Previewing the 2019 Ride to the Million: Modesty Handicap

The Modesty Handicap will be run for the 63rd time this year, and offers a purse of $100,000.  It began at Washington Park in 1942, and has been run at Arlington almost steadily since 1962, though did move to Hawthorne in 1985.  The race takes its name from Modesty — a filly who beat males in the first American Derby in 1884.  Her rider that day was none other than a fellow Arlington Park stakes namesake: Isaac Murphy, who has an Illinois-bred filly and mare sprint run in his name each summer, most recently last weekend.  Murphy also won the Kentucky Oaks with Modesty earlier that year, the only Kentucky Oaks win of his illustrious riding career.

Nowadays, the Modesty Handicap serves as the local prep for the Beverly D. (G1), covering the same course and distance.  Originally run on dirt, it moved to the grass in the 1960s.  The race’s winners include current Keeneland stakes namesake Bewitch (1948), onetime Hawthorne stakes namesake Indian Maid (1960, 1961), Illinois-bred Grade 1 winner (and Grade 1 producer) Lady Shirl (1991), and recent Grade 1 producer Chic Dancer (2006).

In a separate piece, we preview the Arlington Handicap (G3).

Selections have been made for turf only.  

Arlington Park – Saturday, July 13

Race 6: Modesty Handicap (G3), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and three sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 4:12pm CDT

The pace in this year’s Modesty is an interesting question. As isn’t uncommon for a turf race of any significant distance? There isn’t a lot of it. In fact, there are only two logical candidates for the front end.

The less likely to be right on the front is JULIET FOXTROT. She has excellent early pace for the field, if she wants to go. But, that’s a big IF. Looking back through both her two races worth of American form as well as her turf form, she would rather sit a bit back. Not too far back, of course, as she cleared her N1X two back at Keeneland in stalk-and-pounce fashion. That was at a flat mile, making clear JULIET FOXTROT has the ability to sit close and get a good run at this longer trip, even if she did clear her N2X last out at a mile and an eighth from a bit further off the lead. The biggest question for JULIET FOXTROT is the class, as this is her first foray into graded company. But, she brings sharp and improving Kentucky allowance form, she is running like a horse who will flourish with this extra step up in trip, and she gets an excellent Arlington rider in Florent Geroux. For the horse who will probably get first run on the speed, there’s a lot to like.

First run, because REMEMBER DAISY probably makes the running. The Gary Scherer trainee comes third off the lay, off an allowance win and then a stakes-level second at Canterbury Park. This is a step up in class, but one worth taking in her current form on the lawn. She, more than anyone, appears likely to get the lead in this: she wired a Louisiana-bred stakes on the slop four starts back, and has several other races in which she sits close to the lead. REMEMBER DAISY gets the riding services of Mitchell Murrill, who not only knows how to ride aggressively when necessary, but was the one in the irons when she wired that Louisiana Champions Day Ladies’ Stakes. She will have to run her best to win, but the pace sets up in a way to help her find it.

Among the rest? SIMPLY BREATHLESS is probably the one to beat, coming off a graded stakes win in California. She doesn’t have to be too far off the pace. But? She hasn’t tried this distance, and her one try at even a mile and an eighth was poor. She is by sprinter Bated Breath, and in that last furlong, furlong and a half of this, that stands to kick in. At a short price, no thanks.

Instead, Ignacio Correas trainee NA PALI SPIRIT appeals more, at a bit of a price. She comes in off a third-place finish in the Arlington Matron (G3) over polytrack, but through most of her career she has been a turf horse, and a solid won: three wins and another 11 money finishes in 19 tries on the lawn. That includes five starts at Arlington, in which she has never been out of the exacta. (Horse for course, check.) Yes, she loses Mitchell Murrill — to the aforementioned REMEMBER DAISY — but Na Pali Spirit gets an excellent pick-up rider in Drayden Van Dyke. Though she is a late runner, she showed last out that she doesn’t have to sit that far off the pace to run a decent race. And, though she has a similar distance question as SIMPLY BREATHLESS? You’re getting a far better price on the proposition that she’ll answer the question affirmatively.




Longshot:  In the host of horses who could find the chaotic under-rungs of the Modesty, let’s go for some real boxcars with the old “same trainer, other horse” angle. #4 CASCANUECES (15/1) comes second off the layoff for trainer Ignacio Correas. She’s a bit of an odd duck for a Correas horse who started her career in South America — many of his have longer careers there, and then come up here.  CASCANUECES raced three times in Peru as a juvenile, won easily all three times, including in a 10-furlong Grade 1, then had two dissapointing starts in the US for Todd Pletcher last year, then showed up in the Correas barn June 7.  The return was solid, given that Correas rarely comes ready to roll first off the lay.  It was CASCANUECES’s first try on the lawn, and she ran third behind a promising one in Stave.  Of course, these are tougher, the toughesst she has ever faced.  But she’s a lightly-raced four-year-old with upside.  She should stay the trip.  She gets a solid and reasonably aggressive jockey in Jose Valdivia, and Valdivia and Correas have been firing on all cylinders.  There’s a lot to like about CASCANUECES at a big price.


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