Today’s Arlington card features a pair of stakes for state-bred sprinters. These two races are part of a late pick four already seeded with a $14,171.92 carryover. The card also features a maiden special weight for two-year-olds, and an allowance return for Purple Violet winner Wildwood Kantharos.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the card!
Race 1: $5,000 waiver claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of a race since February 1 OR N4L, six furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Betterbytheminute (4), Proud Jackson (3), Python (5)
Betterbytheminute may be the longest shot on the morning line, but he has something the rest of the field lacks: early speed. Given how well the polytrack has been playing for early speed, it is a dangerous weapon. Though has last few races ahve ben less than impressive, he won at this surface and distance four starts back — the last time he was able to strike the front by the first call. Proud Jackson has been able to run some good races in close range of the early lead, and should be primed to get first run on Betterbytheminute. He also comes in first off the claim for trainer Jere Smith; given what Smith has done to the form of Reigning Catfish since claiming him, he could have a positive effect on this one’s form, too. Python races for the first time since November, but faces significantly easier company here. He has been solid at the distance (3-2-0-0) and the track (6-2-1-1), and has been able to rally into races whose pace was not particularly fast.
Race 2: Allowance ($22,000 purse), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, non-winners of $9,800 twice OR non-winners of two state-bred races other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N4L, six furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Wildwood Kantharos (3), Case Cracker (2), Church Road (4)
This race has scratched down to a field of just four, and early speed in short fields is the gift that keeps on giving. Out of the four left, two are speedy types: Wildwood Kantharos and Case Cracker. Make sure to cover both in any multi-race bets, since the faster out of the gate will be the most likely winner. The edge goes to Wildwood Kantharos mainly because she should be a slightly longer price, and her recent form is a bit better. She stole the Purple Violet Stakes last out against three-year-olds, and cuts back to a sprint here. Older company is no problem for her; she has beaten older three times already. Case Cracker had some sharp races earlier in the meet, but was inexplicably flat as the odds-on favourite last out. Church Road has found her best this year on the polytrack at Arlington, rising through the claiming ranks and then clearing state-bred N1X last out. She has never finished worse than second on polytrack, and if Wildwood Kantharos and Case Cracker lock into a speed duel, she should have first run to pick up the pieces.
Race 3: Maiden special weight ($21,600 purse), two-year-olds, one mile on the turf
Selections: Yo Carm (5), Rich E Z (1), Cortege (7)
Yo Carm goes out for sharp first-timer trainer Chris Block, an 18% winner when his charges debut on turf. He has three five-furlong moves leading into this race, with a series of four-furling moves before that, suggesting he should be fit to go two turns on grass first out. Though none of his siblings have won first-out, dam Iolanda won at first asking for Block. Rich E Z has raced once. That race was a five-furlong polytrack sprint on a heavily speed biased day. Shogood won impressively that day, but Rich E Z closed to finish fourth — only 1 3/4 lengths out of second. He is the first runner out of his dam, but his dam did win second out, suggesting possible precocity. Cortege is a longshot pedigree play. The worktab is skimpy, though trainer Pavel Vashchenko wins with debut runners at a 13% rate — with a +$2.85 ROI. Cortege will be the likely longer priced of two Vashchenko entries in this race, but being by Leroidesanimaux out of a Giant’s Causeway mare, it will be worth taking a long price to speculate that he will like two turns on the green stuff.
Race 4: $8,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Hollow Creek (1), Free Fighter (5), Ice Climber (2)
In this paceless affair, Hollow Creek stands out. Especially after the scratch of Major Gain, he is the only one in the field who has shown much propensity for being anywhere near the front early. He also faces easier company than he has in his last couple of starts. Look for rider Carlos Montalvo to send him along the rail, play catch-me-if-you-can, and score his 1000th career victory right here. Free Fighter drops to the lowest level of his career. He has been hitting the board on polytrack against tougher in his last few starts, but he beat stiffer company back in May, the last time he wasn’t washed off the turf. The pace will not help him, since he is a dyed-in-the-wool off-pace type, but his consistency and turf form should get him at least in the money here. Among the rest, Ice Climber has the most appeal due to his recent form. He won at this level at a flat mile last out, and wheels back here just eight days later. He keeps blazing hot rider Jose Valdivia in the irons, and though the pace setup will be suboptimal at best, his 23-5-5-5 line on the Arlington grass suggests he always comes to run.
Race 5: Isaac Murphy Handicap, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, six furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Richies Sweetheart (2), Summer Again (4), Royal Posh (3)
For my full analysis of this race, read the latest Chicago Railbird.
Race 6: $16,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, N2L, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf
Selections: Ghost to Ghost (2), Veter (9), Away Westward (6)
Despite a field of ten, this race is another paceless affair. Ghost to Ghost has a few things to suggest he could make that pace today. Though his most recent races have exhibited a closing style, his only career win had him stalking close to the pace — with blinkers on. He goes blinkers back on today, and gets a rider change to Vicente Gudiel. Gudiel’s best game is to get the rail and send. That could be what Ghost to Ghost needs. Veter also makes a change with respect to blinkers, but takes them off here. He was a better horse with better late rallies without the blinkers. Since his last race, he has gotten a bit of a breather, but been working lights-out. He also gets a change to trainer Michael Stidham, who has recently taken over all of Mr. D’s horses from Neil Pessin. Finally, he gets a change to rider Jose Valdivia, who has been the hottest rider on the grounds. He is making all the right changes, and in a race that looks so wide open behind Ghost to Ghost, signs point to improvement. Finally, Away Westward gets a bit of class relief here. He broke his maiden three back in $25,000 company, and has finished third and fourth in $25,000 N2L company since then. His speed figures are among the best this field has to offer, and he races for the strong trainer/jockey pair of Scott Becker and Chris Emigh. The lack of pace in front of him is the biggest knock, but his recent form is enough to give him a strong chance.
If you are playing the late pick 4 (and, why wouldn’t you, with the carryover?), consider covering Eight Gauge as well, just on pace. He will be the longest shot on the board (or second behind Griffin the Great), and deservedly so. However, he has hit the board in four of seven at this distance on grass, and has sent on occasion. He also gets a rider change to Jerome Lermyte, who has been doing his best riding as of late. It is speculative — but if Ghost to Ghost does not send despite adding blinkers, there is an outside chance Eight Gauge will. For north of 30/1, possibly even 50/1, these distant flickers of hope may be enough.
Race 7: Addison Cammack Handicap, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, six furlongs on the polytrack
Selections: Sweet Luca (7), Recount (1), He’saruler (6)
For my full analysis of this race, read the latest Chicago Railbird.
Race 8: Allowance ($22,500 purse), three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, non-winners of $9,800 OR a state-bred race once other than maiden, claiming, or starter OR N2L, a mile and a sixteenth on the turf
Selections: Full Metal (10), Love You Mon (6), Peej (1)
Full Metal is the Block B entry. he comes in second off of a 21-month layoff. He was quite flat last out, but was facing open allowance company on the polytrack. Both of his polytrack starts have been dreadful; both of his turf starts have been sharp. He should not only be fitter second off the lay, but should be a new horse since this race stays on the grass. He will be forwardly placed, but should be able to outdo Divine Delivery, especially given the latter’s flat recent form against weaker. Love You Mon comes into here off of a game win against $50,000 beaten company, over this surface and distance. Though that was over yielding going, he has shown firm over better going as well. The combination of trainer Brian Williamson and rider Edgar Perez has been hot as well — a 26% win rate and a +$1.16 ROI over the last two months. Rail-drawn Peej is the Block A entry, and beat open allowance company last out. Here he drops among state-breds. He comes into this race second off a layoff, a 16% win proposition for Block. His stalking to midpack style should be good, too; if the speed gets a bit too feisty with Full Metal, Divine Delivery, and possibly Tall Grass Cat (if he finds one of his sharper efforts), he will be in a strong position to rally late.