2016 Chicago Handicap Preview

Our feature race this week at Arlington is the Grade Three, $100,000 Chicago Handicap on the polytrack.  Named for the urban area an hour west of Arlington International, the race has comfortably settled into  a late-June/early-July fixture. It carries a Grade 3 ranking, a purse of $150,000, and is a solid race on the calendar for older female sprinters.

The seven-furlong (7/8 mile) distance matches that of the richest race all year for this group, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.  Since the advent of the BC Filly & Mare Sprint, Informed Decision (2009) is the only one to win the Chicago Handicap and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in the same year.  Predating this gender-restricted sprint, Safely Kept (1991) won this race a year after winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint against boys.  Other notable winners include  Meafara (1993) a former Arlington stakes namesake that was twice a Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up; Happy Ticket (2005), the richest Louisiana-bred female of all time, and Illinois-bred My Option (2014).

Our Nicolle Neulist looks at a pair of Grade Ones from Santa Anita Park – the Triple Bend (going short) and Gold Cup at Santa Anita (going long).  Meanwhile, Paul Mazur also picks and ponders the Ohio Derby for three-year-olds from Thistledown.

Morning line odds for the race scheduled for Saturday June 25th were not released at original publish time.  Updated on June 25 to include morning lines and reflect scratches.

Arlington International – – Race 6 — Grade 3 Chicago Handicap — Seven furlongs on Polytrack — Post time 3:45 pm CT

Seven furlongs is often a niche distance regardless of gender.  And SARAH SIS has been at the distance five times in her career.  Yet two of those losses came with excuses: once was at Churchill – a surface that trainer Ingrid Mason contends that SARAH SIS dislikes.  Another was two turns at Charles Town.  If she’s on – and brings the form she had when winning here at two or the Raven Run at three or admirably being fourth in the G1 Ballerina at three (all at seven furlongs), then SARAH SIS should handle the seven panels of local polytrack.  Jose Valdivia, Jr. has the call for owners Rags Racing Stable.  No one has the early gas to go with her early and if she gets  a free and clear lead she should be fine – but SARAH SIS does have some tactical gears, too.  YOU BOUGHT HER has been in female sprints – some graded, some not – for what feels like months.  The latest stop takes her back home to Arlington, where she does have a solid local record (thirteen starts, nine money finishes).  Winner of the Minaret Stakes at Tampa four back, she looked in form over the winter despite chasing Stonetastic in the G2 Inside Information.  Give her a pass for that effort – the south Florida oval was a carousel in that seven furlong event.   She chased tougher (like SARAH SIS) in the G1 Humana Distaff and won’t find the toughies like a Taris or a Wavell Avenuein this spot.  SARAH SIS and YOU BOUGHT HER are the class of the field and will be the first and second choices on the toteboard.  Try hooking them up with SEEKING TREASURE. This isn’t the first time that #SEEKING TREASURE has been at Arlington for a graded stakes – she was the front end pace in last year’s G3 Modesty.  Since then she got a stakes placing going an undulating six and a half at Kentucky Downs and won the Dahlia two back at Laurel going a grassy mile.  Seven panels and polytrack are relatively new for this Doug Matthews trainee in Steven E. Frum’s silks, but no shame losing to Isabelle Sings over at Monmouth last time (a front end horse made for a front-end course).  Cisco Torres has the mount on a runner that went off form in the winter but seems back on form now.


#5 SARAH SIS (7/2)



Longshot: We bumped SEEKING TREASURE up into the top three since ATHENA scratched.  Oh well, time to save up for the Indiana Derby Day roadtrip.

For an alternative view of the G3 Chicago Handicap, our own Nicolle Neulist has also analyzed this race. Their analysis can be found here.


You can take “Picks & Ponderings” with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Arlington International Racecourse. And you can get “Picks and Ponderings” in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking “Create Subscription.” It’s a FREE service, and you’ll never get any unwanted spam.

Leave a comment