CLOSED BOOK EXAM.
Usually, handicapping is the opposite. It’s a game of information, and we have so much at our fingertips: past performances, race replays, the analysis of handicappers we know and trust. It’s as open-book as it gets, thanks in such a huge part to the Internet.
But, I decided to try a little exercise in memory, and in my feel for the circuit: handicapping the card with only the overnight, the list of scratches, and the knowledge that we’re off the grass today. I didn’t look at the past performances, and didn’t look at the morning lines. It’s all based on what I remember about each horse, jockey, and trainer.
It may turn out well. It may turn out to be a disaster, since my memory (as most people’s) tends to lapse at times. If it is a disaster or I do miss an obvious horse, feel free to laugh at me, or harangue me in the comments because of things I got wrong in my notes or logic.
Here are my notes — after all, if I decide to write about this experience afterwards, it would be nothing but redboarding were I not to post something beforehand about my picks and my logic. I also note my top picks in each race, and the horses I’m using in my Pick Fours.
Let’s see how this goes.
Plenty of speed has signed on here: Betty Grable’s Legs, Dayin Deauville, Appollos Baby Girl. Jennifer J used to have speed, but hasn’t shown it as much lately. She’s not as good on the poly, too, but she’s in as easy as she’s ever been. Betty Grable’s a bit better on the dirt.
Dayin Deauville very much the one to beat on her polytrack affinity, and how well the track plays for speed on hot, wet days. I’d single her. Last one off would be Time for Parading, who may benefit if the pace gets too hot and the track has less of a speed bias than usual on a day like today. But, short fields require singles when you can find them, and Dayin Deauville is probably just that good.
Use: Dayin Deauville (3)
Top: Dayin Deauville (3)
Among the seven races on the card, this is the one I have the least handle on.
I know Princess Izabella can show speed, and that could be dangerous on a hot, wet day over the Arlington polytrack. Taste of Raj has to be in there, too. She’s one of those Brave ‘n Away babies for the Hughes barn that just keeps firing and outrunning the odds on the polytrack. If I remember correctly, as well, Queen of Wildwood has been running against horses who are better than this. That would make her dangerous for trainer Scott Becker. The one who scares me a little bit is Spring Me, with Mitchell Murrill aboard — but I know nothing about the horse off the top of my head, and Manny Perez isn’t quite the force at Arlington as he is at Hawthorne. (Manny’s time, however, will come in the day’s finale — when he has the stone cold nuts with Betruetoyourschool.)
Use: Princess Izabella (1), Taste of Raj (5), Queen of Wildwood (6)
Top: Princess Izabella (1)
This race was carded for turf, but has been washed off to the main.
Block has two in here. I prefer Barb ‘n Don — she has plenty of precocity in her pedigree, and didn’t run badly at all earlier this meet behind an Edgar Perez horse (if I remember correctly), and Perez is super solid with lightly raced maidens.
My Domina is out of Peyote Patty, who was herself out of Runaway Emily A — making this the family of Awol Adam, Lil Cora Tee (dam of Lovely Loyree), etc. I understand starting at five furlongs as a debut, in a general sense, but I get the feeling My Domina will find her best going long.
I know nothing off the top of my head about either Good Wishes or Gift Giver Linda, so my opinions here are based completely on connections. For Good Wishes, Brian Williamson and Edgar Perez are connections you can trust in maiden races. Wesley Ward? Less so at Arlington. His horses tend to get overbet, and he doesn’t tend to send really good ones here for non-stakes races. Gift Giver Linda screams underlay.
City of Justice and Missimard round out the field. Rodolfo Aguilar does not do particularly well with maidens, so I’ll pass on City of Justice. If I remember correctly, Missimard has a recent start that was solid enough, and she should be something resembling a price in this short field.
Use: Good Wishes (1), Barb n’ Don (5), Missimard (6)
Top: Barb n’ Don (5)
This one-turn mile is not a particularly formful race: a lowest-level open maiden claimer. Flirtin Fool has shown at least a flash of form earlier this meet if I remember correctly. Street Smarty has some form way back; she’s not facing much here, but she’s likely to take a lot of money against this sort, and she keeps disappointing with these short fields, to make a ticket pay, you have to toss a chalk somewhere — and she has burned so much money to make her a good chalk to stand against. Charming Day is a perpetual undersides type, but it’s hard to think she’s going to figure it out. Zosia showed a bit at Hawthorne, but hasn’t really done so at Arlington. Ode to Smitten once showed speed, but hasn’t much lately. Sturn Donna once showed something resembling speed, but last out (when that may have won her the race) she took back. She’s a wild card. Keturah is also a wild card — I don’t know anything about her off the top of my head. Andrew McKeever does not run at Arlington too often, though, and Julio Felix has been solid enough this meet. She appeals as a newer face at this bottom level.
Use: Flirtin Fool (4), Keturah (5)
Top: Flirtin Fool (4)
This is a seven-furlong race — and seven on the polytrack should hit Don’t Split Tens right between the eyes. He did a mile on the poly last out against three-year-old Illinois-breds; the horse who beat him, Smoke ‘n’ Gloat, came back to romp against open three-year-olds earlier this week. The cut back to seven furlongs should be perfect (his sister My Option was a Grade 3 winner going seven on the Arlington polytrack), and Don’t Split Tens is the one to beat.
Steve Manley has a pair in here; Go Oshie Go has sharp early speed, and as such should be the bigger threat of the two.
Smokey Row Mac, going seven furlongs, is also a bit interesting. He’s better on dirt than on poly, but he’s whiz-bang at six and a half and has tactical speed. It’s interesting to see him turn up for Tom Dorris, though, as he was in the Manley barn for approximately forever. King of the Score also has some back form going an extended polytrack sprint, but at this point in his career this race is a bit above his head.
Use: Smokey Row Mac (4), Don’t Split Tens (6), Go Oshie Go (7)
Top: Don’t Split Tens (6)
This race was originally carded for the turf, but has been washed out to the main. The most interesting thing about it is the condition: specifically, that it is a straight up N2L instead of being an N1X. Arlington rarely runs these, so there’s a certain aspect of asking “for whom was this race written?”
The most likely suspect is Clever Serve for Wayne Catalano, since Catalano has such a presence at Arlington this year.
Stidham had a pair in here, but You’re Welcome scratched. He kept the better in (Sweetbaby), and Mitchell Murrill (his “A” rider) has the call.
The wild card is Havana Moon, shipping in for former Pletcher assistant Rodolphe Brisset. Brisset does not often ship here, suggesting this horse is well-meant. That said, the other horse he shipped here was a disappointment, so she’s a bit of a hard read.
Royalty Princess has speed, which is dangerous on the poly — but gets less dangerous in routes than in sprints, and this stretches out to two turns on the polytrack. She’s exposed as a five-panel horses, so she looks like a pace factor who will then fade. But? The scratch of Kalispell helps her, because Kalispell definitely has early speed as well. Dial the Doctor, I recognise her trainer as a Fairmount trainer, and don’t recall her much up north. Polytrack may be something she has to prove. But, Santo Sanjur won three on Friday, so he may have just caught fire, and the horse will be a price.
Use: ALL, after scratches.
Top: Clever Serve (4)
This has washed to the polytrack, and the field has been scratched to just four horses.
MTO Betruetoyourschool will be tough. She’s in great form right now, has sharp early speed, and should be able to outgun her stablemate She’s Pretty Cute.
Quick Study is in as low as she’s ever been, and Mitchell Murrill has been sharp since returning to the Chicago circuit this month. But, even so, she’s not worth doubling the cost of a ticket given Betruetoyourschool’s early speed and polytrack form. Tam is probably better on turf, and if I remember Sullyvin’s G G’s last out well enough, it was disappointing.
Use: Betruetoyourschool (8)
Top: Betruetoyourschool (8)