A Winning Homecoming for SARAH SIS in the Chicago Handicap

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — Just as we had not seen the Chicago Handicap at Arlington since the summer of 2014, we had not seen SARAH SIS here on race day since then.  Two years ago, as a juvenile, SARAH SIS marked herself a rising star right here on the local polytrack.  She won her debut by eleven easy lengths, and returned to finish second behind Quality Rocks in the Arlington-Washington Lassie.

That race, almost two years ago, was the last time she had run at Arlington before today.  Her travels had taken her down the Oaklawn spur of the Kentucky Oaks trail, to more stakes victories at Prairie Meadows in the summer, and to a season-ending victory in the Raven Run (GII) at Keeneland.  She had yet to see the winners’ circle in four starts at age four, and was hoping to right the ship back where her career began.

The bettors figured she would do it.  She was the favourite throughout the wagering, and went off the public’s 9/5 choice.  California shipper MINKS APRISE, the morning line favourite, went off a tepid second choice at 4/1.  That was just shorter than the 9/2 on YOU BOUGHT HER, another prodigal daughter of Arlington Park.

SARAH SIS broke sharply, but so did KATHBALLU.  TIZ LATELY and RUN ZIPPY RUN made the next flight, with the rest further back.  SARAH SIS, with KATHBALLU pressing to her outside flank, carved out honest early fractions: 23.55 for the quarter, 46.92 for the half.  SEEKING TREASURE tried to mount an outside run through the turn, and RUN ZIPPY RUN tried to stay on.  But, turning for home, SARAH SIS and KATHBALLU remained in clear command of the race.

Coming down the stretch, YOU BOUGHT HER was finding her way through horses, and MINKS APRISE had launched an outside bid.  But, coming into the final furlong, SARAH SIS and KATHBALLU controlled terms comfortably.  SARAH SIS exerted her class, edging clear of KATHBALLU to hit the wire a length in front.  YOU BOUGHT HER’s rally was good enough for third, 2 1/2 lengths adrift of the winner.  MINKS APRISE nipped SEEKING TREASURE by a head for fourth, 4 1/4 lengths behind the victress.  RUN ZIPPY RUN, TIZ LATELY, CITY OF TRIX, and SWEETSOUTHERNDAME completed the order of finish.  ATHENA was a trainer’s scratch; she instead ran in the Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs, and won it.

SARAH SIS outruns KATHBALLU (outside) and YOU BOUGHT HER (inside) to win the 2016 Chicago Handicap (GIII).

SARAH SIS outruns KATHBALLU (outside) and YOU BOUGHT HER (inside) to win the 2016 Chicago Handicap (GIII).

SARAH SIS is a four-year-old daughter of Sharp Humor out of the Gilded Time mare Emerald Gal.  She is trained by Ingrid Mason, and was ridden by Arlington’s leading rider Jose Valdivia, Jr.  She was bred in Kentucky by Catherine Rene White, DVM, and is owned by Rags Racing Stable LLC.  The victory was her fourth career graded stakes win, and her seventh win in 18 career starts.  The $57,600 winner’s share today brought her lifetime earnings to $662,500.

After trying a range of distances throughout her career, and even winning a pair of graded stakes at two turns, Ingrid Mason feels she has SARAH SIS at her best trip now.  “I always felt this filly was a sprinter more than she was a route horse.  I think she got the route just because she’s that good.  But…seven furlongs fits her right between the eyes.  That’s really what she wants to do.”

Mason plans to focus on today’s distance with SARAH SIS going forward, with her next planned start to come in the Grade I Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga.  “We’re hoping that if she does something in the Ballerina, maybe she can go on to the Breeders’ Cup.  We have high hopes for her.”

Though today was Jose Valdivia, Jr.’s first race in the irons with SARAH SIS, horse and rider had gotten to know each other leading into this start.  “I’ve been working her for about a month, a month and a half.  She’s just one of those fillies that you can get her to go 52 for a half, or you can get her to go 44 — whatever you want her to do, she’ll do.”

What he learned in the mornings with SARAH SIS gave Valdivia real confidence, with KATHBALLU prompting the pace through much of the Chicago Handicap.  “I worked her against Lewys Vaporizer, and she’s one of those fillies that doesn’t get rank when she’s feeling pressure.  She rates herself.  My main concern, as always…just get her out of the gate enough, she’ll take care of the rest.  I’m just thankful that I was a passenger aboard today.  Anybody, I think, could have won on her.”

SARAH SIS stopped the clock in 1:23.16 for the seven furlongs on polytrack, and paid her backers $5.60 to win.  The $1 exacta with KATHBALLU second (5-6) returned $15.50.  A $0.50 trifecta with YOU BOUGHT HER third (5-6-3) came back $24.70.  The superfecta with MINKS APRISE paid $17.12 for each dime on the combination.


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