2016 Arlington-Washington Futurity and Lassie Preview

This Saturday’s card at Arlington features the final stakes races of the meet, and the only juvenile stakes races of the season: the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII) and the Arlington-Washington Lassie.  Both races cover seven furlongs on the main track.  Since synthetic-track stakes races are few and far between nowadays, particularly for juveniles, the races also have another thing in common: they both drew full, competitive fields of twelve.

Picks and Ponderings has full written previews of both races, written by Nicolle Neulist.  In addition, we feature video discussion of both races, with both Nicolle Neulist and Paul Mazur.

Nicolle’s written preview of the Arlington-Washington Futurity is jointly submitted for ThoroFan’s Handicapper’s Corner.

Race 7: Arlington-Washington Lassie, two-year-old fillies, seven furlongs on the polytrack, post time 4:26pm CDT

This year marks the 82nd running of the Arlington-Washington Lassie.  First run in 1929 as the Arlington Lassie, the race has been run at distances ranging from five and a half furlongs to a mile, but has only been run at its current seven-furlong distance since 2014.  Though the race merely carries listed status nowadays, it was graded as recently as 2012, and even held a Grade I from 1981 through 1989.  As recently as 2009, the race produced a champion: She Be Wild, from the barn of Wayne Catalano (who sends out ROYALTY PRINCESS this year).  The daughter of Offlee Wild, who graduated on debut in a maiden claimer at Arlington, won four of her five starts as a two-year-old, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).  She joined thirteen other fillies who won the Lassie on the way to being named the champion of their class: Eliza (1992), It’s In the Air (1978), Dearly Precious (1975), Process Shot (1968), Smart Deb (1962), Leallah (1956), Bewitch (1947), Beaugay (1945), Twilight Tear (1943), Now What (1939), Forever Yours (1935), Mata Hari (1933), and Top Flight (1931).

One of the most important broodmares of recent times also won the Arlington-Washington Lassie: Mariah’s Storm (1993).  This daughter of Rahy did well on the track, coming back from an injury in the Alcibiades Stakes to regain stakes-winning form.  She later won the Arlington Oaks (1994) and the Arlington Matron (1995), and was a stakes namesake at Arlington.  But, she made her mark forever in the broodmare barn.  She produced champion and top-flight sire Giant’s Causeway (Storm Cat), excellent New York sire Freud (Storm Cat), and Group I-producing broodmare You’resothrilling (Storm Cat).  You’resothrilling is the dam of Group I winners Gleneagles (Galileo) and Marvellous (Galileo), as well as the GI-placed Coolmore (Galileo), who ran in this year’s edition of the Beverly D (GI).

This year’s Arlington-Washington Lassie drew a field of twelve juvenile fillies.  Seven have broken their maidens, but none have more than that single win in maiden company.  Among the twelve runners, eleven have run just once.  HIDENSEEK SALLY ranks as the old salt of the field: she has four starts under her girth, including a last-out maiden win.  The race presents a challenge, between the large (dare we say, almost Kentucky Downs-sized?) field and the fact that just about everyone is so lightly-raced.

But, among the entrants, DIADURA has the most to like.  She graduated on debut at Arlington on August 5.  Though she ran in a field of just seven that day, she showed enough to suggest she can handle this larger field with maturity.  She rallied from off the pace, got stopped up down the stretch, and yet had it in her to change course, dig in, and grit out the win.  That came with rider Carlos Marquez in the irons; Marquez returns today.  The off-pace style should help DIADURA here, as well.  Everyone in this field is stretching out to seven furlongs for the first time, after only trying shorter distances.  And, ROYALTY PRINCESS, RICHIESDREAMGIRL, and HIDENSEEK SALLY all got their diplomas on the front end.  There should be something to chase, and DIADURA should be chasing best of all.

SPIRITUALITY is the most attractive of the shipper brigade.  Though she tries polytrack for the first time, she has distance on her side.  She is the only one in the field who has at least tried six furlongs — no one else has gone longer than five and a half.  And, she got her diploma at Delaware the right way.  She stalked close to the early pace, made an early move, and drew away to win by eight easy lengths.  The early part of that race suggests SPIRITUALITY should be able to sit just off the speed again.  Finally, her owners (WinStar Farm) have serious interest in SPIRITUALITY looking good: they stand her sire, first-crop stallion GEMOLOGIST.

Finally, R NAJA deserves a look.  She is a maiden, and the Mike Stidham B to DIADURA’s Stidham A.  But, her debut was a solid effort, even without the diploma.  The debut came in a field of ten, good experience to have given that the Lassie drew twelve.  Even though she was well off the early going and got hung wide, she remained engaged, kept trying, and fought on for second.  Not only did the debut show that R NAJA has some talent and some heart, it also showed she can handle the Arlington polytrack.  Finally, she also gets a swap to Stidham’s first-call rider Mitchell Murrill.

Finally, to the realm of the longshots. Typically it’s tough to take a lightly-raced juvenile from the rail, but ROYALTY PRINCESS has been there, done that, and gotten her picture taken. There are a few speed types in this race, but ROYALTY PRINCESS may well be fast enough to get the jump on them. And, the polytrack can sometimes play a touch speed-friendly on wet days, making that an asset. ROYALTY PRINCESS has not gone seven furlongs yet — but no one here has. Given her breeding, she should take the extra two furlongs nicely. Finally, trainer Wayne Catalano has a few reasons to shine in this situation. He wins at 19% with last-out maiden winners, and at an astounding 30% when moving runners from the turf to an all-weather surface. With some solid works over the Arlington main, ROYALTY PRINCESS has every right to take to it on race day as well, and fall right in with that trend of her trainer’s.

Nicolle’s Selections:

#7 DIADURA (3/1)

#9 SPIRITUALITY (7/2)

#11 R NAJA (8/1)

Nicolle’s Longshot:  #1 ROYALTY PRINCESS (8/1)

Paul’s Selections:

#4 SISTER KAN (15/1)

#7 DIADURA (3/1)

#3 RICHIESDREAMGIRL (15/1)

Paul’s Longshot:  #2 PRINCESS LA QUINTA (30/1)

Race 8: Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII), seven furlongs on the polytrack, post time 4:56 CDT

The Arlington-Washington Futurity began its life as the American National Futurity in 1927 and 1928.  Reborn in 1932 and rechristened the Arlington Futurity, its name added the nod to Washington Park in 1962.  A Grade I from when races were first assigned grades in 1973 through 1989, it has held its current GIII designations since 2002.  Run at distances between six furlongs and a mile, it has been run at its current seven-furlong distance since 2014.  The most recent winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity to win the race en route to a championship was Gilded Time (1992): already a winner of the Sapling (GII) before coming to Arlington, and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) in his next start.  Earlier in its history, the race’s winners list is rich with eventual champion juveniles: Honest Pleasure (1975), Silent Screen (1969), Vitriolic (1967), Buckpasser (1965), Ridan (1961), Hasty Road (1953), and Ladysman (1932).

Though this year’s rendition of the Arlington-Washington Futurity drew just one Illinois-bred (MAXUS), horses from the Land of Lincoln have seen success in this race.  The last two winners, Shogood (2015) and Recount (2014), were bred here; both continued to be successful in stakes company at age three.  Durable state-bred Polar Expedition (1993), a millionaire who won graded stakes through age seven, annexed his first graded score in the Futurity as well.  All Fired Up (1983) also carried the mantle for Illinois, following up a win in the Ak-Sar-Ben Juvenile Stakes (GIII) two weeks before with a victory back home.  Though Run Dusty Run (1976) was not himself Illinois-bred, he did his Illinois-bred sire (Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander) proud by winning this race, and then hitting the board in all three Triple Crown races that year.

ROMEO O ROMEO debuted on August 21 over the Arlington polytrack.  He was right on a heavily contested pace, looked passed, and yet kicked back on to win by a length and a quarter.  This race, of course, will be tougher than that group.  But, it showed that he has the ability to manage a fight on the front: useful, given that most of this field has made its impression on or near the lead.  ROMEO O ROMEO also has every right to stretch out: he is by Macho Uno out of Romance Is Diane.  Romance Is Diane won the Grade I Hollywood Starlet at age two, going two turns over the synthetic at Hollywood.  ROMEO O ROMEO may get a bit ignored in the betting behind a few other horses, as well, making him the value of the race.

The two real standouts in the field are WELLABLED and STAR EMPIRE.  Between the two, STAR EMPIRE appeals a bit more.  The Wesley Ward trainee debuted at Belmont in May and won in a romp.  But, he showed a different side when he returned at Presque Isle last month.  He stretch out to six and a half furlongs, say off the pace instead of running right on it, and rallied gamely to win.  The Arlington-Washington Futurity is a seven-furlong race, and STAR EMPIRE is the only one who brings an extended one-turn victory in with him.  He also comes in second off a break, giving him a chance to step forward off an already solid last time out.

WELLABLED posted a blazing wire-to-wire debut win at Arlington earlier in the meet, proving he can handle the polytrack beautifully.  He then shipped up to Saratoga and switched to the grass for the Skidmore Stakes.  He went perhaps a bit too fast early there, and just got nailed by Harlan’s Harmony at the wire.  The stretch to seven furlongs along with all the speed in the race raise some questions.  but, he looks like the speed of the speed, gets a switch back to E. T. Baird, and may well like the polytrack more than the grass.  In short, WELLABLED is a defensive use.

One to take a shot against here is SEVEN FORTY SEVEN.  After being so live on the board at Saratoga, he stands to take some money here on the drop to a softer circuit, despite being a maiden still.  But, that outing at the Spa seemed to suggest that he needs to be on the lead, at least for now.  And, the odds of him outgunning the likes of WELLABLED seem slim.

Considering the longshots, MAXUS gets a class test here — this field will be a lot tougher than the $35,000 maiden claimers he faced on debut.  But, it would not be unprecedented for trainer Wayne Catalano to take a juvenile from a win in the maiden claiming ranks at Arlington to stakes level: that’s the same thing he did with 2009 Lassie winner and eventual divisional champion She Be Wild.  MAXUS is one of only two in this field who is cutting back from a route to a sprint here, so the distance is no question.  He also came from off the pace in his maiden victory, a positive sign since so many in this field have shown blazing early speed.  Finally, MAXUS should handle the polytrack just fine: he has some solid works over it, and he is a full brother to Fire Tricks, a stakes-winning polytrack sprinter.  At a price, there’s enough to like about MAXUS on the class rise to include him on tickets here.

Nicolle’s Selections:

#3 ROMEO O ROMEO (6/1)

#9 STAR EMPIRE (5/1)

#7 WELLABLED (5/2)

Nicolle’s Longshot:  #11 MAXUS (30/1)

Paul’s Selections:

#1 PTOLEMY (20/1)

#9 STAR EMPIRE (5/1)

#7 WELLABLED (5/2)

Paul’s Longshot:  #11 MAXUS (30/1)

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