2017 Les Ahrens Memorial Stakes and Steve Morgan Memorial Stakes Preview

Arlington’s summer meet draws to a close on Saturday with a twelve-race card.  Set your clocks a little early if you’re planning to come out to the track; to make sure everyone crosses the wire before sunset, first post will be at 12:25pm, an hour earlier than usual.  Co-anchoring the card are two $65,000 overnight stakes races for older turf milers.

The open-company stakes will be run in memory of Lester “Les” Ahrens, a jockey and then trainer on the Chicago circuit.  Ahrens passed away in December at the age of 66.  During his riding days, Ahrens won the 1977 Illinois Derby with Flag Officer, and subsequently rode him in the Kentucky Derby.  He also piloted the hard-knocking Illinois-bred mare Miss Atari to over $100,000 in earnings during the course of her career.  As a trainer, Ahrens’s top horses included multiple Grade 3 winner Meafara, who also finished second in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Sprint under Ahrens’s tutelage, and two-time National Jockey Club Handicap (G3) winner Stalwars.

Two races later, the fillies’ and mares’ stakes will be run in memory of Steven Morgan.  He passed away last month at age 56.  He served in many roles in Illinois racing over the last thirty years, including serving as a state steward for the last twenty years.

Race 6: Les Ahrens Memorial Stakes, three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf, post time 3:04pm CDT

Last out at Kentucky Downs was a bit disappointing for CAMMACK: he looked loaded, and then just flattened out in the final furlong. He will have to take a step up from that to win this. But, there are suggestions that he can, and the price should be right to stay on team CAMMACK. First of all, don’t hold the level of that race against him — it was a $25K starter allowance, but it rewarded its winner with a Claiming Crown bid. It drew horses competitive in tough allowance and even stakes company. The cut back to a flat mile should serve CAMMACK, too; in four tries at the distance, he has three win photos. On pace, he should get plenty to run at, between CHIP LEADER, OAK BROOK, and CREWMAN. Finally, the change to Jose Lopez in the irons is a positive move. Lopez has been consistently getting the best out of his mounts since joining the Arlington colony, and has been on fire for trainer Chris Block.

Rail-drawn APPLICATOR’s race record may be a mystery wrapped in an enigma: a marathon here, a turf dash there. But, the horse himself is as straightforward as it gets, in that he always puts forth an honest effort no matter where trainer Mikhail Yanakov puts him, and if he runs at the right level, he’s in the mix. This is the right level. Last out, he and rider Jose Valdivia sprung a 13/1 upset in the Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs; he returns to that same distance here, and retains Valdivia’s riding services. Though APPLICATOR has shown speed in the past, he has been more effective lately from just off the early going, and with several speeds in this field that latter style should suit the son of Henrythenavigator well.

KASAQUI resurfaces for the first time since finishing ninth (beaten only three and a quarter lengths) in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. Though the price will be short, even races that are disappointing by his standards make him competitive against his foes here, making him a defensive use. It is a positive that James Graham hits the road to ride him here; Graham has been with KASAQUI for his last three starts, and few riders are as adept at two turns on the Arlington grass as Graham. The biggest question with KASAQUI is the flat mile distance, as he rarely cuts this short. But, the Ignacio Correas trainee does get the pace target he likes, and even the race he ran the last time he cut back to a mile (his two-length defeat in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile last year) would make him competitive here.


#5 CAMMACK (10/1)


#8 KASAQUI (6/5)

Longshot: #6 COCO MON (10/1) has been missing in action since a ninth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Stakes back in February. But, the son of Monarchos has shown the ability to fire well fresh before, and do so against horses as good as he faces here. The shift back to the Frank Kirby barn is a positive — his four-start stint with Eddie Kenneally had its ups and downs, but for years he was a consistent runner for Kirby on the Chicago circuit. COCO MON cuts back to a mile for the first time since a win at Churchill last November, and his record at the distance has shined: 8: 3-3-1 lifetime. And, on pace, he should be well set to sit off the plethora of speed and make his rally. Should COCO MON run one of his better races first off the lay, he has a real win chance here — and he has run races first off the lay that are good enough to win this.

Race 8: Steve Morgan Memorial Stakes, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one mile on the turf, post time 4:08pm CDT

AMERICA MON AMIE is a stone-cold miler, and gets her best distance here.  The post is suboptimal — but at the tantalizing odds, it’s worth betting that she can drop back off the pace and work out a trip.  She got the best of DADDY’S BOO last out in a Million Day undercard allowance, going this same distance, though that foe was rank early and may not have run her best.  Even if that one has her head together this time out, the front end will not be an easy place: in addition to DADDY’S BOO, many other runners (PAINT THE CORNERS, SOME SAY SO, LOVELY LOYREE, SWEETBABY, and DISQUALIFIED) do their best work on or very near the lead.  PAINT THE CORNERS deserves particular note, as she is AMERICA MON AMIE’s stablemate, and looks like a pacesetter to ensure a lively pace to chase.  If AMERICA MON AMIE runs back to her last out, she will be a serious threat at a fair price.

SHELBYSMILE is the other serious late-running sort in this field, and her 5: 3-0-0 record at the distance category marks her as a real miler.  Like the top selection, she stands to appreciate the plethora of frontrunning sorts, and her late pace compares favourably with other later-running foes here.  SHELBYSMILE was eased last out in the Nassau Stakes (G2) at Woodbine, but that was back in May and she has gotten a break.  The worktab leading into this try is solid, and the Brendan Walsh trainee has been able to fire fresh in the past.  She also gets Declan Cannon in the irons.  SHELBYSMILE and Cannon have a rapport already, as they scored an easy allowance victory at Indiana Grand last year the last time they joined forces.  If he can work out a trip from the middle of this fully subscribed field, SHELBYSMILE will be a threat in the lane.

Among the more forwardly placed entries, LOVELY LOYREE appeals most.  Though she most often races right on the front, she has some solid efforts from just off the pace, and is a bit more trustworthy to stalk off the pace than rail-drawn DADDY’S BOO is.  She had a brief setback after she won the Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap in June, but has solid drills leading into this race and has shown the ability to fire fresh.  Rider Fernando De La Cruz reunites with LOVELY LOYREE here; they have done solid work together at Tampa Bay Downs and Indiana Grand, including a well rated ride to win the Indiana General Assembly Distaff last year.  Another ride like that could give LOVELY LOYREE first run on the speed, and as the class of the field, that may be all the Michele Boyce trainee needs to find the wire first.





Longshot:  #4 SEEKING TREASURE (15/1) just missed in allowance-optional company going six and a half furlongs at Kentucky Downs last out, and should appreciate the stretch back out to a mile.  The Doug Matthews trainee is reunited with rider Pedro Cotto, who was able to coax good late rallies out of her at both Canterbury and Arlington earlier this year.  SEEKING TREASURE has tables to turn on the likes of DADDY’S BOO, STORMIN ELLE, and AMERICA MON AMIE from earlier this summer, and she would have to take a serious jump up to win this race.  But, as a horse who can make the intra-race exotics sing, her running style makes SEEKING TREASURE worth finding a place for.


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