Prairie State Festival Preview

It’s going to be a busy June 16th.

The exciting around-the-clock fun on Saturday begins early in the morning, before the stakes races get underway, with a couple of great events at Arlington Park. In the afternoon, it’s off to the races. It’s Prairie State Festival Day, a salute to the best of the Illinois-breds with stakes action from Arlington Park. In the evening after the races conclude, there’s the Galloping Out dinner. Gambling types will give a hard look at the Stephen Foster Handicap Day card (run at night, under lights) from Churchill Downs, on easily the Kentucky track’s most important day in the Spring meet outside of  Kentucky Derby Day.

Back at home, Prairie State Festival Day is the second of three days throughout the year (Illinois Champions Day in Spring, Illinois Festival in Autumn) with six state-bred stakes. It’s the only one of the three at Arlington, though. The other two state-bred stakes race six-packs are across town at Hawthorne.

(Program note: A seventh stakes, the King’s Command, was set to be run on this day. It was set to be the first of three stakes for three-year-old males dashing on the polytrack for  a pot of $65,000. The distance would have been six furlongs and not restricted to Illinois-breds. However, the race failed to attract enough entries. It may be brought back later in the meet, but is likely to be cancelled.)

All stakes races on the Prairie State Festival program carry a purse of $125,000.

Arlington — Race 3 — White Oak Handicap — 6 Furlongs on Polytrack — Post time of 2:07 CT.

Let’s start with a sprint on the polytrack for older males. RIVER BEAR and his entry mate CAPT. BULLET BOB show up again. The latter set the pace for the former in the Molaro, the spring iteration of this race over on dirt. CAPT. BULLET BOB was put into quarter-horse races downstate at Fairmount and a five furlong turf sprint in an attempt to get him to be more of a speed horse to set up the closing kick of RIVER BEAR. All RIVER BEAR has done this year is win an allowance prep for the Molaro and the Molaro at Hawthorne, then ship to Iowa to win an open company $60K stakes. Back in the Land of Lincoln he comes, and note he was second in this race last year, losing to a horse taking advantage of a track positively favoring inside speed. BIG LOOIE seems to always bring his “A” game to these state-bred stakes days, be it sprinting (third in last year’s White Oak) or going around two turns (winning the Buck’s Boy last fall at Hawthorne). Last time on Arlington Matron Day he checked in with a disposable third in a upper level turf allowance. Jockey/trainer Team is 33% at Hawthorne, 22% overall. SACRED GIFT goes for the formidable owner/trainer combination of Midwest Thoroughbreds/Roger Breuggemann. He cleared the never-won-two allowance condition last time going 6 1/2 furlongs and makes a smidgen of a cutback in this stakes event. Sported a 4: 1-2-0 record over the local poly last year and was coming at the end (though was beaten by ten) in the Molaro.

#1 RIVER BEAR (6/5)

#2 BIG LOOIE (3/1)

#6 SACRED GIFT (5/1)

Longshot:  Nothing to see here, move along folks.

Arlington — Race 4  — Springfield Stakes — One mile (one turn) on Polytack — Post time of 2:39  CT.

We stay on the polytrack, this time for sophomore males going a single turn out of the chute. After floundering on dirt, ITALIAN BREEZE got his hooves on the polytrack and got his first career win. Then came his most recent start, an eight length win. Both starts were over the polytrack at today’s one mile distance. He dictated the terms in both starts and may just shake clear and leave the field behind. REPORT CARD ran a bang up race last time in the Land of Lincoln on Hawthorne’s spring Illinois-bred festival, getting clear from the rail and winning by four. The issue with him is he’s never been an inch past six furlongs, and he’ll be stretching out to a single turn mile. Deserving favorite, but no cinch. SWEET LUCA rallied off a wicked pace two back on Hawthorne dirt in the Sun Power, the fall 2 y/o stakes and was third in the first start of the year behind REPORT CARD. A son of Candy Ride, a mile should be in his scope and of the three Chris Block-trained horses in here, he has Block’s go to rider in Eddie Perez.


#2 REPORT CARD (5/2)

#3 SWEET LUCA (5/1)

Longshot: Taking ITALIAN BREEZE on top at 10/1 morning line certainly counts as a longshot. However, #7 REAL POWER (4/1) gets a call here. Should the top two burn each other up on the front end, here’s a nice closer that you can also use in the bottoms of trifectas and superfectas. He closed off a slow pace to win the Edgar Futurity at two and has been getting a lot of minor awards (but only one win, two back in a Hawthorne allowance). Not often the odds here are low.

Arlington — Race 6 — Isaac Murphy Handicap — 6 Furlongs on Polytrack — Post time of 3:42 CT.

This race honors Isaac Murphy, a Hall of Fame jockey who won three Kentucky Derbies.

The female complement of the White Oak features older sprinters. Despite turning four this year, it feels like THIRD CHANCE is a fixture of these Illinois-bred stakes. She makes her first appearance in the White Oak, after winning the spring iteration at Hawthorne, the Governor’s Lady with a crafty stalk-and-pass ride from Cisco Torres. Torres and trainer James Divito are 30% on the year, and have three wins in seven Arlington races this meet. She meets similar foes as the last time when she won, and has never been worse than third (with four wins in six tries) on the northwest side poly. OUR LADY IN RED handed our top pick two of those losses last year in state-bred stakes. Toss the first start of the year where she was perhaps too keen going first off the shelf, and look instead at her beating a good N3X field last time. Team shows a profit both locally and nationally, and the trainer is 17% winners going third off the layoff. Do note she’s cross entered into the Lincoln Heritage (see below) later on in the program. MISSJEANLOUISE makes her fifth start of the year for trainer Wayne Catalano. Won that first start of the year, second two back in the Governor’s Lady. Last out and three back, she turned in some dull efforts including a fourth last time in a starter allowance on grass. Up, Down, Up, Down…does the yo-yo bounce back up?


#2 OUR LADY IN RED (9/2)


Longshot: #4 ROYAL POSH (12/1) beat MISSJEANLOUISE in that turf starter allowance (the cap was $10,000) and closed to get the job done that day. If THIRD CHANCE gets softened on the front end her chances increase. Even so, she had a puncher’s chance regardless: the connections on her have two wins in eight Arlington starts and a gleaming ROI of $8.05. Here’s another one going third off the layoff, and her best races have been on turf or synthetic.

Arlington — Race 8  — Purple Violet Stakes — One mile (one turn) on Polytack — Post time of 4:42 CT.

The female complement of the Springfield, hence a race for three year olds, will be the last of the polytrack races. The late pick four opens with a race where hitting the “all” button may be prudent. But if you’re done to your last two dollars, it’s good to be a Blockhead.  I mean Chris Block, the trainer with the most wins in Prairie State Festival history. His go-to rider is Eddie Perez and the team are usually around 20-25 for the meet%, though have gotten warm off a slow start. THE CUSHMAKER has the Block/Perez team and she was second two back on wet Hawthorne grass in the Gold Digger, a listed stakes in the fall. Last start was first from the mothballs and she checked in with a closing win going two turns on the Arlington grass, beating a next out winner.  I like the sneaky two turn to one turn move (while keeping the distance the same). The figures show she may have benefited from the winter freshening. REMEMBERMEALWAYS led every step of the way in a six furlong N2X allowance poly sprint on Hanshin Cup Day at Arlington, and retains the services of Chris Emigh. Looks like Emigh woke this filly up, who threw in a clunker in the Pretty Jenny two back. Do note she beat elders last time, goes back against her own age group.  DOLLY PEACH blew up the toteboard last time in the Pretty Jenny to the tune of 51-1. She proved that win was not a fluke with a win in allowance company last time over the polytrack, also against elders. Like REMEMBERMEALWAYS, the mile distance will be a question mark. However, both times the jockey/trainer team have gotten together it’s been on DOLLY PEACH and they’ve both yielded winners’ circle photos.



#2 DOLLY PEACH (7/2)

Longshot: State-bred stakes days like these often include a bomb of sort. Last fall featured male sprinter Four Left Fleet, this spring it was DOLLY PEACH. I think we’ll get our bomber in this division as well. Presenting #3 CLASS BREAK (12/1), who won the Whitworth Debutante last winter going two turns. She’s the higher of the two on the morning line trained by Catalano, and perhaps the six furlongs of the Pretty Jenny were too short last time. She closed off a moderate pace in the Whitworth, and off a meltdown pace in the Showtime Deb with both freshman starts giving her champion Illinois Juvenile Filly honors. There should be enough pace and distance this go-round.

Arlington — Race 9 — Lincoln Heritage Handicap — 1 1/16 miles on Turf — Post time of 5:13 CT.

The first of two turf races for state-breds, and this one is for older females. At publish time, the rail will be in Lane 3. Let’s root on the Two Bucks To Show team with CUMULONIMBLE. She ran well first off the long layoff winning, the first start removed from winning the 2010 Lincoln Heritage. Third in an upper-crust allowance two back, she checked in with an off-the-board finish in the G2 Honey Fox. She that day hooked Tapitsfly, the same Tapitsfly that last week won the G1 Just A Game in a smashing time of 1:32 1/5 on Belmont Stakes Day. She’s perhaps the classiest of this bunch, and I like the rider switch on this off-the-pace type to James Graham, one of the best off-the-pace grass riders on the circuit. The 2011 winner of the Lincoln Heritage, PEYOTE PATTY, is back to try for the double. Closed out a nice year last winning the Illini Princess on dirt, and like last year, makes her second start off the shelf in the Lincoln Heritage. The pattern is similar to last year, too. Also likable is the 30% jockey/trainer team.  PATHWAY was a step behind the best female turfers on the grounds last year and returns this year to the statebred turf ranks. Trainer Christine Janks is 22% sprint to route, and always a force to be reckoned with in these state-bred stakes. Second to PEYOTE PATTY in last year’s Lincoln Heritage, and has eight top finishes in fourteen turf tries at Arlington Park.


#10 PEYOTE PATTY (5/1)

#4 PATHWAY (10/1)

Longshot: I think the odds on this one are going to be much higher than the advertised 8/1, as the top two (and Pathway) will take a good chunk of cash. Think #8 KATIE THE LADY (8/1) might slip through the cracks for the Boyce/Torres team that has a win in three tries at Arlington. The trainer is 25% winners on turf, too, and this one is speed of the speed. Consider her especially if the course remains as hard and firm as it has been in past days.

Arlington — Race 10 — Black Tie Affair Handicap — 1 1/16 miles on Turf — Post time of 5:42 CT.

This race honors Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year. He was based out of Chicago for the late trainer Ernie Poulos. He capped his 1991 season winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Through the magic of NBC/Youtube….

The second of two turf races for state-breds, and this one is for older males. At publish time, the rail will be in Lane 3.

Not often you see New York-based trainer Barclay Tagg out in these parts, but he has Illinois-bred GATHERING CLOUD making the pilgramage to Arlington Heights. Fourth beaten a length last year in this event, he won an N2X allowance down at Keeneland and ran okay in an N3X at Belmont. Think the middle post will be to his liking. TAZZ won this race last year for trainer C. Janks, and also won the Illinois Owners stakes and cashed a check in the Carey. Turf routing has always been his game, so you disregard the dirt start last year at Hawthorne and take the springs with a grain of salt.  Still, is he able to string together the same kind of solid form he had last year? Another horse who had a solid campaign last year was SUNTRACER, who chased around Willcox Inn in rich sophomore turf races like the Arlington Classic, American Derby, and Hawthorne Derby. Now four, he was injured in the G3 Bradley and showed nothing when thrown into the bearpits of the Muniz and Elkhorn. He’s taking a sizable drop in class for the formidable trainer C. Block.


#6 TAZZ (8/1)

#10 SUNTRACER (4/1)

Longshot:  GATHERING CLOUD has eight seconds to go with his three wins. Can TAZZ be as good? Can SUNTRACER find his closing kick? Let’s go fishing. There’s not a lot of pace signed on this go-round of the Black Tie Affair, and we’ve got E. T. Baird on perhaps the field’s only confirmed front runner. #4 MR. MISCHIEF (12/1) could be making mischief and taking the field on a carousel ride. Team has six wins in fourteen starts at Arlington with an ROI exceeding five dollars. Three back he was second to Mr. Vegas (2nd, last week’s Sea o’Erin Stakes) and cleared the N2X allowance condition last time in his first start of the year.  He’s won over the course many times and has the postive pace scenario.

Look for on-the-scene recaps from Arlington Park on Saturday from Twitter.  Good luck!

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