This Saturday at Arlington Park features a pair of stakes for Illinois-bred older sprinters: the Isaac Murphy Handicap for fillies and mares three and up, as well as the Addison Cammack Handicap, its open-company complement.
Race 4: Isaac Murphy Handicap, Illinois-registered fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the polytrack, post time 3:07pm CST
The race is run in honour of Isaac Murphy -- the first ever jockey to be elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame when it opened in 1955. During the course of his career, he won at a rate few jockeys will ever know: 530 times over 1,538 races, for a 34.5% win rate. One of the many excellent horses Murphy rode during his career remains a stakes namesake at Arlington. Murphy's lone Kentucky Oaks win came with the filly Modesty (1884). That same year, Murphy won the American Derby with Modesty -- the first of his four career wins in that race.
The Isaac Murphy Handicap has been run in some incarnation since 1976, though it has only been a six-furlong sprint for Illinois-bred fillies and mares since 1997. Marquee winners during its filly and mare days have included graded stakes winner Summer Mis (2003), Hawthorne stakes namesake Third Chance (2012), and Bluesbdancing (2006), herself not only a good racemare but also the dam of graded stakes placed Illinois-bred Babybluesbdancing. PUNTSVILLE is going for her third Isaac Murphy Handicap victory; she won the race in both 2016 and 2018. PUNTSVILLE is the only one to win the race twice in its filly and mare days, though Taylor's Special won it in both 1986 and 1987 when it was open to males and not restricted to Illinois-breds.
This year's edition of the Isaac Murphy Handicap drew a field of six to compete for a $75,000 purse. Even with the short field, the race is a veritable speedapalooza. JEAN ELIZABETH is lightning-fast early, and absolute one-way speed. She is the speed of the speed, she is well proven on the polytrack, and trainer Larry Rivelli should have her sharp off the long layoff. If there is a speed bias, she might be gone. But -- only might. BRITTNEY ON BLADES is also a rocket ship early, true five-furlong speed — and usually on the front, though she showed a bit of tactical ability when she won an N1X at Hawthorne last October.
PUNTSVILLE is also lightning-fast early, but she is another one who has -- at times -- shown tactical speed when she needs, such as when she won the Mahoning Distaff last fall. She is the most likely among this trio of speed horses to sit off the pace, and if she is on her sharpest she should get a good first run on the two who are more likely to have to go, go, go. She gets a welcome class drop from the open stakes she has been running in so far this year, and she is as good on the polytrack as she is on the dirt. But, on the other hand? She is coming back off of two weeks' rest, and PUNTSVILLE has always been the kind of horse who does her best work when she has some more time to rest after her races.
With an honest pace all but assured, it sets up nicely if JOYFUL NIGHT can get the sort of trip she got last time. JOYFUL NIGHT cedes a lot of experience to the rest of this field, as the four-year-old filly has only raced four times. But, she is a perfect two-for-two on polytrack: an easy six-furlong maiden win May 18, wire-to-wire, and then a track-and-pounce score last out in her first allowance try. Of course, the foes she will be running at this time around will be tougher than the likes of Meeka and Regal Serenade. But, if she can run back to her polytrack form against these more tested foes? She is fast enough to be a factor. These short fields often come down to trip, and JOYFUL NIGHT could get the best trip of all.
#2 JOYFUL NIGHT (3/1)
#6 PUNTSFILLE (5/2)
#5 JEAN ELIZABETH (9/5)
Longshot: This field is stratified: three "logical" horses listed above, and three longshots: the aforementioned rocket ship BRITTNEY ON BLADES, itinerant sprinter GAME TIME DECISION, and turf router ITSAGIMME'S GIRL. IT'SAGIMME'S GIRL is a speed horse, but hse has route speed. It's hard to think she is going to get the forward trip she needs, cutting back to a sprint and stepping up to these tougher horses than she beat last out in a $16K N3L at Delaware. BRITTNEY ON BLADES and GAME TIME DECISION have more upside -- they both come second off the lay, and have a bit classier form. The longshot writer finds it difficult to endorse any of these price horses on the win end, though #3 GAME TIME DECISION (15/1) has what it takes to invade the exotics on her best day. She is a stalking-to-midpack sprinter, suggesting she can get the trip. She has a win over the Arlington polytrack last year. And, trainer Chris Hartman has been excellent this summer at Arlington. He got a surprise horse into the money last week in the Chicago Handicap — 17/1 shot Heavenly Hill — and GAME TIME DECISION can match the feat with the right setup.
Race 5: Addison Cammack Memorial Handicap, Illinois-registered, three-year-olds and up, six furlongs on the polytrack, post time 3:41pm CST
This race is contested in memory of Addison Cammack, a longtime Chicago racing fixture. Early in his life he ran a pony business in Chicago, and he also started a horse transportation business that grew into Creech Horse Transportation. Cammack passed away in 2011, and the race was renamed in his honour starting in 2013. Before that, the race was known as the White Oak Handicap.
RECOUNT won this race in both 2015 and 2016. He is not the only two-time winner of this race, as local mainstays Tic N Tin (2001-2002), High Expectations (2006-2007), Shrewd Operator (2010-2011), and Sweet Luca (2013-2014) have also performed the feat. RECOUNT will become the first three-time winner of the race should he win it on Saturday.
Only six horses entered to contest for the $75,000 purse in the Addison Cammack this year, but those six are excellent. The field includes RECOUNT, coming fresh off a turf dash allowance win at Churchill. WHAT'S UP DUDE ran second in the Hanshin Cup (G3), and then won two allowances in a row. RICHIESINTHEHOUSE wasn't quite up to graded stakes, but he could not be stopped at Golden Gate this winter. WILE E PEYOTE and BULLDOG OF BERGEN are the up-and-comers, and have both made a splash in the allowance ranks this summer. Even NORTHERN FIRE? This is a tough spot, but after his easy maiden win last out? Perhaps he was just a runner who needed some time.
The pace makes the race, and the big question is how earnestly RICHIESINTHEHOUSE and RECOUNT will go at it up front. RICHIESINTHEHOUSE has to go; RECOUNT is best when forward, though he does have a stalking gear, as he showed in that last-out win. Their early pace is on par with each other -- though RECOUNT is the better of the two, since he is proven to stalk or even just get into a gritty battle, whereas RICHIESINTHEHOUSE is more a one-way speed type. The question with RECOUNT is just how fast he will have to go in order to dispatch with RICHIESINTHEHOUSE -- there will be some very good horses coming at him in the lane.
The best of them is WHAT'S UP DUDE. He is a polytrack sprint specialist (though, of course, good enough to stretch out and hit the board in a graded stakes at a mile!), and a late runner — and he has proven this year that even though he comes on late, he doesn't have to sit that far off the pace. He proved that especially clearly last out, when he rode a bona fide stalking trip to victory over an in-form Nuclear Option in an open two-other-than on June 16. WHAT'S UP DUDE has been rock-solid in three polytrack starts this year, should be able to work out any trip that his regular rider Jose Lopez judges that he needs, and can join the ranks of stakes winners in the Addison Cammack.
WILE E PEYOTE and BULLDOG OF BERGEN are both up-and-coming, and need another step forward to beat the likes of WHAT'S UP DUDE or RECOUNT. However? They're both in excellent form. BULLDOG OF BERGEN pulled a 22/1 shocker in an open N1X three back, and then has rallied late for second in a pair of tougher sprint races since then. That's the question for this, whether BULLDOG OF BERGEN gets enough pace. The front-end will be swift, though the horses he'll be trying to catch are very good. He's not impossible to win, though he makes a bit more sense underneath.
WILE E PEYOTE, on the other hand, is a late runner who can sit a bit closer to the pace. He needs a career best, but he has the upside to find it. He his four years old, has only raced twelve times so far, and did win his only try at six furlongs. He also comes second off a layoff. He had every excuse to lose his last race, as he checked behind a fading horse approaching the turn for home. But, Carlos Marquez got him going again, he rallied in the lane, and he narrowly staved off the flying BULLDOG OF BERGEN. If WILE E PEYOTE moves forward off of that effort, he may cement his place in the top echelon of Illinois-bred sprinters.
#6 WHAT'S UP DUDE (5/2)
#1 RECOUNT (7/2)
#2 WILE E PEYOTE (9/2)
Longshot: The longshot writer spent way too much time thinking about NORTHERN FIRE, but can't pull the handle on him in this. However, if NORTHERN FIRE comes back in a turf route this meet? Now we're talking, because he hasn't tried that yet and he has a really nice two-turn turf pedigree.
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