Picks and Ponderings: 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!

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, catch up on the highlights from last week at Arlington, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

2017 Presque Isle Downs Masters Preview

One of my favourite races of the year is the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters.  I love niche races, unique races, and the Masters fits that bill beautifully: six and a half furlongs on the Tapeta for fillies and mares.  It always draws a contentious and classy field, and this year’s edition is no different.  This year, I’ll be attending it for the first time — so follow me on Twitter at @rogueclown for observations, photographs, and live video on Periscope!

Miss Macy Sue won the first renewal of the Presque Isle Masters on the way to a third-place finish in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.  Though she was so good on the track, she may be better known now for her work in the breeding shed, as she produced 2015 Woodward Stakes (GI) winner Liam’s Map.  There have been three two-time winners of the Presque Isle Masters: Groupie Doll, Informed Decision, and Living the Life.  Groupie Doll parlayed wins in the Masters to BC Filly and Mare Sprint wins and Eclipse awards in both 2012 and 2013; Informed Decision only completed that trifecta in 2009, though she won at Presque Isle the next year as well.  Tapeta maven Living the Life aimed for a three-peat last year, but she missed by a head behind a Chicago invader, Ingrid Mason trainee Sarah Sis, who proved she could carry her excellent Polytrack form to Tapeta.

Race 5: Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six and a half furlongs on the Tapeta, post time 7:15pm EDT

Selections:  Bar of Gold (12), Ami’s Mesa (7), Clothes Fall Off (2)
Longshot:  Cavalia (11)

This year’s edition of the Presque Isle Masters drew an overflow field: twelve, plus two on the Also Eligible list.  With no defending champion (both Living the Life and Sarah Sis have headed off to the breeding shed) and no dominant force in the division, the race should be as contentious as any edition of the Presque Isle Masters.

Though Bar of Gold is marooned on the outside, she is the one to beat.  There are many high-profile shippers in this race: her, Ginger N Rye, Ami’s Mesa, Clothes Fall Off, Indulgent, Pretty Perfection.  But, not only does Bar of Gold bring fast and classy form to this race, she (unlike the rest of the major shippers) has form at Presque Isle Downs.  She came out for the Masters last year, and finished a late running third beaten just half a length behind Sarah Sis.  Bar of Gold hasn’t cut quite that short since coming to Erie last year, but between the back sprinting form and her tactical versatility, she should be set to acquit herself well in this spot again this year.

Ami’s Mesa ships in from Woodbine in beautiful form.  The four-year-old daughter of strong synthetic track sire Sky Mesa has won five of her eight starts, including all three of her races this year over the Toronto-area Tapeta.  Those last two victories came in graded company: one at a mile and a sixteenth, and one at seven furlongs.  Though Ami’s Mesa has not tried six and a half furlongs yet, her seven-furlong form sparkles.  In five tries, she has four wins and one second-place finish by less than a length — in just her first try against older horses.  Finally, from a pace perspective, she should be suited here.  Though Ami’s Mesa is a confirmed off-pace type, she does not need a fiery early pace to do her best work, a positive since this race drew a bit less early zip than one would expect in a sprint with a fully subscribed field.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sends a pair here, Clothes Fall Off and Indulgent.  Indulgent has been her best at a flat six furlongs, but Clothes Fall Off has proven her form going six and a half, and even seven (as long as she’s running at the right class level, which is to say, the Madison has proven over her head the last few years).  She reverts to having Rajiv Maragh in the irons, with whom she did good work in New York earlier this year.  Clothes Fall Off also drew a nice inside post, and has strong tactical versatility.  If Clothes Fall Off can bring her best to the Tapeta, she is a strong win threat.  That is, of course, the question; she has not yet raced on anything but conventional dirt.  Still, she so consistently fires races that fit well enough with this group to give her a chance on the new surface.

For a longshot, Cavalia merits a look.  She rolls in on a three-win streak, and hails from the red-hot local Gerald Brooks barn.  She keeps rider Luis Garcia, with whom she won the local prep allowance last out.  Cavalia won that race on the front end, but has back form coming from a bit off the pace — a positive dimension, the likes of Candid Cathy or Indulgent tries to take the lead.  In addition to her good form, she is both a Presque Isle Downs surface specialist as well as a six and a half furlong specialist.  This race will be the biggest class test of Cavalia’s career, and she will have to bring her best.  But, if she does?  She can at least put the locals in the frame.

2017 Presque Isle Mile Preview

This week, I’m venturing out to Erie, Pennsylvania for the Presque Isle Mile on Sunday and the Presque Isle Masters (G2) on Monday. Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@rogueclown) for live notes, pictures, and Periscope streams!

Today’s feature at Presque Isle Downs is the Presque Isle Mile, and this piece features analysis of that race. Analysis of the Presque Isle Masters will follow in a separate piece.

Race 6: Presque Isle Mile, three-year-olds and up, one mile on the Tapeta, post time 7:40pm EDT

Selections:  Gigantic Breeze (1), Ghost Hunter (4), Western Elegance (5)
Longshot:  Tale of the Nile (2)

The race drew an intriguing field of eight — most of whom have Tapeta form at Presque Isle, Woodbine, or both, though interestingly enough morning line favourite War Correspondent does not. He does have some back synthetic-track form at Woodbine, but that came in its Polytrack era. With no commanding reason on pace or speed that makes War Correspondent the one to beat, “can he handle Tapeta?” is not a question I’m keen to pay to answer at a short price, and I’ll be looking elsewhere.

Though Gigantic Breeze has not visited Erie yet, he has been excellent on the Tapeta at Woodbine this meet.  The son of Giant’s Causeway has turned a corner from ages three to four, going from a mid-to-high priced N2L claimer last year to a bona fide graded stakes horse this year.  He finally stops having to chase around old Woodbine stalwarts Melmich and Are You Kidding Me in this spot.  And, the pace versatility shines — he has done some good work from right on the pace, but with so much early speed in this race, his ability to rate and rally should come into play.  Gigantic Breeze can even do so from the inside, a big plus given his rail draw in the Mile.  This Woodbine invader will be a fair price with the likes of War Correspondent and Ghost Hunter taking money, and he looks to be the right horse in the right form.

Defending champion Ghost Hunter threatens once again.  Yes, he lost as the favourite in the prep allowance, but he was coming back just sixteen days off a try in the Arlington Million.  He did make some ground up late, and should get a more lively pace to chase in this outing.  Ghost Hunter has never been one who needed to take his track with him, but his 10: 8-0-1 record at Presque Isle suggests he feels right at home in Erie.  If he comes back to his best here, he may prove tough.

Another who should be rallying off the pace is Western Elegance.  An Arlington invader with impeccable polytrack form, he has run well enough in a pair of graded stakes tries at Woodbine to suggest that he can run on the Tapeta, too.  A mile is on the long side for him, as he usually does sprints and extended sprints.  Yet, he has enough good races going two turns on the grass to suggest that he has a chance at this two-turn mile trip.  And, with his connections being people not especially well known outside of Chicago (trainer Liane Davis and rider Santo Sanjur), you’ll likely get a nice price on the consistent Western Elegance.

With so much speed in this year’s edition of the Presque Isle Mile, I focused on off-pace types for the longshot spot — so, basically, either Tale of the Nile or Bugle Barry.  Yes, Bugle Barry gets the feather-light 110-pound impost, but Tale of the Nile only carries 113, and should be closing a bit better than Bugle Barry.  Tale of the Nile comes in off a victory in the course and distance prep allowance, a race in which he defeated Black Tie Event and Ghost Hunter.  He will have to take a step forward from that effort, between the shippers and the fact that Ghost Hunter should be tighter for this effort.  But, Tale of the Nile has a beautifully consistent record at Presque (7: 5-1-0), he likes going a mile, and he has some license to improve with this being only his fourth start of his four-year-old year.

Picks and Ponderings: Puntsville, Good Bye Greg Win Stakes Honoring Local Trainers

Chicago horse racing lost two of its own earlier this year, trainers Richard Scherer and Jeffrey Lynn.  In their memories, Arlington ran a pair of main-track sprint stakes today: chances for the Chicago-area racing community to get together, celebrate their memories, and enjoy the sport to which both devoted so much of their lives.

In both races, heavily favoured frontrunners ruled the day.  Good Bye Greg took the Jeff Lynn Memorial gate-to-wire.  Two races later, Puntsville annexed the Richard Scherer Memorial in similarly easy fashion.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, and read my looks back at the Richard Scherer Memorial Stakes and the Jeff Lynn Memorial Stakes!

Picks and Ponderings: Arlington Early Pick 4 Carryover

When a Brave ‘n Away baby is the shortest-priced winner in a Pick 4 sequence, you may have a big payout afoot.  Or, in Thursday’s case, when Away She Glows ($13.00) was followed by Wayaway ($24.40), Time For Parading ($23.80), and class-jumping Americanperfection ($35.80), it’s a recipe for a $14,977 carryover in Friday’s early Pick 4.

The wager covers races 1-4, and carryover pays out as long as there are any winning tickets.  So, it’s time to get handicapping and planning that ticket!  Brisnet offers free past performances, as they do for every day during the Arlington meet, they’re right here if you’d like to sharpen your pencil and try your hand at handicapping the sequence.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my analysis of today’s early Pick 4 at Arlington, and take a shot at getting your share of the carryover!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Arlington-Washington Futurity Day Stakes Preview

Saturday’s ten-race card at Arlington features a trio of stakes races; this piece takes a look at all of them.  As planned all meet, the card features a pair of $75,000 listed stakes for two-year-olds: the Arlington-Washington Futurity and the Arlington-Washington Lassie.  Both of the races drew well-subscribed fields of two-year-olds: ten males in the Futurity, and a full gate of fourteen fillies for the Lassie.  A late addition to Saturday’s card is the Avers Wexler Memorial Stakes, an overnight stakes race for older fillies and mares, traversing two turns on the main track at Arlington.  Despite the short notice, the race drew a healthy field of nine to compete for the $65,000 purse.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s three stakes races at Arlington Park, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Rolling Meadows Stakes: Special filly Babybluesbdancing comes home, proves best

Babybluesbdancing has carried the legacy of Lizabeth and Terrel Gore’s farm — and of her six-time stakes-winning dam Bluesbdancing — as well as anyone could have dreamed.  She marked herself at the top of her two-year-old class with a resounding victory in last year’s Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante at Hawthorne.  She continued her dominance of the division this year, easily winning this year’s Purple Violet Stakes.  Babybluesbdancing then proved able to hold her own outside the land of Lincoln.  She achieved something Bluesbdancing never did, a graded stakes placing, when she ran second in the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks.  In her most recent start, on August 12, she finished fourth in the Monmouth Oaks (G3).

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, catch up on Babybluesbdancing’s victory in today’s Rolling Meadows Stakes, and learn more about Illinois’s star sophomore filly!