Saturday features a nine-race card at Arlington. Though the stakes portion of the season is on hold until Million Day, there are still some solid races here. They include a classy filly and mare allowance early in the day, a salty open claiming turf mile, and a contentious maiden special weight to end the day.
And, from start to finish, the card abounds with interesting price plays.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Best Bet: Church Road (race 2)
Longshots: D. Shifflett (race 5), I Hope It’s Chloe (race 7)
Race 1: $5,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of a race in 2016 OR N4L, races where entered for $4,000 or less not considered in eligibility, post time 2:00pm CDT
Selections: Kris Road (2), Velvet Zip (3/1), Rocksie Lucie (4)
There are a few speedy types in this race, including one-way speeds Read to Me and Ms. Zenergy. Kris Road will be forward, but she can also rate. She does her best work on the all-weather, and has been in solid recent form against similar foes. Velvet Zip comes in second off a long lay, but her race last out proved that she is at least close to the same horse she was before the lay. She gets a class break here. All three of her career wins have come at the distance, and if she takes to the polytrack footing, she should get pace to chase. Rocksie Lucie drops here after a solid second against slightly tougher last out. She has been second in her last two starts, both over polytrack, and should get a bit more to chase today than she did in either of those two outings.
Race 2: 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 allowance OR N3L OR claiming price $40,000, six furlongs on the polytrack, post time 2:34pm CDT
Selections: Church Road (4), Mi Fiori (2), Exquisite Lady (1)
This race is full of speed, speed, and more speed…except for Church Road. Church Road also loves the Arlington poly, as evidenced by her 13-5-5-3 record on the surface. Her recent form has been solid, as well. It looks a solid spot for her, and her 5/2 morning line would be square in such a speed laden field. Mi Fiori has early speed, but also has a rating gear. She showed that well two starts back when beating $50,000 claiming company over the polytrack. That victory came at this distance, as well. Though Mitchell Murrill was aboard that day, she gets a more than capable rider aboard in Jose Valdivia. Though they were sixth together last out, that came on turf, and Mi Fiori had some trip trouble bad enough to warrant the disqualification of a foe. Exquisite Lady aces for the first time in over a year. She is one-way speed in a speed-filled field — but she stands to be the speed of the speed if she returns the same horse she used to be. She has also shown some front-end fight, a plus given all the speed here.
Race 3: $25,000-$20,000 claiming, three-year-olds and up, one mile on the turf, post time 3:08pm CDT
Selections: Rocket Professor (4), Tune Me In (5), Heart Stopper (1)
Trainer Justin Johns had two in here. He scratched Sandia Crest, but left the original top selection: Rocket Professor. He is the only front-ender in a short field, making him very dangerous to wire. Two starts back he faced a bit tougher company, sent to the front, and just got nailed by Revolt. Revolt returned to hit the board against state-bred stakes company next out. He had no chance to outgun Rivzinthehouse last out, but gets a favourable setup again here. Tune Me In runs for the first time since January, but has fired sharply off a long lay before. The move out of the Jamie Ness barn is a bit of a concern, but trainer Roger Brueggemann has an excellent 21% win record off three-month or longer lays, and he steps down to face softer company here than he did in Tampa. With the scratch of Sandia Crest, Heart Stopper should get at least a share here. He has been in consistent form, and ran down a slower-paced front-end type last time out. He will be nowhere near his morning line, but in his current form and given his current running style, is difficult to see not finishing in the money.
Race 4: Allowance optional claiming, three-year-old fillies, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred OR N2L, one and one sixteenth miles over the polytrack, post time 3:42pm CDT
Selections: Bonita Cat (4), Yes Mongolia (1), Mongolian Shopper (6)
This race drew six, and four (Go Lady Jay, Construe, Moms Choice, and Mongolian Shopper) are all about the front end, with no clearly controlling speed. Bonita Cat should get an excellent pace setup. She also gets a serious class drop — she ran in the Iowa Oaks last out, and has not faced company this soft since appearances on the Chicago circuit her two-year-old year. The polytrack is a question, but with the class drop and a solid two-turn rider in Carlos Marquez, Bonita Cat is worth the gamble. Yes Mongolia is the only other real off-pace type in the field. She ran up the track last out with blinkers off and cutting back to a sprint, but here she puts them back on and stretches back out to a route. She also drops from three-and-up allowance company to straight three-year-olds, which should help her chances. Among the speeds, why not roll the dice with the Enebish Ganbat B entry, Mongolian Shopper? She broke her maiden last out, her second try on the polytrack. Though that came against softer — maiden $25,000 company — perhaps the light came on? That did come over polytrack, and she survived a speed duel to do it. Finally, the stretch to two turns might help her — being by Any Given Saturday out of a Dynaformer mare, the first-time route angle appeals at a price.
Race 5: Allowance, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L, one mile on the turf, post time 4:16pm CDT
Selections: D. Shifflett (6), Hero’s Highway (2), Act of Heroism (5)
This race completely lacks speed beyond D. Shifflett. Last time he tried five furlongs and ran into an up-and-coming turf dash buzzsaw named Incensed — but here he stretches back out. Three starts back, he was beaten just a neck going a mile in the slop against allowance-optional types at the Fair Grounds. Here, he gets the pace advantage, and he has hit the board in both of his turf tries. Give him a shot. Beyond him, it is the Louie Roussel pair that looks toughest. Hero’s Highway has rallied from well off the pace in his last two starts, but sat closer to the pace on debut and was beaten just a neck Here he comes third off the lay — a circumstance in which Roussel wins at 35%. Assuming he can stay a bit closer up, he could be D. Shifflett’s biggest threat. Act of Heroism is as dependable as it gets against similar company — he just doesn’t win much. He did win two back against $50K/$30K N2L company, a group very close in skill to this one. But, his pile of second-place finishes make him a bit more questionable than his more lightly-raced stablemate. Still, he has shown some more tactical placement at times, and gets a return to top local rider Jose Valdivia, Jr.
Race 6: $10,000 Claiming, three-year-olds and up, N3L OR three years old, races where entered for $6,250 or less not considered in eligibility, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 4:50pm CDT
Selections: Turbulent War (4), Flying Butterfly (3), Poker Player (2 — underneath)
Turbulent War has only tried grass once, but there is enough to suggest this is where to try him there again. He is a condition book horse here, with four wins, including one two back. He faced tougher last out — $16,000 beaten — and rallied for third. He loses rider Mitchell Murrill from that (Murrill is at Woodbine riding Forest Circle in a juvenile stakes), but gets Jose Valdivia. Valdivia does well with front-enders and turf, and the only other mount that trainer Tammy Domenosky has sent Valdivia recently was last week’s sharp maiden winner Strict Observance. Flying Butterfly is one of two for trainer Pavel Vashchenko, who has been sending sharp runners first of the lay with extreme regularity. Cut Boy is a shorter price on the morning line, but will have to deal with Garrison Commander and perhaps even Turbulent War up front. Flying Butterfly will get to close into that. Though rider Olaf Hernandez has not typically been hot this meet — his horses for Vashchenko have been live, and this looks no different. Flying Butterfly is also a condition book horse, with three wins under his belt. Turbulent War and Flying Butterfly are the real win candidates here, but Poker Player merits use under. With some speed to close into, he is a closer who fires regularly enough to rally in for a share in the exactas. He was third against similar last time, and should get a better setup than he did in that outing.
Race 7: $25,000-$20,000 maiden claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 5:26pm CDT
Selections: I Hope Its Chloe (2), Telling Metzie (3), Red Hot Cherry (8)
I Hope Its Chloe gets a switch to E. T. Baird for the first time in her career. Though she hasn’t showed much speed recently, she has flashed it earlier. Baird may bring that back out — and even if he doesn’t, he rides maidens well in general, and I Hope Its Chloe has also shown some late rally at times. She also comes in second off the lay. They are gossamer threads…but with no one in the field to love, a top maiden jockey, and a trainer who occasionally pops at a price, why not try a bomb? Telling Metzie looks the most logical candidate here. Blinkers off makes her a bit less likely to get the lead (perhaps leaving the opening for Baird to get I Hope Its Chloe there), but she has shown some speed in her back lines, and could get there again. She drops to the lowest level of her career, and gets top rider Jose Valdivia in the irons. Her only try on grass came against significantly tougher, making her liable to do better here. Red Hot Cherry comes here second off the lay for trainer Pavel Vashchenko, a 18% winner in this circumstance. She was third at this level last out, and this looks a somewhat softer field for the level than her last out was. Red Hot Cherry may need a bit of speed to materialize in front of here, but if it does, she will be dangerous.
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 in eligibility, one mile on the turf, post time 6:00pm CST
Selections: Cruachan (8), In the Chamber (7), Chicory Blue (3)
Cruachan comes in first off the claim for trainer Ingrid Mason, whose charges win at 23% of the time in that circumstance. This is a tougher field than he beat last out, though it shows plenty of confidence for Mason to claim him for $12,500 and then send him here for twice the price. But, he should get some pace to attack with multiple one-way speeds in the field. His speeds are competitive, he has a strong record at the distance (15-4-5-3), and his eight career wins make him a cozy condition book fit. In the Chamber returns for the same $25,000 tag for which trainer Armando de la Cerda took him last out, though for a saltier condition. Still, he beat N2L types with a confident last-to-first move — he had their measure. His speeds are competitive despite the tougher condition, and he will get something to chase. And, even if it (unexpectedly) gets slow, he has enough versatility to run well from close to the pace, too. In the Chamber does his best work at this flat turf mile, and would be no surprise here. Chicory Blue has been in solid recent form. He won against $16,000 beaten company two back, and winner Lassell returned to win next out. Last out, he was fourth against similar, but he was only beaten a length all told. The cut back to a mile is a question, as he has never tried a flat mile on the grass. But, the level is right, and could well get first jump on the leaders.
One note about Youve Got a Friend. Getting Jose Valdivia is a positive move, and it stands out that Valdivia turns up here and not on Chicory Blue. But, he is difficult to trust on top, given how often he finds ways to finish second or third, and given his shaky turf form so far. He belongs underneath, but take a pass on top.
Race 9: Maiden special weight, three-year-olds and up, Illinois-bred, six and a half furlongs on the polytrack, post time 6:30pm CDT
Selections: Two Gun Jak (7), Matt’s Magic (9), Maximum Charges (10)
Nutsandhoney, the morning line favourite here, is the gift that keeps on giving. He keeps taking money, and keeps finding ways to finish second or third. Perhaps he’ll prove that wrong one of these days, but he will not do so with a dime of Blinkers Off’s money on his nose. Use him — even key him — underneath, but there are so many other ways to go on top here.
Two Gun Jak makes a lot of sense here. He steps up in class from $25,000 claimers to state-bred maiden special, but the move makes perfect sense. He was a solid second in that debut effort, with a Brisnet speed figure better than anyone else in this field has ever mustered on poly. The extra distance should also suit, as he is by Kitalpha. Though he loses Edgar Perez to Harlanday (trained by Brian Williamson, who uses Perez first-call), he gets Carlos Marquez in the irons. This rings huge alarm bells — he is trainer Chris Block’s first-call rider this meet, and though Block has two runners here, Marquez instead turns up on Two Gun Jak. The trainer also weighs in favour here, as Roger Brueggemann does well with both second-time starters, as well as horses moving from maiden claimers to special weight.
Matt’s Magic looks like the speed of the speed here — and the rider change to E. T. Baird is particularly positive because of that. It also stands out that Baird turns up here and not the likely shorter-priced Resilient Rick. There are also a couple reasons he could be better here than last out. He comes here second off a layoff. He was also using a lot of energy in the paddock before his last start. Should he behave better this time around, and save more energy for the actual race, he may be able to take this group a long way, or all the way. Maximum Charges also has a right to improve. He debuted last out, and was an even worse paddock actor than Matt’s Magic, even getting loose for a moment. Yet, he pressed Matt’s Magic that day, and was not a terribly well-beaten fifth. He also gets first-time Lasix here, and is out of a dam who produced a second-out winner.