full-card Arlington picks and analysis: 9.6.14

Today is the second to last stakes day of the Arlington meet, and the two-year-olds take centre stage.  Between the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII) and the Arlington-Washington Lassie (Listed), there’s a good chance we will see a breakout baby today.  The nightcap today is also a classy open maiden special weight over the grass, featuring the debuts of both Oak Brook (a full brother to Giant Oak and A Step Ahead) as well as Cosmology (a son of two-time Arlington Handicap winner Cosmonaut).

Aside from the excitement over the juvenile runners, it also looks like a fun day because there are some beatable favourites of all ages.  So, without further ado, let’s dive into the races!

Race 1: Maiden special weight ($33,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, 1 1/16 miles over the synthetic

Selections:  High Diver (3), Lewis Cielo (7), Aim to Tease (4)

High Diver ran well on the lead two starts back at this distance, and switches to E. T. Baird: a jockey very strong on the front end.  Plus, he adds blinkers.  He has enough speed to contend with what this field has shown so far, and the combination of the new jockey and the blinkers suggest he will be a force to be reckoned with, and a threat to wire.  Lewis Cielo improved last out on the stretch from six furlongs to a mile.  He should handle two turns just fine as the product of a Conquistador Cielo mare.  Channing Hill, who rides, is 20% on routes.  If he progresses from his last effort, he should have a good run against this field.  Aim to Tease ran into some trouble last out, yet still managed to improve on his debut performance.  Ability to overcome adversity is always good to see in an inexperienced runner.  He is another one who improved on the stretch out from six furlongs to a mile.  He also adds Lasix for the first time here.  If he does like two turns (not a slam-dunk given his breeding, but not out of the question), he should be a contender.

Leon Robert (6) is the chalk, and ought to be avoided in the win slot here.  He has raced four times, failed as the favourite three times, and will likely be favoured again today.  He tried two turns in open maiden special company three back, and was a merely okay third.  This is is first two-turn race in state-bred company, but it does not bode well that he has not been able to get it done in three other attempts against state-bred foes, including a mile-long poly race that was washed off the turf.  He is running against horses actually pointed for the poly here, and the chalky price is worth passing on.

Race 2: $7,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L OR three years old, fillies and mares, one mile over the synthetic

Selections: Ib’s Mystery (2), She’s Tellin’tales (3), Lordliness (4)

Ib’s Mystery takes a class drop here from $16,000 beaten company, where she was overmatched.  She should be near the front end, helpful here since it’s really only her and She’s Tellin’tales who like to be up front.  She may well end up the speed of the speed, but if not, she has shown the ability to rate.  She stretches back out to a mile here, a distance at which she has a win and a second in three starts.  She’s Tellin’tales is the only other likely suspect for the front end here — and though she has never really rated, she had fought and prevailed on a pressured lead.  She has won at this distance, though it was on grass and not poly.  The worry about her is that she is starting to rival Dyker Beach for her affinity for coming in second.  Still, the combination of her good speed and the drop in class to the lowest level of her career suggests she may get it together.  Lordliness drops in from $16,000 beaten company after clearing the N2L condition two back.  In a race with so many who have not won a race recently, such a recent trip to the winner’s circle stands out.  Her recent speeds have been strong, and she keeps jockey Tim Thornton.  She has not won a mile race, but her win two back was at seven furlongs at Arlington, suggesting she can at least handle the track configuration.

Race 3: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners since March 6 OR N4L, seven furlongs on the synthetic

Selections: Johar Irish (6), Nobel Bird (2), Devils Tower (3)

Johar Irish is better proven on the grass than on the polytrack, but has been in decent form this meet.  He drops in for the lowest tag of his career after a fourth-place finish at a mile on the grass last out, but did beat $16,000 beaten company on grass two back.  He should be the speed of the speed…and in a race with so little early speed, that makes him dangerous.  Johar Irish is not experienced on the polytrack, but has a second-place finish in his one start over it, suggesting he may do well.  Nobel Bird is the only other likely candidate for the front end, but can comfortably rate if Johar Irish does fire.  He absolutely loves seven furlongs, with two wins and three seconds in five tries.  He is also a strong poly runner, with a 9-2-4-1 record over it.  Earlier this meet he cleared the N2L and N3L conditions at the $7,500 level, but was over his head in a one-mile $16,000 beaten last out.  He drops back to a more reasonable level here, and is back to his best distance.  Devils Tower is a paddock play.  He pulled up in his last start, though walked off under his own power.  He has a sharp three-furlong work since, suggesting he is in decent condition to run.  This is his best surface, and his first try at seven furlongs: if he looks fit in the paddock, he will be an overlay.

Stay far, far away from Space Traveler (4) in the win slot.  He has failed as the favourite twice at this level, once at six and a half furlongs and once at seven.  On paper he should have the speed to hang with this crowd, but always seems to find a way to lose.  He has not won a race in over a year, and has has enough jockey changes over that time to suggest another jockey change may not get it done.  At an 8/5 morning line, the price is not right to find out.

Race 4: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners since June 6 OR non-winners of two since February 6 OR non-winners of three since November 6 OR N4L, six furlongs on the synthetic

Selections: Prince of Madness (3), Jost Van Dyke (5), Epic Phelps (8)

Prince of Madness should be stalking near the front, but not right on the front: a good place to be in a race where there’s a handful of horses who may like being near the front, but no one desperate for it.  Six furlongs on the polytrack is his bag: he is three for nine at the distance, and five for nine over the Arlington poly.  His trainer/jockey combination, Ingrid Mason and Rosemary Homeister, Jr., are still hot: they’ve won ten of 25 in the last two months, and two of five in the last week.  After a disappointing run two back, his last out suggests he is rounding back into form.  Jost Van Dyke is one consistent gelding: the lightly raced seven-year-old has hit the board in 15 of 16 career races, including eight wins.  The drop from winning at $7,500 beaten to now showing up in $5,000 beaten company raises a slight red flag, but he was on an even more precipitous class drop earlier this meet ($25,000 open to $5,000 beaten) and outgamed the field.  Tammy Domenosky is shrewd at placing horses, and she gets the benefit of the doubt.  He ought to hit the board here — he may well win, though the questionable early speed will require some work for this closing type late.  Epic Phelps has raced very little on the polytrack, but he has some talent at six furlongs: he is 31-4-7-3 at the distance.  He drops in here from $7,500 beaten last out, and makes his first start for the Alnaz Ali barn.  Ali has won two of his last ten attempts with horses first running for his barn, and this horse has a regular and fairly strong worktab since switching barns.  He also gets the services of rider Florent Geroux, which should help his case.  At anywhere near his 15/1 morning line, Epic Phelps could be an epic price.

Race 5: $50,000-$40,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, 1 1/16 miles on the turf

Selections: Wildwoodsgreatest (2), Forget the Name (3), Spooky Vision (6)

Wildwoodsgreatest is the only early speed in this race.  He is also dropping in for a tag for the first time; last out he won a maiden special at this distance over poly, at his second asking.  Trainer Scott Becker and jockey Chris Emigh has won at a 37% clip (for a +$3.01 ROI!) over the last two months.  Emigh rode this horse to his maiden win, and if he can put this bunch to sleep on the front end like he did in that maiden race last month, we may well have another Becker/Emigh bomb.  Forget the Name has a win and a close third over yielding going, and the turf is rated yielding again today.  He has not raced since early July, but has posted three creditable works since then.  He also gets jockey Alexander Reznikov back.  Reznikov has ridden Forget the Name just twice: in those two on-the-board finishes over yielding turf.  Assuming he is fresh, he has every reason to contend.  Spooky Vision comes in her second off the lay, and switches to jockey Florent Geroux.  His trainer, James DiVito, wins second off the lay a sparkling 32% of the time.  His form first off the lay was a little sluggish for this level, but an improvement on that should put him right in the mix.  The biggest question with him is the pace: since he tends to come from fairly far off, Geroux will have to try him a little closer to the pace this time if he is going to catch Wildwoodsgreatest on the front end.

Race 6: $50,000-$40,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, Illinois bred, 1 1/16 miles on the turf

Selections: El Nino B (2), Cadet Captain (1), Peej (7)

Second-time starter El Nino B is the longest shot in the field, but assuming he looks good in the paddock, there is a lot to recommend him.  Last out he finished up the track in a five-furlong dash over the polytrack, a race washed off the turf.  However, he is not bred for dash distances at all.  He is bred for grass, and bred for routes.  Though that last start was in $25,000 claiming company, it was open claiming company — this is a higher tag, but it is state-bred, and includes several horses who have failed to graduate against weaker.  Finally, red-hot apprentice Maria Thornton rides.  Cadet Captain comes in for trainer Chris Block after being on the shelf since August of 2013.  Block wins at 23% off of long lays, and this horse has been a regular presence on the worktab since July.  He is on the drop from state-bred maiden special company, and also tries a route distance for the first time.  Being by Tale of the Cat out of an Affirmed mare, a mile and a sixteenth should not be out of the question.  Peej, another Chris Block trainee, is also on the drop from state-bred maiden special, after having raced twice at that level this summer.  His better effort was first out, in a turf route at this distance.  He finished third that day.  His speed is strong for the field, and Block does win at 32% second on the grass.

Race 7: Arlington-Washington Lassie (Listed), two-year-old fillies, seven furlongs on the synthetic

Selections: Lemon Gala (1), Puntsville (4), Sarah Sis (2)

For my detailed analysis of this race, read this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.  For another perspective, read Paul Mazur’s analysis on Picks and Ponderings.

Race 8: Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII), two-year-olds, seven furlongs on the synthetic

Selections: One Go All Go (2), Private Prospect (5), Ike Walker (7)

For my detailed analysis of this race, read this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.  For another perspective, read Paul Mazur’s analysis on Picks and Ponderings.

Race 9: Allowance ($31,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $8,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, five furlongs on the turf

Selections: Goesse (6), Voodoo Spell (9), Cammack (7)

With the scratches of consummate speedballs Rivzinthehouse and Melo Mason, Goesse becomes particularly dangerous.  He can run well on the lead, but is also ratable a bit off if Bluegrass Dan runs strongly on the front end.  His last start was a win in $25,000 company, but the two starts before that were a win and a second in state-bred N1X company.  His speed this year puts him right in the mix for this level of open allowance company.  Trainer Tammy Domenosky has been hot in the last two weeks (9-3-2-1), and her horses have returned from wins to win again 21% of the time.  In light of the scratches, there’s no reason Goesse can’t make it three straight.  Voodoo Spell has been in excellent form this year, and has spectacular versatility of pace.  He has won on the front, from the back, and from anywhere in between.  He keeps jockey Emmanual Esquivel, who has ridden him to five straight on-the-board finishes including two wins.  He finished beaten just two lengths last out by Selz, who today is trying his hand in lucrative allowance company at Kentucky Downs.  He has never finished worse than second in four tries on the Arlington grass, and is proven at five-furlong dashes.  He’ll be chalk, but he is a legitimate threat.  Cammack comes in third off the lay for trainer Chris Block.  Florent Geroux rides, and Block and Geroux have won four of six in the last two weeks.  Though he is by Giant’s Causeway, it seems that five furlong turf dashes are likely his best sort of race, as he has a win and a close third in his last two attempts at such a distance.  If Geroux can keep him in touch with the pace, and he improves third off the lay, he could come in at a decent price.

Race 10: Maiden special weight ($31,000 purse), two-year-olds, one mile on the turf

Selections: Fort Dixie (4), Willing to Travel (1), Oak Brook (5)

Fort Dixie has raced once before, a third place finish at this level on August 24.  He stretches out to a route and tries turf for the first time here: two things that should favour this son of Fort Prado.  Last out he was shuffled away at the break, and quickly over two dozen lengths off the front.  He still managed to stay engaged in the race, make up ground, and get up for third.  If he gets a better start this time, he should contend in this bunch.  He also has Lasix for the first time.  Willing to Travel starts for the second time, and has piled up a few more seven-furlong and mile-long workouts since his last trace.  Last out he finished just two lengths behind the promising Stormy Wayllen, who ran back and missed by just a nose in an allowance at Churchill yesterday.  He runs back to the same distance here, a mile, and trainer Michael Reavis wins at 20% with second-time starters.  Oak Brook is a first-time starter for trainer Chris Block, who wins at 16% with first-timers.  Two other progeny of his dam Crafty Oak have won at first asking: Giant Oak and Little Star.  He is a full brother to the aforementioned Giant Oak.  He is bred to run all day, and though his breeding suggests he may grow up to be a bit of a plodder, that and his trainer both suggest he should figure out the whole “racing” thing pretty quickly.

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