Chicago Racing Review: September 14-16, 2017

We draw ever closer to the end of the Arlington summer meet.  But, before the final weekend, let’s take a look back at last week.  Of course, Picks and Ponderings has already discussed Saturday’s pair of stakes races, the Richard Scherer Memorial (won by Puntsville) and the Jeff Lynn Memorial (won by Good Bye Greg).

But, let’s visit the highlights of the rest of the week’s action!

Despite a bad break, Boom Box takes this round over Gray Mensch

Boom Box on August 14, 2015 -- the first time he wore down Grey Mensch.

Boom Box, the first time he wore down Gray Mensch.

Over the years, much has stayed the same for Illinois-bred turf sprinters Boom Box (Straight Line – Birdie Told Me, by Eavesdropper) and Gray Mensch (Value Plus – Amanda’s Desire, by Twining).  Five-year-old chestnut Boom Box has always borne the silks of breeder-owners Nancy Vanier and Horseplayers Racing Club, and always hailed from the barn of trainer Brian Williamson.  Seven-year-old Gray Mensch has always carried the silks of owner-trainer Chris Ryan.  They have both always done their best going short, preferably on turf, though they can hold their own on the polytrack if a little too much rain falls.

They have loaded into the starting gate together twelve times since May 8, 2015, when both were still maidens.  That day, no one got their diplomas; Gray Mensch was second behind Exchanging Blows, Boom Box third.  Even so, the running styles that they’ve kept to this day were apparent.  Gray Mensch wanted the lead; Boom Box rallied later.  In their third clash, on June 21 of that year, one of them finally got a win picture: Gray Mensch, who held well clear of second-place Boom Box.  Two months later, after breaking his maiden, Boom Box got a chance to turn the tables on Gray Mensch; the big grey gelding led most of the way in a $16,000 N2L on August 14, 2015, but the fancy chestnut unleashed a rally in the final furlong that got him half a length in front come the wire.

They kept periodically bumping heads over the next two years, and finished 1-2 again on July 21 of this year.  In that five-furlong, $20K claiming dash on polytrack, washed off the grass, frontrunning Gray Mensch held by a length to deny Boom Box.  Their paths diverged again for two starts, then crossed September 14.

Gray Mensch did not have the easiest beginning, as he and jockey Julio Felix had to work to wrest the early lead from Bushrod.  However, things went far worse early for Boom Box, who stumbled to his knees coming out of the gate.  Rider Mitchell Murrill did not panic, and settled Boom Box off the pace along the rail.  Gray Mensch took a daylight lead through the turn and into the stretch.  Boom Box saved every inch of ground, improved into the stretch drive, but still had over four lengths to make up in the final furlong.  Murrill finally guided Boom Box off the fence, and gained with every stride.  Felix implored Gray Mensch for his best; as usual, Gray Mensch gave it.  But, the final stride came just in time for Boom Box to get round twelve by a nose.

Perfect rail-skimming ride means upset victory for Americanperfection

In five starts before Thursday, September 14, Americanperfection (Pleasantly Perfect – America’s Blossom, by Quiet American) had never raced in protected company, and never been in for a tag higher than $12,500.  Well beaten on debut against state-bred maiden claimers, she intermittently showed signs of improvement, and had her best start yet on September 3.  Against open $12,500-$10,000 maiden claiming fillies, going two turns on the grass, she finished fourth — but only a length and a quarter behind the winner Nifty Nellie.

It was enough to make her one of the favourites if she returned to a similar level next out.  However, trainer Frank Kirby and owner Beth Leverton instead brought her back on September 14 in a turf mile against Illinois-bred maiden special weight company, against the likes of well-bred My Domina and well-fancied Gwendalyn Sue.  On that leap forward in class, Americanperfection went off the longest shot on the board, 16.9/1 in the field of seven.

My Domina dictated terms all alone.  On the other hand, jockey Victor Santiago let Americanperfection chase comfortably near the rear, saving all the ground.  Near the quarter pole, Santiago brought her just off the rail to continue her advance outside Diastole.  Diastole picked it up into the stretch, but American Perfection quickly found her next gear and slipped right between her and leader My Domina.  My Domina came in near the three sixteenths, causing a chain reaction: she bumped Americanperfection, thus bumping her into Diastole, causing Diastole to check back.

Despite the trouble, Americanperfection recovered her momentum quickly, and renewed her rail rally.  Gwendalyn Sue was coming on the outside, in the clear, but the flashy firster could not catch the resilient longshot.  Americanperfection slipped away, crossing the wire a length and a half clear of Gwendalyn Sue.  Americanperfection did have to survive an objection from Chris Emigh on Diastole — but the head-on told the story, and the stewards made the right call when ruling that My Domina’s coming in interfered with both Americanperfection and Diastole.

Americanperfection’s first try against protected company was a resounding success — and she’s wheeling right back for an even tougher class test.  The three-year-old filly returns Saturday, August 23 at Arlington, going a mile and a sixteenth on the grass against a full field of Illinois-bred N1X company.


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