With a royal wedding dominating the news, it only makes sense that a princess would have her day. And so it was today at Arlington International Racecourse, when Princess La Quinta drove past Daddy’s Boo to win the Grade 3 Arlington Matron. The victory was Princess La Quinta’s first victory in graded stakes company — as well as the first graded stakes victory for trainer and co-owner James Gulick, as well as for her other co-owner Al Moorhouse.
For my latest piece for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, I headed out to Hawthorne on a day with no racing…and yet, it was still a day with plenty of horses, and plenty of action. Relive my morning right here.
The Preakness is coming up tomorrow, which means you’re probably already sick of hearing the phrase “tight turns”. The bad news is, I haven’t yet been able to reliably trace the origin of that horse racing myth.
The race will be run for the eighty-first time this year. Now that it’s back at Arlington, the Matron is once again the only nine-furlong polytrack stakes in North America for older fillies and mares. Several past and present local stakes namesakes have counted the Arlington Matron among their victories. Pucker Up (1957) has a turf stakes run in her name on Aington Million Day, Old Hat (1965) still lends her name to an early-season sophomore fillies’ sprint stakes at Gulfstream, Sweetest Chant (1982) is the namesake of an early-season turf mile for three-year-old fillies at Gulfstream, and Hawthorne used to run a graded dirt route for older fillies and mares in the name of Sixty Sails (1974, 1975). Another notable recent winner is Illinois-bred Grade 1 winner and millionaire La Tia (2014).
Trainer Cipriano Contreras served for decades as an assistant in the barn of Chicago stalwart Michael Reavis. Reavis has a reputation for being a shrewd claiming trainer, and when Contreras struck out on his own in 2016, Contreras began to write his own history of smart moves in the claiming game.
Today, Contreras set himself a high bar for success at the claim box.
On March 3, Contreras dropped a $25,000 slip for eight-year-old gelding Matrooh at Oaklawn. The move paid immediate dividends for Matrooh’s new owners, Conteras (as Contreras Stable, Inc.) and Raul Bahena (as Crystal Racing Enterprises), as he ran down heavy favourite Guns Loaded in a sprint allowance in Hot Springs. After that, Matrooh returned to graded stakes company, a level from which he has been absent since January 2016. The ambitious move paid off, as Matrooh’s last-to-first kick got him home well clear in this afternoon’s Grade 3 Hanshin Cup.
The stakes portion of the season gets underway Saturday with the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup. This race was originally christened in 1941 for Equipoise, a Hall of Fame racehorse whose stakes wins included a pair of top-notch local triumphs: the 1933 Arlington Handicap and the 1933 Hawthorne Gold Cup. In its Equipoise Mile days, its winners included Hall of Fame inductee and onetime Arlington stakes namesake Swoon’s Son (1957, 1958), champion sprinter Smile (1986) and multiple stakes winner Better Bee (1959). Better Bee went on to sire Abe’s Hope, the Illinois-bred winner of the 1966 Blue Grass Stakes, as well as his Maryland-bred full brother Bee Bee Bee, winner of the 1972 Preakness. Its more recent winners have included durable fan favourites like Bonapaw (2002), Hogy (2013), and Nikki’s Sandcastle (2014).