The Arlington Matron, nowadays the only nine-furlong polytrack stakes for fillies and mares, will be run for the eighty-second time this year. Several past and present local stakes namesakes have counted the Arlington Matron among their victories. Pucker Up (1957) has a turf stakes run in her name on Arlington Million Day, Old Hat (1965) still lends her name to an early-season sophomore fillies' sprint stakes at Gulfstream, Sweetest Chant (1982) is the namesake of an early-season turf mile for three-year-old fillies at Gulfstream, and Hawthorne used to run a graded dirt route for older fillies and mares in the name of Sixty Sails (1974, 1975). Another notable recent winner is Illinois-bred Grade 1 winner and millionaire La Tia (2014).
A couple of relatively recent winners of the Arlington Matron have distinguished themselves in the breeding shed. Mariah's Storm (1995), once a stakes namesake at Arlington, emerged a blue hen producer after her racing career, most notably producing full siblings Giant's Causeway, Freud, and You'resothrilling. Giant's Causeway and Freud have gone on to be successful sires, and You'resothrilling went on to produce Group 1 winners Gleneagles, Happily, and Marvellous, and Grade 1 placed Coolmore and Taj Mahal (who achieved his top-level placing with a second-place finish in the 2017 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington). Take Charge Lady (2003) went on to produce champion Will Take Charge, Grade 1 winner and emerging sire Take Charge Indy, as well as Charming, dam of both 2014 Champion Two Year Old Filly Take Charge Brandi and scratched 2019 Kentucky Derby morning line favourite Omaha Beach.
Race 8: Arlington Matron Stakes (G3), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one eighth miles on the polytrack, post time 5:15pm CST
The Arlington Matron drew a field of 10 to contend for a $100,000 purse, though only nine are expected to run. As befits such a rara avis in the graded stakes world, it drew an eclectic mix of fillies and mares: a few of the better locals, and a handful of Midwestern shippers. The morning-line favourite was California entrant La Force, but per Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form, La Force is expected to stay in California to run in the Santa Maria (G2) at Santa Anita instead.
The only one to return from last year's running of the Matron is DADDY'S BOO. The local mainstay comes in off of a gate-to-wire win in an allowance at Arlington May 17, in which MO'S M V P and OH SO TERRIBLE chased her home. She got her perfect trip that day, leading all the way around. That's what DADDY'S BOO did last year, for most of the way, anyway: led most of the way until PRINCESS LA QUINTA reeled her in. On her best she can be a factor again -- but she'll be the likely favourite with the defection of LA FORCE, nine furlongs is a bit long for her best. That's a concern even if she had an easy trip, but she'll probably have to wrangle with YOUNGEST DAUGHTER, a filly who does her best work on the front end, who is fast enough to wrangle with DADDY'S BOO early, and who is entered alongside SNUCK OUT -- an uncoupled same-owner entry who would be beautifully suited by a knock-down, drawn-out fight between DADDY'S BOO and YOUNGEST DAUGHTER. All in all? DADDY'S BOO is good enough to merit some defensive use on spread tickets, she is a must underneath, but she is going to be less than exciting in the win pool when there are some intriguing alternatives.
Most intriguing among the alternatives is the in-form COACHWHIP. Last time she chased home a razor-sharp Ickymasho in the Bewitch (G3), a mile and a half over the Keeneland turf. She stuck around for third over that extended trip, but should be far better suited by this nine-furlong distance. Her stalking to midpack running style should also suit the Matron nicely, as she can sit off the pace but not leave herself with too much to do. The biggest question about COACHWHIP is the surface, since she has never tried a synthetic footing. But, she won't be the favourite -- and if she's as fast on the synthetic as she is on the grass, she has the quality to win this.
Prodigal local NA PALI SPIRIT also deserves a long look. This midpack mare does need to find her best, but there are a few reasons she can. Her pair of starts over the polytrack at Arlington last year were solid, with a N1X placing early in the meet and then a N2X win later, both at a mile and a sixteenth. Her two wins last year, that aforementioned main-track win and a win just before that on the grass, both came with rider Mitchell Murrill aboard; Murrill returns to the saddle for the Matron. She has yet to prove herself at a mile and an eighth, but hasn't had much chance to. After all, her two tries came in a sloppy mess at Keeneland, and then in a Grade 2 against the likes of Rymska and Hawksmoor. Back on a surface where she has form, back with a jockey with whom she did so well last year, she could make better account.
#6 COACHWHIP (9/2)
#5 NA PALI SPIRIT (8/1)
#8 DADDY'S BOO (5/2)
Longshot: #2 SNUCK OUT (15/1), as mentioned above, is one of a pair for owner G. Watts Humphrey and trainer Victoria Oliver. Her recent form, a pair of monkey finishes in allowances, has come from well off the pace. She is hoping for as hot a pace as possible -- but, with YOUNGEST DAUGHTER fast enough to go at it with DADDY'S BOO, she just might get it The jockey assignment is perfect for her -- though Sophie Doyle has never held SNUCK OUT's reins before, she is as good a rider of closers as the Arlington colony has, suggesting they'll be a good fit. This filly has class to prove, and it's always a tough ask for a horse who qualifies for an N1X to run in a Grade 3 against older mares...but this improving four-year-old is lightly-enough raced to find more, and it's hard to ignore her at a big price when she ships in company with a pacemaking stablemate.
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