
- MORE THAN A. P. (3/1) - This colt is by More Than Ready, a well-proven sire whose foals can turn out to be any kind -- Verrazano, Roy H, Catholic Boy, Rushing Fall, Sebring. Any kind -- though if More Than A. P. gets turf acumen, it will likely come from dad. His dam, the A. P. Indy mare A. P. Cindy, never won -- but she is a proven producer, as she has three winners in four starters thus far. (The non-winner, a three-year-old by Point of Entry, has raced just once, on August 3.) The best of her three winners is Lord Simba (Discreet Cat), winner of the six-furlong Los Angeles S. (G3) on the Santa Anita dirt last year, and also third behind Ransom the Moon in last year's Kona Gold (G2). The two other winners out of the dam, Lady of the Nile (Pioneerofthenile) and Princess Coco (Pioneerof the Nile), both won at distances as long as a mile -- though none won on grass. (Lady of the Nile did win twice on all-weather surfaces, at Hollywood Park and Golden Gate.) Second dam Cologny (Go For Gin) was a six-furlong dirt sprinter, though she produced a two-time G3 winner at nine furlongs: Romansh (Bernardini).
- MY CHURCH (20/1) - This colt is by Illinois-bred star Giant Oak: a good stamina influence, though he has thus far emerged as a better dirt sire than turf sire, with only a 7% turf win rate, and only a 5% first-time-on-turf win rate. Dam Strike For Home has one other foal to have raced, stakes-placed Illinois-bred All Strikes. A full brother to My Church, All Strikes finished third behind Devileye in the 2016 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity, going a mile and a sixteenth on dirt. He was still a maiden then -- but All Strikes's maiden win did come at about a mile on the Arlington grass the next year. Going back in the family reveals a lot of two-turn dirt form. Well Executed, a full sister to Strike For Home, got her only win going a mile and seventy yards on dirt, though not at age two. My Church's third dam is Vana Turns (Wavering Monarch) -- the dam of both Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Pike Place Dancer (Seattle Dancer) and Ohio Derby (G2) winner Petionville.
- HURRICANE HANK (6/1) - This colt is by perennial top turf sire Kitten's Joy -- better known for his horses aged three and up, but 191 of his 509 two-year-olds to start have won. His average winning distance for two-year-olds is 7.43 furlongs, suggesting that "cut the malarkey and send them a route" is a good plan for his babies. He is the first racing-age foal out of dam Scenario Analysis (Exchange Rate), herself a turf miler, though she did not score her first win until she was four. Though, digging a little further back in the pedigree shows flickers of juvenile form: second dam Thimble Island graduated at fifth asking at age two (albeit sprinting on dirt), and she produced first-out winner and graded stakes-placed juvenile Unobstructed View (Yes It's True).
- D J MAC (15/1) - This second-time starter is a member of Maclean's Music's third crop. On a whole his progeny have gravitated toward sprint distances -- though he notably sired Preakness (G1) winner Cloud Computing, his stamina is an anomaly so far among Maclean's Music progeny. On turf, his progeny win a modest 10% of the time. D J Mac is out of the Quiet American mare Meghan Claire, whose only other foal (Just Like Jill, by Fast Bullet) missed the board in two starts last year at two. Meghan Claire won twice sprinting dirt at three; she missed the board in all three starts at two. But, second dam Sandy Bay Lady (Zuppardo's Prince) won first out at age two in a dirt sprint, and held her own in dirt sprint stakes through that winter.
- AIR BALLOON (15/1) - Air Balloon is by Noble Mission, a first-crop sire who has a pair of winners to date, one sprinting on dirt (Noble Destiny) and another sprinting on turf (On a Session). He has yet to produce a route winner, but he is a full brother to Frankel and was a strong turf router himself, so that seems only a matter of time. Underneath, he is out of Joustabout (Apalachee). Joustabout was a class turf miler at age two -- she won the 1997 Natalma Stakes at Woodbine. She has produced seven winners from ten to start, including Mr. Commons, a multiple G2-winning turf miler who won at second asking, early in his three-year-old year. She also produced Jungle Fighter, who won at second asking at age four going short on dirt, and was a multiple stakes winner routing on turf.
- LUCKY FAST (12/1) - This second-time starter is by Drosselmeyer -- making him a bit surprising, as he is a Mikhail Yanakov homebred not by Skipshot. Drosselmeyer babies have been okay on the grass, winning 11% of the time, though only win at 6% first-time turf. Dam Dragon Fly (Sadler's Wells) has three winners in seven starters -- though, oddly enough for a French-bred Sadler's Wells mare, all on grass. The two American runners their diplomas at age three: dirt runner Anaximandros (Hard Spun) and Wine Scholar (Smart Strike). The other, Lucky First (Curlin), raced in Russia. He won as a juvenile, at first asking, becoming his sire's first winner. That came at 1200m on dirt, though he successfully stretched out to 2400m on multiple occasions later in his career. Looking up the family tree, second dam Luna Blue produced Luna Fairy (Always Fair), a French Group 3 winner at a mile on grass as a juvenile.
- HOMEFIELD (7/2) - This colt, a Godolphin homebred, is by Into Mischief: a top sire with a well-earned reputation for producing horses who can run on any surface. His get win at 14% on grass, and 11% first-time on grass. Though his progeny tend to have some trouble going Classic distances, a mile fits, and his average winning distance for juveniles is a perfectly respectable 6.35 furlongs. Dam Al Andaleeb has a pair of foals to run, both by Elusive Quality -- including Emboldened, a three-year-old filly who won at first asking in January of this year. Her full brother Cavil was a juvenile maiden winner at a one-turn mile on dirt, and has run in the money in allowance company going two turns on grass. Homefield's second dam Ajina did her best on dirt, but that best was top-class: she won the 1997 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), and at two she was a multiple graded stakes winner, including the nine-furlong Demoiselle (G2).
- WHATA PERFECT DAY (5/1) - Whata Perfect Day is by Blame. Blame is known to work beautifully with Whata Perfect Day's family -- his dam Alluring Squall (Bernardini) is half to both G1W Vacare and to a standout three-year-old turf router of this year, Captivating Moon (Malibu Moon). Nobody's Fault ended up a turf sprinter in her older years -- but at two, she won a turf mile on debut for trainer Chris Block and owner Lothenbach Stables, same as this colt. Nobody's Fault is by Blame out of Appealing Storm, Whata Perfect Day's second dam. No Fault of Mine is also by Blame out of Single Solution, a Flatter half-sister to Alluring Squall. No Fault of Mine also won first-out at two for Block, going seven furlongs on polytrack, and followed that with a second-place finish in the two-turn Goldenrod (G2) on dirt.
- BEST YOU EVER SEEN (4/1) - He is a son of second-crop sire Take Charge Indy -- a sire whose babies have not been the most precocious, but are growing into good middle-distance (mainly on dirt) runners at three. On the dam side, all three others out of his dam Star of Johar (Johar) are winners, and all on turf. They didn't take a long time to win -- all between their second and fourth starts -- but all at age three. Those foals include Inside Out (Colonel John), winner at third asking at a mile on the grass, and the Laurel track record holder for a mile and a sixteenth on grass.
- COURTYARD (20/1) - This colt is a son of Mizzen Mast, a proven turf sire, and proven turf route sire. He has a far better strike rate with horses aged three and older, though his best juvenile was a turf router, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and French champion Flotilla. Courtyard is out of Morekissesforpatti (Unbridled's Song), a winner at third asking (at age three) going seven and a half furlongs on grass. Her other two starters are both winners, though neither were precocious. More Than Kisses (More Than Ready) did win routing on turf. Digging back in the pedigree reveals a bit of juvenile ability; second dam Magpie is a full sister to Hansel, a first-out winner and multiple graded stakes winner at two. That two-year-old form came short, but as befits a Woodman son, he had stamina -- Hansel won the Preakness (G1) and the Belmont (G1) in 1991.
Whata Perfect Day has an appealing pedigree for this. Chris Block is a trainer who just goes ahead and sends a horse ready to route first time out when the horse needs it. Whata Perfect Day is from a quality turf route family that often wins at two, and is bred closely to a juvenile turf mile debut winner Block had a few years ago. The only question looming over Whata Perfect Day's head is the jockey -- Joseph Berrios does know what he's doing, but Block more often gives his "A" mount to Jose Lopez, who is on the other Block, More Than A. P. Still, with that pedigree and a regular worktab through the summer, Whata Perfect Day belongs on tickets.
Best You Ever Seen is the old salt of the field, with three starts underneath him. His best yet came on July 13, trying a mile on grass for the first time. He rallied well for second behind a live-on-the-tote Castlewood Terrace. He returns to the same distance and keeps rider Sophie Doyle in the irons. Best You Ever Seen is (perhaps strangely) only the morning-line third favourite, but would be no surprise to see as the favourite come post time.
The jockey assignment suggests that D J Mac has a longshot chance. After all, trainer Mike Stidham typically gives his "A" mounts to jockey Mitchell Murrill. That has been the case for a few years. Yet, Murrill instead appears on D J Mac, a horse well beaten in his debut over the poly. In addition to the rider change D J Mac stretches out, switches to turf, and adds blinkers. Particularly first-grass and first-route, his trainer David Hinsley does not win often, but when he does, he blows the tote board to smithereens. There are questions with the pedigree -- but there's enough to like to make him intriguing at likely north of his 15/1 morning line.
Those are the ones who have special reason to like them -- but if you can spread in the Saturday finale, there are plenty of reasons to do so. Homefield is beautifully bred and has some suggestions of precocity, although the absence of Mitchell Murrill in the irons gives some pause. He is a defensive cover in multi-race wagers, but it's hard to imagine he'll be an appetizing win price. Though turf is a question for Lucky Fast, the stretch to two turns should suit him perfectly, and it's always a good thing to see Edgar Perez take the leg up on a maiden. More than A. P. is likely intended as the Block "A"; though the rail draw may be challenging he is bred to be a good one. Air Balloon should improve with experience and distance, gets Vashchenko's "A" jockey Liliia Reznikova-Vrublevska, and is bred nicely for a juvenile turf runner.
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