2015 Teleprompter Stakes & Melanie Frances Stakes Preview

Arlington International runs it final day of racing for the year this upcoming Saturday, and the northwest suburban oval is giving its fans – and bettors – a going-away present.  A pair of stakes, each worth fifty thousand dollars for horses aged three and up, serve as co-features on the program.  Each race is slated for a mile on the turf, with the Teleprompter for open company and the Melanie Frances for females serving as the formal names.  Each stakes race is being contested this year for the first time, bringing it with no backstory of past winners.  What the stakes lack in history they make up for in potential intrigue, as the races are fortuitously placed five weeks from the Breeders’ Cup. More obvious preparation races – including “win and you’re in” races – from Belmont Park are previewed in a joint piece from both Paul Mazur and Nicolle Neulist.  The duo investigate the G2 Gallant Bloom, G1 Beldame, G3 Pilgrim, G1 Vosburgh, and G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational.

For this discussion morning line odds were not available at publish time.  All races in this preview are scheduled for Saturday September 26th.  Selections are given “turf only”.

Updated on September 24th to include lines.

Arlington International — Race 6 — Melanie Frances Stakes — One Mile on Turf — post time 3:54 pm ET

The female complement to the Teleprompter honors Melanie Frances, winner of the 1981 G3 Pucker Up Stakes.  Melanie Frances earned over $325,000 while campaigning in the early 1980s.  She was trained by Francis P. DeRosa, a Chicago-based urologist who also owned and bred Melanie Frances – the daughter of 1971 Belmont Stakes winner Pass Catcher.  One of DeRosa’s daughters was named Melanie Frances – perhaps providing the source to her name. Her triumph in the Pucker Up would be her only graded stakes win in the career, but she’d win two other listed stakes locally and one at her winter base of Hialeah.  As a three-year-old she also was third in the G3 Poinsettia at Hialeah.  Melanie Frances was a local through-and-through, despite being a Florida-bred.

Since ownership moved horses from the Christine Janks barn to the Michelle Boyce barn, PUNTSVILLE has been a revelation on the Arlington weeds.  After closing out her freshman campaign with a fourth in an Arlington-Washington Lassie that’s turned to be very respectable (the 1-2 finishers went on to be G3 winners, the 3rd place finisher a stakes winner), she was put away for the winter, changed barns to Boyce’s shedrow, and attacked the conditions races at Arlington.  She ticked off the open allowances over the summer while skipping the statebred ones, and tried a $200K listed stakes last time at Indiana Grand.  A yucky start doomed her chances and we’ll give her another chance going two turns.  Game enough to turn back foes in her races, PUNTSVILLE will likely on be the lead on a course we’re projecting to be firm and going for a turf trainer who’s quite competent on the green despite a rough (3-for-51) Arlington meet.   Worth noting she took down a double state-bred stakes winner two back on the polytrack to clear her two-other-than condition. Chris Emigh will take the irons for the aforementioned Michelle Boyce.  A minor stakes with fifty grand in purse funds hits NOTTE d’ORO between the eyes.  Likely to take cash off her races in Southern California’s graded races, she’s had better placings at Canterbury in their listed stakes.  Perhaps the graded stakes are a bridge too far, and NOTTE d’ORO did best EDEN PRAIRIE in one of these stakes down at the Fair Grounds in the winter.  She’ll be helped if both EDEN PRAIRIE and PUNTSVILLE get frisky and want to duel on the lead.  If her stretch-out stablemate PIRATE’S TROVE is playing rabbit, she gets pace help there too.  It’s an Illinois turf stakes, so it’s time to take a hard look at the Chris Block trainee in BE PLAYFUL.  Second in the Spellman for state-breds earlier in the meet, she’s been unseen since a second to Cabana – an Illinois-bred that doesn’t ply her trade here but instead travels the midwest and was is open-stakes placed.  BE PLAYFUL makes sense not just on who’s at the controls, but her pressing trip that she made in the Spellman will work fine here as there should be a target.  While she’s a type that needs to carve a trip with someone doing the dirty work, this stakes does fit her and the race behind Cabana in the Spellman is quality form.  Speed figures are on the uptick this year.

Selections:

#5 PUNTSVILLE (8/1)

#3 NOTTE d’ORO (2/1)

#6 BE PLAYFUL (9/2)

Longshot:  It’s possible that the presence of E. T. Baird hoping aboard #7 PIRATE’S TROVE (5/1)  is trainer Michael Stidham’s way of playing rabbit for stablemate NOTTE d’ ORO.  So the expectation is Baird will set up the pace for Murrill in terms of riders.  But as seen in the past, sometimes the rabbit strategy backfires.  Perhaps Stidham doesn’t have a rabbit, but he’s playing opossum instead.  PIRATE’S TROVE looks off form after getting on a tear last summer and getting good enough to win a polytrack stakes in Canada and try the always-salty G2 Raven Run at Keeneland.  Against the elders this year she’s raced in graded events and has looked over her head.  Back down in for fifty grand in this event, she goes two turns for the first time and does have the breeding for it despite the champion sire (as Speightstown can get two-turn runners and she’s out of a Queen’s Plate winning mare).  All the changes (synthetic-to-turf, sprint-to-route) might just be her wake-up call.

Arlington International — Race 7 — Teleprompter Stakes — One Mile on Turf — post time 4:25 PM CT

While Teleprompter is perhaps best remembered for winning the 1985 Arlington Million (see below) at 14-1 under the backdrop of a post-fire grandstand in the ironic soot black silks of Lord Derby, Teleprompter came to Arlington Heights because of the way rules were in his homeland. At the time, British Group One races were not open to geldings. Teleprompter had been gelded between his two-year-old and three-year-old seasons. That didn’t stop him from winning the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) at Ascot in the fall of 1984, then a Group Two race and the highest level of race he could win in Britain. Teleprompter came to the US in the summer of ’85 and took down the Arlington Million. He followed it up with a second in defense of his QEII that fall at Ascot. Britain opened the Group Ones to geldings in 1986.

The namesake of this race, Teleprompter, stacks up the field behind him to win the 1985 Arlington Million. Video courtesy Youtube.

To some, Saratoga is the only summer racing that matters.  So for YANKEE DEALER to win there, in that same prism, means something.  Or – and perhaps because he’s an Illinois-bred – this victory is viewed in that beat a bunch of tomato cans when winning a second-level allowance at the Spa.  On a one-race loan job, he closed off the usual tepid pace of a New York race track grass race.  Two back he won the Black Tie Affair over the local course and aside from an in-too-deep G3 Arlington Handicap, he hasn’t run a bad race all year on the lawn.  Seven wins and ten top-three finishes in fifteen career starts over the Arlington International greenery. YANKEE DEALER could get pace from SUPER SOLIDER and AZTEC BRAVE to close into and make his rally.  While he’s fine with a wet course, he’s run well on firm ones and the advance weather is for good-to-firm at worst for the Arlington Heights oval.  Tim Thornton has the call for Mike Reavis.  YANKEE DEALER functions as the local who stands the best chance of taking advantage of a projected brisk pace on the front end from AZTEC BRAVE, SUPER SOLIDER, and PABLO DEL MONTE.  The out-of-towner playing that role is KEY TO POWER.  Last out triumphant in the Cliff Guilliams Stakes at Ellis Park, he was doomed by a wide trip at Mountaineer in the turf stakes on West Virginia Derby Day.  Three back he won over at Churchill.   One has to worry that he tends to have yo-yo form (especially this year) and is due for a “bad” race, but he is a last-out winner of a stakes for fifty grand and on class that makes him a player.  Chased around some graded stakes types earlier in the year at Churchill in a salty minor stakes for $65K.  A second Illinois-bred, PEEJ, gets the call here.  He’s gotten some stalking trips in his last few races to tick off the allowance conditions and now steps to up graded stakes.  While he may be better on a course with moisture, he did fine on firm going two back here at Arlington and in New Orleans was in the same zip code as eventual G3 winner Xtra Luck.  With the projected speed he’ll get targets to reel in. PEEJ sports a solid record over the local greenery: seven starts, three wins, six top-three finishes.

Selections:

#7 YANKEE DEALER (4/1)

#4 KEY TO POWER (5/1)

#5 PEEJ (12/1)

Longshot: #2 SUPER SOLDIER (8/1) may be speed that gets swallowed up by other speed, but SUPER SOLDIER has two positives in his corner.  First, he showed he doesn’t need the lead as he won last October at Hawthorne in a more pressing role on a speed-conducive course.  So SUPER SOLDIER has a rating gear.  Secondly is that SUPER SOLDIER goes second off the layoff after nearly taking the field wire-to-wire in the Mike Spellman this past August.  Freshened since then, this Michelle Boyce trainee has only an in-too-deep tenth in the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes as his only race this year where he didn’t hit the podium.  His Arlington record is solid as well with five wins, eight trifecta finishes, and ten starts.  If he’s got the lead no one wants he could take them all the way, but having a stalking gear could be what helps him given the one-way speed.

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