Arlington Heights Stakes: Undefeated DEVILEYE wins the clash of Illinois's sophomore titans

DEVILEYE (left) outfinishes RICHIESINTHEHOUSE (middle) and SMOKE 'N' GLOAT (left) in the 2017 Arlington Heights Stakes.

DEVILEYE (right) outfinishes RICHIESINTHEHOUSE (middle) and SMOKE 'N' GLOAT (left) in the 2017 Arlington Heights Stakes.

Horse racing has a way of coming full circle, even after an eventful year.

On August 19 of last year, SMOKE 'N GLOAT went off the favourite in an Illinois-bred maiden special weight at Arlington.  A longshot, 12/1 first-time starter DEVILEYE, rode the rail to a narrow victory.  Their paths diverged from there, not to cross again until today's Arlington Heights Stakes.

DEVILEYE owned 2016's Illinois-bred juvenile males' division.  He won an allowance at Hawthorne in the fall, and capped last year with a victory in the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity there.  In both of those starts, he showed late-running flair.

Meanwhile, SMOKE 'N' GLOAT waited.  After the defeat by DEVILEYE at Arlington, SMOKE 'N' GLOAT did not return to the racetrack until April.  He returned faster and stronger, dominating the Illinois-bred sophomore male ranks through the first half of the season.  He graduated at Hawthorne in his first start of the year, and winning his next three starts as well, including the Springfield Stakes.  His only defeat this year, leading into the Arlignton Heights Stakes, was a second-place finish in the Bruce D Memorial Stakes on August 12, where he did so much dirty work on the front end only to be run down by late-rallying Harmac.

Almost all of that went on with DEVILEYE on a spell.  Last year's best Illinois-bred juvenile male finally made his three-year-old debut on August 5, in an Illinois-bred allowance.  He, too, suggested that he had returned faster and stronger.  Facing older horses for the first time, he ran down the more experienced likes of Caitlins Road and Unscathed in that outing.

DEVILEYE and SMOKE 'N' GLOAT were ready to clash once more.  The public figured SMOKE 'N' GLOAT would even the score.  Just as had been the case a year ago, SMOKE 'N' GLOAT went off the favourite.  He was 1/2 today.  DEVILEYE got more respect from the bettors than he had the last time they met, but at 2.9/1, he was a defined second choice in the field of five Illinois-bred sophomores.

DEVILEYE popped out of the gate sharpest of all.  But 15/1 longshot RICHIESINTHEHOUSE, so fractious in the paddock, made a headstrong outside charge to snatch the lead in the opening furlong.  DEVILEYE settled back kindly.  Instead, it was SMOKE 'N' GLOAT who advanced up the inside to challenge that leader, and briefly put a head in front.  Still headstrong, RICHIESINTHEHOUSE demanded the lead, and forged to a clear advantage over the favourite, who instead settled to stalk just outside and in front of DEVILEYE.  GO OSHIE GO and WHAT'S UP DUDE took up the rear.

RICHIESINTHEHOUSE edged to a two-length advantage approaching the apex of the far turn, but SMOKE 'N' GLOAT would not let him go easily.  He descended to the pacesetter's outside flank, with WHAT'S UP DUDE launching a bid from further outside.  DEVILEYE, meanwhile, bided his time.  He chased two lengths off the pace, saving every inch of ground though the bend.

WHAT'S UP DUDE flattened out into the stretch, but SMOKE 'N' GLOAT pressed on.  He turned for home head-and-head with RICHIESINTHEHOUSE.  The dogged longshot drifted out, but would not let the odds-on favourite by and put that one away entering the final furlong.  But, he was not home free.  RICHIESINTHEHOUSE's drifting had opened up plenty of room for him inside, DEVILEYE was edging closer, and there was room for him to slip through if he was good enough.

He was.  DEVILEYE drew even with the leader just inside the sixteenth pole, and edged to a half-length victory over a game RICHIESINTHEHOUSE.  SMOKE 'N' GLOAT, still trying on the outside, came home another half length back.  GO OSHIE GO and WHAT'S UP DUDE completed the order of finish.  G. C. CRACKERJACK was a stakes scratch.

DEVILEYE stopped the timer in 1:22.29 for seven furlongs over the polytrack, and paid his supporters $7.80 to win.  The exacta over RICHIESINTHEHOUSE (5-6) returned $36.80 for a dollar.  A $0.50 trifecta with SMOKE 'N' GLOAT in the third spot (5-6-3) came back with $62.85.  A dime superfecta with GO OSHIE GO in the lowest rung (5-6-3-4) paid $35.41.

DEVILEYE sails across the wire, keeping his perfect record intact.

DEVILEYE sails across the wire, keeping his perfect record intact.

DEVILEYE is a three-year-old bay gelding by Indygo Shiner out of the Petionville mare Deville.  Trained by Michele Boyce and ridden by Santo Sanjur, he carries the colours of his breeder, the S. D. Brilie Limited Partnership (Steve and Diana Holland).  The victory in the Arlington Heights Stakes is his second at the stakes level; he also won the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity last year.  His win today takes his overall career record to five wins in five starts, and the $39,600 winner's share of the purse brings his career earnings into six figures, to $114,780.

Well off the pace in his previous four starts, DEVILEYE kept the lead in closer sight this time around.  That was not due to any instructions Boyce gave Sanjur -- in fact, she didn't give him any.  "I don't have to," she remarked after the race.  "He's ridden him undefeated -- five times."

Even so, she noticed a difference in her horse's paddock demeanor before the Arlington Heights Stakes, something she had not seen before, that may have explained his sharper start.  "He was very much on the muscle, moreso than he usually...usually he's so laid back, you think he's going to fall asleep.  He was watching everything in the paddock, and he was acting like a very fresh horse."

Boyce has not identified a next race for Devileye, as she plans the goals of her horses a race at a time.  However, she indicated that she planned to race DEVILEYE on grass, and had seriously considered the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury before the Arlington Heights Stakes appeared on the calendar.  "I think it's in his pedigree," Boyce said about the turf, "and I don't think he has to carry his track around with him.  I think he'd run on anything -- Highway 53 out there, if they wanted to put up a couple poles, he'd be there."

All photographs courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.

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