The Fourth of July is upon us, and Arlington has a special twilight card before the fireworks. First post is at 3:20 today, instead of the usual 1:15, and there will be a fireworks display afterwards.
The stakes season also gets underway today, with the Purple Violet. The Arlington stakes season is condensed into just two months, July and August, but every Saturday through that time will be a stakes day. The Purple Violet drew an exciting and contentious field, as did many of the races today. In addition to the stakes race, there is also a maiden special with a host of interesting first-timers, as well as a pair of classy allowance races early in the card.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Race 1: $12,500-$10,000 claiming, three year olds and up, six furlongs on the polytrack, post time 3:20pm CDT
Selections: Surf Cast (7), Shere Khan (6), Thestarvingartist (4)
This race looks like a speed meltdown in the making. Of eight horses, six do their best on the front end, and the front end only: everyone but Surf Cast and Shere Khan. Surf Cast loves the Arlington track (8-3-1-2), and is a six-furlong specialist. He runs for Ingrid Mason and Julio Felix, a 33% trainer/jockey pair, and should be by far the best set to take advantage of the meltdown. Shere Khan is the only other one in the field who shows good off-pace form. He drops in class here, and stretches out to a distance at which he has won three times. Polytrack is the question, as he has never raced over it, but trainer Tammy Domenosky wins at 19% on dirt to all-weather moves. If he likes the surface, he could factor late. Among the front end, Thestarvingartist has some appeal to hold on for a piece. He has shown the ability to win races despite a duel, and races for blazing-hot trainer Michael Stidham.
Race 2: Allowance ($22,050 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allownace OR N2L, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 3:56pm CDT
Selections: Tocqueville (3), Cow Catcher (7), Wave of the Wand (7)
Be Playful and Dance With Kitten are likely to take a lot of money, and this may be a good race in which to spread in multi-race wagers. However, there are better price options in the field, and this race is wide open enough to offer some value. Tocqueville tried two turns for the first time last out, and responded by breaking her maiden. She ran on turf twice in Argentina, both times at one turn, and finished second once. The light may be on, and taking a solid price on trainer Michael Stidham and rider Mitchell Murrill (a 41% pair, with 65% in the money, over the last two months) could well be a gift. State-bred allowance stalwart Cow Catcher notches up in class to face Chicago-circuit open allowance company. She had a spate of second-itis through the winter, but won two straight in the spring, including a state-bred allowance here and an open allowance at Fairmount. She was third at this level in a sprint last out, but stretching back out to two turns should help her. This will be her first try on the grass, but Cactus Ridge babies win at 15% first time out. Dam Stop a Train has also produced a turf winner. Wave of the Wand looks to be coming back into form, and is third off the lay here. She is the speed of the speed, and there’s a good chance for speed to hold today. Unless Oh Wise One comes in blazing first off the eleven-month lay, Wave of the Wand should get the front, and should at least hang on for a piece.
Race 3: $40,000 Allowance Optional Claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $9,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred OR N3L OR non-winners of two races in 2015 OR $40,000 claiming price, five and a half furlongs on the turf, post time 4:34pm CDT
Selections: Royal Posh (8), Ready for Summer (7), Sugar Sweet (6)
There are two one-way speeds in this race, and they are both pretty fast: Richies Sweetheart and Adrianne G. With Adrianne G in the field, Riches Sweetheart is not going to get an easy enough time on the front end to justify taking chalk on her, even though she is returning to her best game (turf dashes). Time to play against her.
Royal Posh has shown solid form in turf dashes, and gets a rider change back to Santo Sanjur. Most of her best recent races have come with Sanjur aboard. Royal Posh should be able to sit off the pace, and take advantage when the speeds burn each other out. She should do it at a big price, too. Ready for Summer has been knocking on the door in allowances at Churchill, but should appreciate the return to Arlington. She has a 4-2-1-0 career line over the course, and a 9-2-3-1 line in turf dashes. She has won on the front end, but more recently she has been coming from off the pace, and running well. She should be able to stay out of the fight up front, and run at them down the stretch. She also gets a change back to Florent Geroux, her regular rider at Arlington last summer. Sugar Sweet comes in off of a four-month layoff, but won her last two at Fair Grounds. The form of that allowance she won last out was franked by Moonlit Stroll (GI-placed since then, albeit on dirt) and Sweet Basil going forward. The two poor performances over the Arlington grass last year are a question, but the price will be right to bet that she is just a better horse this year than she was last year.
Race 4: Purple Violet Stakes, three-year-old fillies, Illinois-bred, one mile on the polytrack, post time 5:14pm CDT
Selections: Tizgorgeous (3), Speak Up Sailor (4), Devil’s Rose (7)
Longshot: Lovely Island (8)
For my full analysis of this race, read the latest Chicago Railbird.
Since that was written, Hollarforadollar has scratched. That gives Wildwood Kantharos an outside chance, as the only dyed-in-the-wool speed remaining. The key word is “outside”, since she would have to run the race of her life to beat this set. However, Tizgorgeous has shown the ability to win a race from closer to the front that she did last out; that adaptability helps her, and she remains the top selection. If anything, the scratch of Hollarforadollar hurts Devil’s Rose a bit, if what she did last out was her best game. Still, she has enough upside to improve at a price, and possibly show another dimension (since this is only her second race), that she cannot be counted out.
Race 5: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N3L OR three years old, races where entered for $20,000 or less not considered for eligibility, five and a half furlongs on the turf, post time 5:54pm CDT
Selections: Three Cat Rules (5), Nowthatsalady (9), Creme Brulee (8)
Three Cat Rules spanked $16,000 beaten company last out, and moves up to $25,000 here. That last out was Mitchell Murrill’s first time on her, and he returns today. He and Steven Manley have won 7 of their last 13 starts together, with 9 of those 13 in the money — and a +$3.22 ROI. She may be better on the polytrack, but has finished second in three of eight starts on the Arlington grass, suggesting some affinity for the course. For a price, given her rider, bet that she finds that here. Nowthatsalady drops in class from starter optional company last out, and finished a close third at this level two back. She has the speed to be prominent early, but the versatility to avoid getting burned out if a fight ensues. With lots of horses who can do speed in this race, but no one who is a desperate one-way type, that will help her along. Creme Brulee has found her form in recent starts. After a tough allowance at Churchill two back, she cleared N2L against $25,000 company here going five furlongs. Three starts back she broke her maiden at five and a half; that was on dirt, but her last win was on turf. She gets rider Julio Felix back, who rode her to some decent seconds at Hawthorne last fall, and she has shown the ability to either come from off the pace or run well on a contested pace.
A note on Great Red Beauty (1): her form and speed fit very well for this group, but she has not won a race since September of 2013. The blinkers-off could help her along a bit, and the sharp worktab suggests she should be ready to run well here. However, she always seems to find ways not to win, and is best relegated to undersides of intra-race exotics.
Race 6: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, N3L OR three years old, races where entered for $12,500 or less not counted for eligibility, about one mile on the turf, post time 6:39pm CDT
Selections: Follow the Kitten (8), Sunshine Caris (6), No Flowers (3)
This is a paceless affair, and a race full of undersides-types. The only one who has shown much affinity for setting the fractions is Follow the Kitten. Though she rallied from well off the pace to win two starts back, she wired a maiden victory last year. The win two starts back also came at a mile on the turf. She comes for hot connections Michael Stidham and Florent Geroux. She also drops in class here, from $25,000 last out to $16,000. There are more gossamer threads here than anywhere else. Sunshine Caris is typically a closer, but has shown enough versatility in the past to stalk off of a paceless race, and keep herself close enough to be a factor. She finished a close third against similar at a mile on grass last out, as well. No Flowers was third as the favourite at this level last out, but that was in a race washed off to the polytrack. She runs better on turf than she does on poly, and was second in her only attempt so far at a mile on the grass. She usually comes from a little too far off the pace, but has a few races in which she has been closer. If she can stay closer up this time, similar to her maiden win, she has a shot.
Race 7: Maiden special weight ($21,600 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, five and a half furlongs on the polytrack, post time 7:24pm CDT
Selections: One Em (2), Coco Gia (3), Snow Mesa (8)
One Em debuts for 19% first-timer trainer Wayne Catalano. She has a regular worktab stretching back to May, and her connections had enough confidence in her to nominate her to today’s Purple Violet Stakes. She did not enter the stakes, but instead turns up to debut in this softer spot. Five and a half furlongs may turn out to be a bit short given her pedigree, but the strength of her connections should be able to carry her assuming she looks good and fit in the paddock. Coco Gia is the most experienced runner in the field; this four-year-old filly has five starts to date. She comes into this race second off the lay, and finished second behind Devil’s Rose in her first race back. Devil’s Rose is a legitimate contender in today’s Purple Violet Stakes. Coco Gia gets a rider change to the red-hot Mitchell Murrill. If she comes back to her form last year, she should be able to threaten here. Snow Mesa is another first-time starter, coming from the barn of 14% first-timer trainer Chris Block. She is the first runner out of Snow Diamond, an unraced full sister to Fort Prado. Second dam Fort Pond did win first out, and sire Sky Mesa’s babies win 13% first out as well.
Race 8: $25,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, three years old OR N3L, races where entered for $20,000 or less not considered for eligibility, six furlongs on the polytrack, post time 8:09pm CDT
Selections: Superstar Leo (8), Bumpy Cat (5), Purely Given (2)
In a race where the biggest question is how much pressure Tail Gunner Carl will get, Superstar Leo’s versatility of pace will help his chances. He has also shown form over the Arlington poly, with a win at this distance over it last year. He also drops in class from his last out; he finished third beaten less than a length in state-bred allowance company in his last appearance. That last outing was in November, but trainer Hugh Robertson has a solid enough 13% rate with runners in off three-month or longer lays, and he has a regular worktab stretching back to mid-May. If he returns to show the form he has last year, he contends. Bumpy Cat drops in class from $50,000 company last out. That proved too tough, but he finished second beaten a nose by similar company as this two starts back. That race was at six furlongs over the poly as well, just like this one. He keeps trainer Ingrid Mason’s “A” rider Julio Felix in the irons. He should be near the front, possibly one of the ones hassling Tail Gunner Carl early, but suggests ratability since he has hit the board from well off the pace. Purely Given comes in first off the claim for trainer Scott Becker, who wins at 23% in that situation. He has garnered both of his career wins at six furlongs, and though he has never won on poly, he has hit the board on it four times in six tries. He reverts to rider Chris Emigh, who guided him to a third place finish beaten just a head — going six furlongs on poly — in their last try together. Pacewise, he should not be right on the pace, but should be close enough not to have too much to do even if Tail Gunner Carl gets a fairly easy lead.