ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — Of all the stakes races run at Arlington throughout the summer, only two cater to the younger set. Both of them took place today: the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity, and the listed Arlington-Washington Lassie. The track was busier than usual thanks to the always-popular Taste at the Track event, but there were still plenty of people there for the racing, as evidenced by the crowds along the paddock rails before the stakes races. This year’s editions of each race were a little different than last year’s, in that they were both shorter. Both the Futurity and the Lassie dialed back to seven furlongs on the polytrack this year, as opposed to the previous one-mile distance. The Futurity had last been run at seven furlongs in 1983, and the Lassie had last been run at the distance in 1987. The Futurity also had a smaller purse this year: $125,000, compared to last year’s $150,000 kitty. The Lassie purse held steady at $100,000.
Arlington-Washington Lassie: Presque Isle Invader Quality Rocks Brings Helmbrecht Second Lassie Victory
A dozen years ago, trainer William Helmbrecht won the Arlington-Washington Lassie with Moonlight Sonata, a filly who broke her maiden by prevailing in he race’s 2002 edition. Helmbrecht had returned to the race twice between then and this year, with his best finish being a fourth-place run in 2011 by Venetian Sonata, Moonlight Sonata’s daughter by Bernardini. This year he brought Quality Rocks. She was not related to Moonlight Sonata. However she, like Venetian Sonata, had broken her maiden in a romp at Presque Isle Downs as her first step on the road to Arlington Park.
All seven horses in the Lassie had a single maiden special weight win under their belt. Only Happy to Go had tried in stakes company before, having finished third in the My Dear Stakes at Woodbine and then fifth in the Ontario Debutante over the same track. Sarah Sis, Puntsville, Sugar Talk, and Lemon Gala had also graduated at Arlington. In addition to Quality Rocks, Susan’s Day had also graduated at Presque.
The early money hammered Sarah Sis, an eleven-length winner at Arlington on August 21. She opened at 8/5. Susan’s Day opened at a surprisingly live 5/2, with Lemon Gala at 9/2 early. Quality Rocks opened at 6/1, a little higher than her morning line. In the paddock, they looked like a fairly well-matched stakes field, with Sarah Sis looking slightly more on her toes than the rest. Still, all looked very ready to race, and none could be discounted strictly on appearance. The late money fell even more strongly on Sarah Sis, and she went off at even money. Quality Rocks went off a tepid second choice at 4/1, with Lemon Gala (6/1), Puntsville (7/1), Happy to Go (8/1), and Susan’s Day (8/1) all bunched closely. This made Susan’s Day look particularly cold on the board late, compared to all the eager early money had been placed on her. Sugar Talk, the distant wagering outlier, went off at 22/1.
Sarah Sis, as expected, broke to the early lead. She outsprinted Lemon Gala, the only horse to her inside, and quickly gained the rail. Quality Rocks sent forth with her, stalking just to her outside. Sarah Sis set reasonable early fractions for the race: the quarter in 23.22, the half in 47.30. On the far turn Sarah Sis had gotten about a length in front, but that was all Quality Rocks would allow. She angled around Sarah Sis, and engaged her passing the quarter pole. She threatened the early leader up to the furlong pole, and then kicked into her next gear. Quality Rocks pulled away in the final furlong, and crossed the wire three and a half lengths in front. Sarah Sis continued determinedly on; though she could not match her conqueror’s late run, she was never seriously challenged by anyone else. Happy to Go, last in the early going, angled outside down the stretch and belatedly closed up ground. She kicked well enough to overtake Puntsville just past the furlong pole, and finished third beaten 6 3/4 lengths. Puntsville held an even fourth, followed by Susan’s Day, Lemon Gala, and Sugar Talk.
Quality Rocks is a two-year-old filly by Rock Hard Ten out of the Elusive Quality mare Elusive Virgin. She was trainer William Helmbrecht’s second Arlington-Washington Lassie winner. She broke her maiden last month in a five and a half furlong sprint at Presque Isle Downs last month, and first added Lasix for the Lassie. She raced as a homebred for Destiny Oaks of Ocala. The filly had raced just once before, winning an August 13 maiden special weight at Presque Isle Downs. She was a 21/1 shot that day, but romped to win by a widening four and a half lengths. This was enough to generate some interest in her as well as get her pointed to the Lassie.
Jockey Rosemary Homeister, Jr. rode Quality Rocks to victory. About her ride, she noted, “They told me she had good speed and if I could get her to relax a little bit that she’d finish for me. When [Sarah Sis] went, I just took my filly back and she just settled beautifully. They did a great job conditioning this filly and when I asked her in the stretch she was gone. She kept running and she was focused when she got the lead.”
Julio Felix, rider of second-place Sarah Sis, acknowledged the race as something the filly can build on. “She got more out of this race than when she won. She got tired today; it was the first time she got challenged, that we asked her to do anything. She just got a little tired, and the filly that beat us is a nice horse.”
This win in the Arlington-Washington Lassie looks to be Quality Rocks’s last race in the Destiny Oaks colours, and her last in the Helmbrecht barn. It turns out her maiden win had already drawn serious attention: Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form stated on Twitter that a 75% interest in this filly was sold before the race, and that she would be headed to the barn of Bill Mott. According to a statement made by Bradley Weisbord on Twitter, it was A. Wachtel and Partners who purchased the interest in Quality Rocks. Adam Wachtel does frequently send horses he owns to Bill Mott. Further information about the exact terms of the sale are unavailable to Picks and Ponderings at this time. About the filly’s future, Laura Helmbrecht (daughter of William Helmbrecht) did state after the race, “We’re so happy. [Trainer] Billy Mott is going to get her after this race so she’s going on to bigger and better things.”
Quality Rocks paid her supporters $10.40 to win. The exacta over Sarah Sis paid $24.20 for each $2 base bet. A $0.50 trifecta with Happy to Go placed third returned $25.35. The superfecta with Puntsville in the lowest rung came back with $11.20 for every dime bet on the combination.
Arlington-Washington Futurity: Recount Makes Return to Arlington Count in Narrow Win
Minutes before the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII), Lucky Player prevailed by a neck in the Iroquois Stakes (GIII) at Churchill Downs. Lucky Player had previously finished second in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile. 332 miles away, the first-, third-, and fourth-place horses from that race were preparing for a different Grade III contest: the Arlington-Washington Futurity. Private Prospect, the excitable winner of a maiden claimer at Arlington as well as the Prairie Gold Juvenile Stakes, had prevailed in the Mile by a neck over Lucky Player. Recount, the favourite in that last outing after an impressive maiden special weight win, had settled for third: a length and a half behind Private Prospect. Long shot Mr Lightning Boy, the only other one in the field with stakes experience, had finished a distant fourth behind Recount back in Altoona.
With the trainer scratch of maiden Tender May, each other member of the seven-horse field had a maiden win to their credit. Michael Stidham brought a pair: Ike Walker had won a maiden special weight at second asking on August 7, and One Go All Go had romped in a $62,500 maiden claimer on August 22. Bourbon Cowboy, campaigned by the same connections as last year’s Lassie winner She’s Offlee Good, came out of a maiden win over sharp next-out winner Nun The Less. Seraph, the lone runner without a race over the local oval, had won his debut last month at Indiana Grand.
The early money favoured Ike Walker strongly; he opened up the even-money choice. Recount opened at 7/2, and the two-time stakes winner Private Prospect was close behind at 4/1. In the paddock all looked good, but it was Recount who drew the eye most. Even compared with a fit stakes field, he looked particularly alert and interested. As the later money came in, the odds on Ike Walker drifted up, with later bettors flocking to Recount in droves. By the time the gates opened, it was Recount who sat as the 9/5 favourite. Ike Walker was the 3/1 second choice, and Private Prospect and One Go All Go had both settled at 4/1.
Recount broke sharply, and settled in front down the backstretch. His old nemesis Private Prospect stalked just to his outside, with One Go All Go third in the pocket. The leader set honest though not overly taxing fractions for a seven-furlong race: the quarter in 23.13, the half in 46.67. Coming into the turn Recount and Private Prospect were heads apart for the lead. The three behind him were forced to circle outside: One Go All Go circled three wide with Ike Walker outside of him, and Seraph farther out still. One Go All Go stayed on the best of the outside trio. Bourbon Cowboy, last early but able to save some ground, was making a run at the leaders along the rail. Bourbon Cowboy flattened entering the final sixteenth, but One Go All Go and Private Prospect were head and head, trying to close up that last neck of distance on Recount to their inside. Private Prospect, between horses, kicked on the better of the two late: but still could not catch Recount. The early leader dug in late, and prevailed by a head. Private Prospect finished another head in front of One Go All Go. Bourbon Cowboy held on for fourth, two lengths behind the winner. Ike Walker, Seraph, and Mr Lightning Boy completed the order of finish.
Recount is a two-year-old Limehouse gelding out of the Bold Badgett mare Lucky in Love. He was a $40,000 purchase at last year’s Fasig-Tipson yearling sale for trainer James DiVito and owner Doubledown Stables. Despite DiVito’s strong track record with two-year-olds on the Arlington polytrack, this is his first Arlington-Washington Futurity win. His only other graded stakes wins both came in 2007, and neither came with juveniles. Recount was racing for the third time, and has won both his starts at Arlington. The only blemish on his record to date was that third-place finish in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile, though the top three finishers in that race all validated their form again today.
Trainer James DiVito saw exactly what he wanted to see from Recount today. “He’s a natural speed horse,” he noted. “I told him [jockey Emmanuel Esquivel] to go out there with him and let him get running.” His rider did just that, and knew his mount had today’s seven furlongs in him. “Turning for home I said, ‘I can’t lose this,'” Esquivel recounted. “I knew I had a lot of horse. I was a little afraid because he kind of waited for the other one at the end. I was full of horse the whole way around.”
In addition to this being Recount’s first stakes victory, it was also jockey Emmanuel Esquivel’s first stakes win. He won the rider title last year at Arlington as an apprentice, but he had yet to break through in stakes company until today. “It’s like winning your first race,” said Esquivel. “It’s really exciting. I’ve been working real hard to win a stakes race and getting the opportunity to ride in stakes.”
Jockey Jesse Campbell, who rode second-place Private Prospect, cited no excuses. “Perfect trip. I just couldn’t get by the winner. I had a quarter of a mile to do it. At one point, I think I [fell back to] third but he fought back to get second. But, still, a little disappointing.”
Recount paid his backers $5.60 to win. The exacta with Private Prospect in the second slot paid $24.60 for a two-dollar base bet. The $0.50 trifecta with One Go All Go in third returned $21.90. A superfecta with Bourbon Cowboy below paid $15.01 for each dime bet on the combination.
All photos courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.
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