Sunday has rolled around, and Blinkers Off heads back out to Arlington Park for another day of racing!
Despite the rain last night, turf racing is on at Arlington today. They are calling the grass course yielding. Hopefully that remains the case, and the rain holds off in the northwest suburbs — the card contains four grass races, and it would be fun to keep those fuller turf fields.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at today’s Arlington card!
Race 1: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, six furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Sky Soldier (1), Thestarvingartist (7), Top Gato (6)
With both Gyp Rope and Thestarvingartist likely to send, and Smartified and Frostbite Falls possibly in the mix as well, Sky Soldier’s midpack style should get a good setup. His speeds have been solid for this group, and he has won his last two. He tries the polytrack first time here, but has a few works over the surface. He hasn’t raced since February, but trainer Dale Bennett wins at 22% (with positive ROI) with lays longer than three months. Thestarvingartist looks the speed of the speed, but can stalk as well. That versatility should help with other speed signed on here. He gets rider Florent Geroux back from his last-out win, and trainer Michael Stidham wins at 20% with last-out winners. With the scratch of Frostbite Falls, look at the other Ingrid Mason entry, Top Gato. He drops in from an ambitious placement last out, facing far more fitting company here. Ingrid Mason wins a quarter of the time with these larger class drops, and at 28% of the time with sprint-route-sprint patterns like Top Gato shows today. He should be able to stay out of any pace battle, and has done his best work going six furlongs.
Race 2: Maiden special weight ($24,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Candy Cate (4), Zipessa (3), Mauk Dirty to Me (1)
The road to this race goes through trainer Michael Stidham, who is 18% in maiden special weights and 23% on synthetic surfaces. Stidham’s Candy Cate was second last out behind Luvnotionnumbernine in her first polytrack start. That form was franked yesterday when Luvnotionnumbernine beat a salty allowance optional field. Jose Valdivia remains in the irons, and a repeat of either of her last two efforts should make her competitive here. Zipessa, Stidham’s other entry, is a first-time starter. She has a gap in her works between November and April, but since April she has been rattling off sharp four- and five-furlong works, suggesting readiness. City Zip babies win first out 15% of the time, as well. Rail-drawn Mauk Dirty to Me steps back up to special weight company from $50,000 maiden claiming company at Churchill last out, but trainer Ingrid Mason wins 22% of the time when stepping horses up from maiden claiming to maiden special. Her last race turned out to be solid enough, as both the second-place and third-place horses returned to win next out. She tries polytrack for the first time here; if she takes to it, she could contend.
Race 3: Starter optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, starters for a claiming price of $16,000 or less since January 1, 2014 OR claiming price $27,500, one and one eighth miles on the turf
Selections: Laythatpistoldown (6), He’s Dann Good (3)
I discussed this race in detail in this weekend’s Chicago Railbird. Original second selection Say Sonny has scratched. That scratch only helps Laythatpistoldown more; he looks to be even more likely to be lone speed. He’s Dann Good is the only one remaning who does not doe his best work from the clouds, and endorsing anyone else here is difficult at best.
Single Laythatpistoldown and move on.
Race 4: Maiden special weight ($24,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, six and a half furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Coco Gia (5), Dashful (4), Mango’s Muse (3)
Coco Gia races for the first time since October, and for the first time in the Frank Kirby barn. She has been working long and consistently since April, suggesting she will be fit here. She gets a rider change to Chris Emigh, who has brought a +$1.18 ROI in the last sixty days with Kirby. Dashful is a second-time starter for trainer Chris Block, who wins at 18% with second-timers. Though she steps up from maiden $25,000 to state-bred special weight here, that maiden claimer was not restricted by state of breeding, and Block actually wins races with horses on that sort of rise. Mango’s Muse, a first-time starter, has been working regularly since March, including her last four over the polytrack. Her trainer, Wayne Catalano, wins with debut runners a solid 19% of the time.
Race 5: $50,000-$40,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one mile on the turf
Selections: Pepon (2), Mendota (3), Mightylee (1)
Pepon wheels back after a race eight days ago against allowance company. This sort of wheelback is not something trainer Armando de la Cerda makes a habit of doing, but he looks well spotted here. He should be one of the few horses near the lead early. He has also hit the board on yielding turf, a plus given the wet conditions today. Mendota has a bit of a second-itis problem, but is the only horse other than Pepon who likes being on the front. Like Pepon, he can also rate. He was second against similar last out, in a race washed to polytrack. He cuts back to a flat mile here, and is plenty fast to do well against this crowd. Rail-drawn Mightylee will be a longshot, but showed life last out in his maiden win. The light may be on; if he runs back to that, he could be competitive here. His stalking style gives him a chance to keep the likes of Pepon and Mendota in range. These are gossamer threads, and this will be a big class test for him. However, as he is a shoo-in for longest shot on the board, the price will be right to find out.
Both Fort Dixie and Squared Away are racing for the first time as geldings, a point in their favour. However, they are both closing types. For those who like that angle, Squared Away is the more attractive of the two since he can sit a bit closer to the pace, but the pace setup does not look great for either of them.
Race 6: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of a race since November 30 OR N4L, one and one eighth miles on the polytrack
Selections: Badger Bay (9), Tall Grass Cat (2), No Time to Kid (10 – underneath)
Badger Bay is the only horse in this field who has a win going nine furlongs. He drops to his lowest class level yet, and comes in third off the lay. He is a midpack to closing type; with Quickhutch and Forafewdollarsmore being speed horses, and Tall Grass Cat and Gold Legion possibly in that mix too, he should get pace. He has back polytrack form that stacks up imposingly against this group, and if he can run back to that, beating him will be tough. Tall Grass Cat comes in third off the lay for trainer Larry Rivelli, who wins at 18% in that circumstance. He finished second against similar at a flat mile last out. He has never tried nine furlongs on polytrack, but finished second beaten half a length last year at that distance on turf. He gets a rider change to E. T. Baird, who has been riding very well as of late, and should be able to sit just off the can’t-rate types. I get one of my favourite angles staring me in the face here on a long shot: No Time to Kid is by Lemon Drop Kid, and there are few things I like better than playing Lemon Drop Kid babies going nine panels. However, No Time to Kid comes in off a layoff since November for a suspect layoff barn, and has not himself won off a lay longer than about two months. He seems like an undersides-at-best type, worth tossing into exotics if the price stays right.
Race 7: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, three years old OR N3L, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Shezasmittenkitten (1), No Flowers (9), Gondole (7)
This race does not have a ton of speed, with only the outclassed Bump Bump as a can’t-rate type, and Kana (who won last out, but never seems to string two good efforts) the only other possible to send. Shezasmittenkitten should be off the pace, but in range. Though she was well beaten last out, she also sent in that start; that took her out of her style. That was also a wash to poly. Assuming this race stays on the grass, she will be tough to beat; even if it washes off, she has a win and a third in three polytrack starts. No Flowers comes in second off the lay for Wayne Catalano, a trainer who wins at 20% second off. She drew outside, but has run some good races from outside posts. She can sit with the speed in range, and has a win at this mile and a sixteenth distance. Gondole will be a bit farther off the pace, but should not need a total meltdown. She ran a good second at this level last out, in her first start off a two-month lay. That was also at a flat mile; she won two back at this level, suggesting she likes this distance.
Race 8: $25,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, five furlongs on the turf
Selections: Gray Mensch (3), Rikco Man (7), Buddons (3)
From the Chris Ryan/Nicholas Meza team that brought you such bombs as Ballistic Tim and Josh comes Grey Mensch — a far more logical horse in a far more logical spot. He faces an easier group than last out, where he was second, and should be the inside speed in this dash. He also comes in second off the lay; his last effort would be tough to beat against these, so if he improves at all, these runners will have a hard time catching Gray Mensch. Rikco Man comes into this race on The Drop from maiden special weight to maiden claiming, the only one in the field with that angle. His one other start was in a polytrack sprint; he tries turf here. His half-siblings Three Alarm Fire and Medal of Valour both won second time out, and trainer Michael Stidham wins 19% of the time with second-time starters. Buddons starts for the first time today for trainer Jim DiVito, whose first-timers typically come locked and loaded. The gap in workouts between February and May gives some pause, so this one will be worth taking a good look at in the paddock. If he looks fit and healthy, he is worth a shot.