Arlington picks and analysis: May 18, 2014

The weather in Chicago has been all over the place for the last week or so, but today is a fine day to head out to the races.  It’s in the sixties, it’s been dry enough for the last few days for races to be back on the turf, and there’s a full card of nine races at Arlington Park today.  It’s a nice mix of familiar faces from the winter at Hawthorne, as well as some new horses who have either shipped in or rested since the last Arlington meet.

Let’s dive in!

Race 1: Maiden special weight ($38,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic

This is one of the races I touched on in my most recent column on Shapper Da Capper.  Repeat Afleet (6) is by far the most credible of the early speed; Red Zach (4) and Specks In The Sun (5) are the only other horses who may even want to try to get up there, and Repeat Afleet has shown better speed.  He has also shown some synthetic ability; last out, Repeat Afleet was third beaten just half a length at this level.  The horse who got his neck ahead for second in that last race, Paddybdancing, is the other horse in this race with good chances.  He comes from off the pace, so he would probably want a bit more early speed, but he showed last out that he can do well from only a few lengths off the pace.  He shouldn’t be terribly pace compromised if he does that again.  The biggest potential issue with both Repeat Afleet or Paddybdancing would be if they bounce from their last race out.  However, given the rest of the field, even a bounced effort from either of these two is likely to be better than most of waht the rest of the field has turned out in the past.

Race 2: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, 1 mile on the turf

For a mile race on the turf, there are a lot of horses in here who want to be on or near the early speed.  Big Man In Black (6) is one who wants to be not too far off of it, but his ability to rate should put him in a good place here.  He is coming into this race from a very long lay; he hasn’t raced since last October.  However, he is working fairly well coming into this race, and doing long works of five and six furlongs.  Also, he is making a big class drop here.  He hasn’t raced for a tag since a maiden claimer at Santa Anita over a year and a half ago; all his races last year were in allowance company.  Furthermore, he is cutting back in distance from most of what he was doing last year.  Easier company plus a shorter distance point to a decent effort here, even first out.  Pacewise, Flying Butterfly (1) has a lot of upside as the only one in the field who really likes to come from much off the pace.  If the speed all wears each other out on the front end, he’s the only one who is going to want to pick up the pieces.  Flying Butterfly did win his only turf start, a maiden win at Fair Grounds in January, and has been far outclassed in three allowance starts on dirt and all-weather since.  He drops back in for a tag her on what may well be his preferred surface, and adds Lasix for the first time.  All of these changes could set him up to run very well.

Race 3: $40,000 allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $8,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N3L OR $40,000 claiming price, 1 mile on the synthetic

There is not a lot of early speed in this race, which only sets up to help Stormin Elle (1).  The Catalano trainee returns for her first start since the Valley View (GIII) at Keeneland last fall, against easier company at a shorter distance.  She raced twice over the Arlington synthetic last year, breaking her maiden first out and then finishing second in an N1X allowance race at this distance two weeks later.  She is working decently, and has strong jockey E. T. Baird aboard.  The biggest drawback to her is the price; she is the 2-1 morning line favourite, and that’s a little hard to take off such a lay.  She is the class of the field, however, and hard to ignore given the lack of pace.  A horse who could do well here at a good price is Hit Girl (4).  She moves up from a win in a $50,000 claimer at Keeneland last out, which was her first race since last July at Arlington.  She has some solid recent works at Arlington and Keeneland.  She has also shown good versatility in pace, performing well anywhere from the front end back to midpack.  Her speeds aren’t all that consistent, but if she fires one of her better ones, there’s no reason this Stidham trainee can’t make the pace in this race work for her — and swoop in to win if Stormin Elle is a bit rusty off the lay.

Race 4: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the turf

Much of this field likes to be on or near the early speed, which is not surprising given that this is a five-furlong turf dash.  The only one who really likes to come from much off the pace is Yankee Injunuity (2), who ships here after racing at Tampa through the winter, and cuts back from route races.  If this ten-year-old war horse finds the same form he had last year at Arlington, he could take this — this is easier company than he faced last year, and the pace will likely be favourable.  Peters Rock (7) comes in here second off the lay, and is likely to be either right on the early pace or no more than a length or so off.  He was claimed in his last start, and his new barn wins at a 19% rate with their new claims.  His speeds are generally quite good for this field, and if he improves or even runs equal to his race first off the lay, he’ll be tough here.  Bullet From Abroad (3) is another speed horse who has a chance here.  He has won six of his eleven career races in five-furlong turf races, with another six seconds.  His last work was a sharp four furlongs at Arlington in 47.2.  He has shown improving form in his first two starts back off the winter lay, and if he can carry that form from the dirt to the turf, he could get up to win today.

One side note on this race pertains to J. Pa, the Larry Rivelli trainee who I mentioned in my column a few days ago.  Scratches have been announced, and I am baffled that he is running again.  J. Pa raced first off the lay on May 15, finishing a close third in a $5,000 starter allowance.  He drew into this race, but I was expecting to see him scratch out given that I’m not used to seeing the Rivelli barn run horses back quite this quickly.  A week wouldn’t be shocking, but three days is strange.  I understand the desire to get him back on the turf, since that last race was washed out, but I really don’t get the fact that he’s running back in three days.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes in the superfecta, given the strength of his past performances relative to the field, but I doubt he will win.

Race 5: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L OR three years old, five furlongs on the turf

The scratch of Petezium (3) this morning was a big one.  He was going to be the most credible early speed in the race, and now he is gone.  At this point, the only real early speed left is Bad Boy Peter (4).  It may be worth taking a punt on him if he looks good in the paddock, since he is second off the lay and on a big drop in class from a series of Illinois-bred stakes appearance last year.  However, he is only three years old and fairly slow for the field, so he is not particularly interesting even with the favourable pace scenario unless he looks fantastic.  Artful Bee (1) is coming in here off a two-month lay, but is on a drop from allowance and starter allowance company into a pure claimer.  He had a hard time out last time in the slop at Fair Grounds, but should improve returning to a shorter distance on an Arlington turf course where he is 13-4-2-3 lifetime.  He tends to stalk or come from midpack, suggesting that he shouldn’t be too far back to be pace compromised here.  There’s No Telling (6) comes in here second off the lay; even though this is the same class as his last few races, he did have some good runs against harder company last meet at Arlington.  He cuts back in distance from his last start, and maintains the services of hot jockey James Graham.  If he stays fairly close to the pace, and improves from his last start to anything reflecting his form last meet at Arlington, he has a good chance today.

Race 6: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic

This race had two huge scratches, the two horses who looked like the best in the field: Dancing Flashy (7) and Richieslildarling (2).  That also completely decimates the early speed in this race, as both of those horses were early speed horses.  This leaves Ten Little Pins (1) and Mirka (8) on the front end, with the rest of the field chasing them.  Since this race is being run on the synthetic, Mirka (8) looks like the the one who will succeed if the front end is good today.  She is 19-5-3-3 on the synthetic, and in here on a class drop from starter allowance company where she finished third by a neck two weeks ago after leading throughout.  I Turned Outlaw (5) is another horse who really likes the synthetic.  She has four of her career wins on synthetic surfaces, including three wins at Arlington.  The distance may be a little long for her, as she tends to do better in sprints than she does in routes, but this is more a testament to how bad the rest of the field is than how good she is.  She actually shows some desire to win once in a while — unlike I’ve Heard Rumors (4), who is a synthetic-liking horse but has not won a race in almost two years.  I’ve Heard Rumors does have a fairly sharp recent work, and has shown affinity for the polytrack, but this recent inability to win suggests she is a much better play in second and third rungs of intrarace bets than she is for anything that suggests she may win.

Race 7: $10,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, non-winners of two races other than open open NW2 or NW3 for a claiming price of less than $10,000, 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic

This race has very little pace, and a ton of closers.  The only horses in the field who have shown any real affinity for the speed are Friendly’s Rap (2) and Don’tputmeonhold (7), but the latter is an extremely slow horse except for the one time she freaked (for 66-Beyer definitions of freak) and won an $8,000 maiden claimer at Hawthorne last meet.  Don’tputmeonhold is probably in way over her head here, and not likely to get the early speed.  She also hates the poly, being 5-0-0-1 on it.  Friendly’s Rap, on the other hand, stands to rebound from her lackluster effort last out, which should be enough to put her in the mix here.  The big question her is her ability to handle the synthetic track, since she has only run on it once.  However, her breeding suggests she should be able to handle this 1 1/16 mile distance, and the lack of speed sets up well for her to take the field from wire to wire.  If a horse manages to come in from off, it will likely be Abby’s Slew (3).  She consistently fires the best speeds of the bunch.  She does her best work coming in from off the pace, but she’s not an extremely deep closer; this makes her less pace-compromised than other closers in the field like Shining On (4) or Silver Encore (6).  Silver Encore really does like the synthetic track, and has a good chance to hit the board due to her affinity for the surface combined with trainer Jeffery Lynn’s good record with horses second off long lays.  However, she does have a bit of second-itis at 25-1-4-5 lifetime (and 16-1-4-5 on the Arlington synthetic!); between that and the terrible pace scenario for deep closers like her, she’d really only a good bet for lower rungs of exotics.

Race 8: $5,000 starter allowance, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less since May 18, 2012, five furlongs on the turf

This is the strangest starter allowance that I have ever seen, and one of the strangest races on paper that I have ever seen.  Most of these horses have either never run on the turf, or have run extremely poorly on the turf.  I’m not sure if it’s a lack of $5,000 starter level horses in the area that want to go five furlongs on the turf, or what it is, but it makes for a very bizarre race to handicap.

The top selection here is Eyema Delight (9).  She is making her first start on the turf, but has been in very good, very consistent form lately.  She also drops in class here from straight state-bred allowance company into starter allowance company.  She hit the board in three of her four attempts in state-bred allowance company this year, suggesting that a little class drop is all she needs.  She is making a fairly significant class drop here.  On top of that, Eyema Delight has shown aptitude to either run as early speed or come in from off the pace — a versatility that should help her here, since the pace is a bit hard to predict with accuracy with a field of non-turfers running on yielding turf today.  Quite Explosive (4) and Serious Stuff (7) are the other horses in the field who look like they have a good chance to succeed here.  Quite Explosive, a speed horse, has been working well at the Churchill Down training track recently, and is cutting distance from her last two outings.  She has also hit the board in six of eight attempts on the turf, and all five attempts at five furlongs on the turf.  Serious Stuff has the solid trainer/jockey combination of Joel Berndt and Emmanuel Esquivel behind him, who has won at a 23% clip over 2013-14.  He showed improvement second off the lay while returning to the turf last out, in a $20,000 claimer, and shows some of the best turf speed of the field.

Race 9: $7,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L, seven furlongs on the synthetic

Flyby Dubai (8) is the top selection here.  He ran at this level last time out, though is dropping in from higher priced claimers in his previous outings.  His last race out was his first attempt on synthetic; he finished a close third in his first race off a six month lay.  He stands to improve in this second start of his four-year-old year, and even his three-year-old form should be strong enough to succeed in this field.  Iolanda’s Perfect (5), like Flyby Dubai, is also in his second start at this level after running against tougher through the winter and spring.  He has shown good form on the synthetic; he is 13-1-4-4 over the Arlington polytrack over his career.  Even though he closes in most of his races, he has also shown the ability to stalk; this ability may come in handy, since the only real speed horse in this field is Goldswish (9).  Speaking of Goldswish, he is the only real speed horse, but he is not likely to hold out for seven furlongs, and he has shown no real ability in far outside posts.  I would consider him if he were in a closer-in post, but he is not consistently fast enough compared to the field to suggest he will be able to overcome that today.

Strong Luck (3) is a classic lower rung horse.  He does like the synthetic, having been 9-0-4-3 on it career.  He should be close to the pace, but tends to stay right there and fall short, as he has in his last two outings.  There is no major change that has suggested he has learned how to win.  His speed and history on the synthetic suggests he may hit the board, but don’t bet on him to win for the first time since 2012.

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