For the last few years, we have reported live race results on our Twitter account, @picksponderings. Recently that has become untenable due to my chart calling responsibilities for Equibase at Arlington, and we will no longer be able to post race results as they happen.
Of course, that’s not the end of our presence on Twitter. The Twitter account will remain active for discussion of races, posting links to our newest blog posts, and sharing news about Chicago racing and Illinois horses.
Picks and Ponderings remains as engaged in Chicago-area racing as ever, but we need a different avenue to keep you, the readers, informed about what goes on beyond the stakes races. Hence? Chicago Racing Review. In this new weekly column, we’ll highlight what you need to know, and who you want to follow.
Standouts of the Week
2013 Preakness winner Oxbow had his first winner at Arlington in Sunday’s sixth race, when juvenile filly Delaphene (Oxbow – Boustierre, by Empire Maker) made short work of a maiden special weight turf mile. Sitting near the back of the pack early, Delaphene and jockey Pedro Cotto made a menacing move through the far turn, rolled down the stretch, and came home three and a half lengths clear of favourite Arabella Bella. A second-time starter on Sunday, Delaphene is a Calumet Farm homebred in the barn of trainer Eoin Harty; Calumet also stands her sire Oxbow. The performance was visually strong, though the question is the time — a rather slow 1:45.76, over turf rated yielding. Still, the only other turf race during the weekend also came back with a dawdling time, and the area was only several days removed from record rains. How the field performs in their upcoming starts will tell the tale, but for right now, that time looks like a function of the wet condition of the sod.
The most impressive maiden winner of the weekend came in Saturday’s fourth race, when two-year-old colt Mind Trappe (Trappe Shot – Sauvignon Girl, by Fusaichi Pegasus) overcame a rail draw and blew away six overmatched foes in a five-furlong maiden special weight over the polytrack. The public virtually ignored him, sending him off as the 4/1 third choice despite hailing from the red-hot barn of Ignacio Correas. Mind Trappe and jockey Jose Lopez settled a couple lengths off the pace on the rail, passed early leader Just Blaze on the inside near the quarter pole, and drew off to win by seven and a quarter lengths. He showed both skill and maturity — and now, the question only remains whether we’ll see Mind Trappe in the Arlington-Washington Futurity in about two months, or if Correas will find a bigger spot for him.
Not only maidens shined this weekend. After starting his season with defeats at Fairmount Park and Canterbury Park, 2015 Arlington-Washington Futurity winner Shogood (Nobiz Like Shobiz – Good and Rough, by Good and Tough) rediscovered his winning ways in Sunday’s fifth race, a classy Illinois-bred allowance going six furlongs on the polytrack. Though the field scratched down to five, it still included plenty of frontrunning horses — yet Shogood was too fast. With rider Chris Emigh aboard, Shogood settled up front, turned back an in-form Caitlins Road, and drew off to win by two and a half lengths.
Trending On Track
In a more general sense, this summer has featured a surprising sire angle that just keeps working and working: Brave ‘n Away (Skip Away – Brave Raj, by Rajab) babies on the polytrack. The now-seventeen-year-old won once in eight starts during his racing career, in a maiden claimer at Turfway — but that win came in 2004, when the Florence track still had a dirt surface. He stands for a fee of $1,000 on Tim Hughes’s farm in Lebanon, IL, a twenty-minute drive from Fairmount Park.
A look through his pedigree reveals some flashes of class. Half-sister Renfro Valley Star produced Fast Bullet, a G2 winner on dirt; half-sister Russian Tango produced multiple graded stakes winner and sire Eurosilver. It also reveals a few flashes of synethetic-course prowess: Fast Bullet twice won allowances on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track, Fast Bullet’s half-brother Blairs Roarin Star was Grade 3-placed over that same surface, and the family has a smattering of synthetic form in California and the Midwest. Still, that feels like grasping at straws: there’s no smoking gun in his pedigree that screams stallion material, even in a smaller market like Illinois.
Yet, giving him a shot at stud has paid off. Brave ‘n Away babies have taken the polytrack by storm this year for trainer Dennis Hughes. Hughes has five wins and another eight money finishes in 23 starts this summer at Arlington. Every one of those starts has come with a son or daughter of Brave ‘n Away, and all have been owned by either Dennis Hughes or Tim Hughes (who stands Brave ‘n Away at stud). Each of those winners has triumphed on polytrack. Only one of those five winners (B N a Native Girl, on June 18) has been the chalk, and two of them (Launch Away on June 2 and Away She Glows on June 30) have paid north of $20.
The Brave ‘n Away parade continued this weekend. Though he had no winners, two of his daughters hit the board at square prices. In Saturday’s sixth race, B N a Native Girl (Brave ‘n Away – Hoosier Native, by Whitney Tower) tried $30,000 N2L company. She had been third at the $10,000 N2L level just eleven days before, going five furlongs on the turf. Her try for three times the price on Saturday was washed to the polytrack. She went off the longest shot on the board at 21/1 — yet she finished second beaten less than a length by heavy favourite How Sweet It Is after dueling with her from start to finish. In Sunday’s second, Away to Town (Brave ‘n Away – Leestown Road, by Leestown) took a logical move, from a tough $20,000 N2L turf route into a $10,000 N2L polytrack sprint. Rallying from last, she could not catch lone speed Acrobatic Ally, but finished well for second at odds of just shy of 6/1 in a five-horse field.
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