Memorial Day Weekend is in full swing, and Arlington has an excellent Saturday card. It features eight races, including a pair of graded stakes. The card also features the first two-year-old race of the meet — and, to the relief of anyone playing an early multi-race wager, that race is the first of the day.
As of right now, the 3rd and 5th are off the grass, whereas the Arlington Classic and the finale are both on the grass still. These selections have been edited Saturday morning to reflect that, as well as reflect scratches.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the card!
Race 1: Maiden special weight, two-year-old fillies, four and a half furlongs on the polytrack, post time 1:15pm CST
Selections: Shackin Up (6), Roller Babe (1), How Sweet It Is (2)
The card begins with the first baby race of the Arlington meet. As with any race completely full of first-time starters — particularly one that starts the entire card (thank you, Arlington, for letting us look before we bet the multis!), final picks may be heavily dependent on looks and paddock demeanour. One of Larry Rivelli’s scratched (Tizway That Way), but the better of the two remains in the race — Shackin Up. Hot rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. gets in the irons, and half-brother Meadowood won first out. This horse will be odds-on, particularly with the stablemate out, but is the most likely win candidate. For anyone looking for value, Roller Babe intrigues a lot, enough to get a very, very long look in the paddock. He will need to look fit given the short worktab, and given trainer Steve Fridley’s less-than-excellent record with first-timers, but Daaher babies win 24% of the time first-out, and even better with two-year-old first-timers. If Roller Babe looks ready to roll, “take the Daaher baby as the longest shot on the board” is a good strategy. How Sweet It Is is one of two entrants for Scott Becker, who is starting to find his bearings again this Arlington meet. She is a two-year-old by Scat Daddy, a sire known for throwing precocious babies, and she has a long enough worktab to suggest she will be fit and ready here.
Race 2: $7,500 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of two races in 2016 OR N4L, races where entered for $5,000 or less not considered for eligibility, six and a half furlongs on the polytrack, post time 1:46pm CST
Selections: Kansas Queen (7), Bonnie Blue Eyes (5), Duel Fool (2)
Kansas Queen bloomed first-time polytrack last out. She faced weaker, $5,000 beaten company, but she rolled as easily as a horse who notches a bit up in class here should. Trainer Leonard Slager claimed her out of that start just last week — and Slager is a 27% winner first off the claim, and has already had success with a one-week wheelback this meet with Thundergram. She is fast enough, she can rate, and a repeat of her last has her right in this. Bonnie Blue Eyes is the truest six and a half furlong horse in the field, with three wins in five tries at the distance. The well-beaten fourth at Belterra last out gives some pause class-wise, but she has some recent good six and a half furlong races over the Turfway polytrack. She also gets top rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. aboard, a point in her favour. Duel Fool has hit the board in both of her tries over the polytrack, and has two wins already this year. She has been in good recent form against $5,000 company, good enough to make sense against this field. She has not tried six and a half furlongs yet, but her breeding suggests the stretch out should pose no difficulty.
Race 3: Allowance, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred OR N2L, one and one sixteenth miles on the polytrack (originally carded for turf), post time 2:17pm CST
Selections: Baltic Star (12), New Orleans Lady (7), Liar’s Smoker (6)
Baltic Star drew in as an MTO here. She is a dead closer, but has proven form being able to close on polytrack, including on speed-biased days. In five starts over the course, she has two wins and another two money finishes, suggesting consistency. Look for her to find her turn of foot again today, particularly if New Orleans Lady and G P’s Girl lock up in front. If one of those does get a good lead, though, it stands to be New Orleans Lady. Earlier this meet, going a mile on the poly, she blasted to the front and never looked back. She gets top rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. back in the irons from that start, and has a sharp work since that race. If she can handle the extra sixteenth of a mile, she could take it gate to wire. Finally, Liar’s Smoker gets a look on recent form. All four of her career wins have come at this distance, albeit on turf. She has only tried the polytrack once, but that was last year, and she is a stronger and more experienced horse now. If she can move her Tampa turf form to the Arlington main, Liar’s Smoker threatens here.
Race 4: $15,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, Illinois-bred, six and a half furlongs on the polytrack, post time 2:48pm CST
Selections: Caferina (4), Sacred Canyon (9), Refashion (6)
Caferina is making all kinds of changes: dropping from maiden special to maiden claiming, going first-time Lasix, stretching out half a furlong from last out. All of these changes are positive signs, particularly since her breeding suggests that a little more than the flat six furlongs she tried last out should suit her well. Sacred Canyon ran a solid second place against state-bred maiden special weight company in her only start on polytrack last summer. Returning to it, as well as re-dropping from maiden special to maiden claiming, should help her today. This is also her second start off a lengthy layoff, and she has had two works since that first start back. She should be fitter, and should be a threat. Refashion has run eleven times already, but only once on poly. In that start, she missed by just a nose on opening weekend against similar company as she faces today. She also keeps Jose Valdivia, Jr. in the irons, and tries six and a half furlongs for the first time in her career. She has a better shot to figure it out than most eleven-start maidens do.
Race 5: $25,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 3:19pm CDT
Selections: Mongolian Holiday (4), Scitech (13), Sudden Urges (6)
Mongolian Holiday is a first-time starter, but she has a very long worktab going into this start, and the pedigree to get the distance. In a race in which the likely chalk (Reloaded) has some poly form but likely distance limitations, this is the sort of race in which a new face appeals, and we’re going to take that new face here. Scitech is the MTO entry, but finished an okay fourth against maiden special weight company last out after running off in the post parade. He faces softer here, the softest of his career. If he can behave before the race, he should have enough gas to threaten this bunch. Sudden Urges has been laid off for over a year, but has a very long worktab leading into this start. He also comes into this race on the drop, with his two starts in 2015 coming against maiden special weight company at Gulfstream. The race will also be his first time trying a synthetic, and his first time with blinkers on. If he comes into this race as fit as his worktab suggests he should be, he should fit well against this modest group. The biggest worry is the odds — you don’t often see Bill Mott horses running in a $25,000 maiden claimer at Arlington, so the price might be depressed due to the trainer being such a name-brand shipper.
Stature gets a special note. He has shown good form on the all-weather, and should be used (even keyed) under in exotics. But, he is approaching that Career Maiden territory, and will provide no value on top.
Race 6: Arlington Matron Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one eighth miles on the polytrack, post time 3:50pm CST
Selections: No Fault of Mine (6), Brooklynsway (3), She’s Not Here (10)
For detailed analysis, read the latest Chicago Railbird.
Race 7: Arlington Classic Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 4:21pm CST
Selections: Yo Carm (9), Surgical Strike (4), Tequila Joe (12)
For detailed analysis, read my preview at Picks and Ponderings.
Race 8: Starter allowance, three-year-olds and up, starters for $8,000 or less since January 1, 2015, one mile on the turf, post time 4:50pm CST
Selections: Four Left Feet (8), Tapanna (2), Bull Market Richie (1)
Four Left Feet is an old local class horse who has been back in excellent form recently. He has won his last two starts. Though both of those wins came in dirt sprints, he has been able to win at two turns before, as well. Case in point, he scored going a mile and an eighth on the poly last year. He is relatively untested on the turf, having only tried grass once in his career. But, he is half to two winners on the grass, and his female family abounds with solid, dependable turf horses. He is also pace-versatile — though his last win came on the lead, he has a lot of back form as a midpack or closing type, and that is the side of Four Left Feet that should win his race. Another who should be able to get a strong run in is stalking to midpack type Tapanna. In four tries at a mile on the grass, he has never finished out of the frame: two wins, a second, and a third. He was claimed for $10,000 at Keeneland last out — but trainer Mike Stidham is a solid 36% winner first off the claim, suggesting he is shrewd in both selecting and placing his new charges. Bull Market Richie is another who, like Four Left Feet, can steal a race on the front end or unleash a sharp closing kick. Expect the latter here. Last out, he stole the Helicopter Warm-Up Invitational, a nine-furlong open $16,000 claimer, from his aforementioned stablemate. That said, in the race before that, he rallied from well off the pace to win by open lengths. His late pace is excellent compared to this field, and he keeps Chris Emigh in the irons from his two recent wins.