Picks and Ponderings: Princess La Quinta Breaks Through in the Arlington Matron

With a royal wedding dominating the news, it only makes sense that a princess would have her day.  And so it was today at Arlington International Racecourse, when Princess La Quinta drove past Daddy’s Boo to win the Grade 3 Arlington Matron.  The victory was Princess La Quinta’s first victory in graded stakes company — as well as the first graded stakes victory for trainer and co-owner James Gulick, as well as for her other co-owner Al Moorhouse.

Read on, and take a look back at the race, in my latest at Picks and Ponderings.

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Arlington Matron Preview

We’ve visited Pimlico to look at Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Day on Friday and Preakness (G1) Day on Saturday, but of course, there’s racing action going on in our backyard as well.  After a one-year hiatus during which it was run at Churchill Downs, the Arlington Matron (G3) has returned to the Chicago area.

The race will be run for the eighty-first time this year.  Now that it’s back at Arlington, the Matron is once again the only nine-furlong polytrack stakes in North America for older fillies and mares.   Several past and present local stakes namesakes have counted the Arlington Matron among their victories.  Pucker Up (1957) has a turf stakes run in her name on Aington Million Day, Old Hat (1965) still lends her name to an early-season sophomore fillies’ sprint stakes at Gulfstream, Sweetest Chant (1982) is the namesake of an early-season turf mile for three-year-old fillies at Gulfstream, and Hawthorne used to run a graded dirt route for older fillies and mares in the name of Sixty Sails (1974, 1975).   Another notable recent winner is Illinois-bred Grade 1 winner and millionaire La Tia (2014).

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Arlington Matron, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Preakness Week Picks and Ponderings

This is Preakness Week, and over at Picks and Ponderings, I look at the big races!

Friday’s card is anchored by the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for three-year-old fillies.  I preview that race horse-by-horse, and offer selections in the stakes races all day long.  Saturday is the Preakness (G1), which I also delve into horse-by-horse, and present my stakes selections all day long.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Matrooh Carries Connections to Career Milestones in the Hanshin Cup

Trainer Cipriano Contreras served for decades as an assistant in the barn of Chicago stalwart Michael Reavis.  Reavis has a reputation for being a shrewd claiming trainer, and when Contreras struck out on his own in 2016, Contreras began to write his own history of smart moves in the claiming game.

Today, Contreras set himself a high bar for success at the claim box.

On March 3, Contreras dropped a $25,000 slip for eight-year-old gelding Matrooh at Oaklawn.  The move paid immediate dividends for Matrooh’s new owners, Conteras (as Contreras Stable, Inc.) and Raul Bahena (as Crystal Racing Enterprises), as he ran down heavy favourite Guns Loaded in a sprint allowance in Hot Springs.  After that, Matrooh returned to graded stakes company, a level from which he has been absent since January 2016.  The ambitious move paid off, as Matrooh’s last-to-first kick got him home well clear in this afternoon’s Grade 3 Hanshin Cup.

Read on at Picks and Ponderings.

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Hanshin Cup Preview

The stakes portion of the season gets underway Saturday with the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup. This race was originally christened in 1941 for Equipoise, a Hall of Fame racehorse whose stakes wins included a pair of top-notch local triumphs: the 1933 Arlington Handicap and the 1933 Hawthorne Gold Cup. In its Equipoise Mile days, its winners included Hall of Fame inductee and onetime Arlington stakes namesake Swoon’s Son (1957, 1958), champion sprinter Smile (1986) and multiple stakes winner Better Bee (1959).  Better Bee went on to sire Abe’s Hope, the Illinois-bred winner of the 1966 Blue Grass Stakes, as well as his Maryland-bred full brother Bee Bee Bee, winner of the 1972 Preakness.  Its more recent winners have included durable fan favourites like Bonapaw (2002), Hogy (2013), and Nikki’s Sandcastle (2014).

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Hanshin Cup, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

2018 Kentucky Derby Preview and Saturday Stakes Selections

We’ve been following the trail all the way, but now, the Kentucky Derby is finally here.  The field is drawn, with twenty main entries plus one also-eligible.  The field is competitive, with a little something for everybody: fountains of raw talent yet to be forged in the fire, hard-trying and plucky sorts who have yet to prove best against the big boys, and everything in between.  (Well, except for a filly, anyway…Rayya had 40 points on the strength of a second-place finish in the UAE Derby, but she’s off to Friday’s Kentucky Oaks instead.)

Below, we dive into the Kentucky Derby field, horse by horse, and let you know our top picks and longshot.  Below our Derby analysis, there is a chart with selections and longshots for all seven stakes races at Churchill on Saturday.

Read on in my latest at Picks and Ponderings, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Kentucky Oaks Preview

Kentucky Derby week is here.  As always, Picks and Ponderings is on top of it.

This piece focuses on Friday’s action.  We’ll have a horse-by-horse look at the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, which drew a full field of fourteen.  The weather calls for some rain on Friday, so we’ll take that into account, and make notes on off-track acumen.  And, below, we’ll have our selections in all six stakes races on Friday’s card.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the 2018 Kentucky Oaks, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Dandy Gal, Goneghost, Recount Win Closing Day Stakes at Hawthorne

Hawthorne’s fifteen-day spring meet drew to a close today with three stakes races for Illinois-registered horses.

It was a red-and-green-letter day for the triumvirate of owner William Stiritz, trainer Scott Becker, and jockey Chris Emigh.  The three combined for two stakes wins today: Dandy Gal in the Third Chance Handicap, and Goneghost in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap.  Both stakes winners were homebreds for Stiritz, from the final crop of his longtime stallion Cherokee Rap.  They all three accepted meet titles, as well.  With ten wins, Stiritz claimed leading owner honours for the meet.  Those same ten wins brought Scott Becker the training title.  Emigh, with his pair of stakes wins on the final day of the meet, ended the spring at Hawthorne with a meet-leading fourteen victories.

Read on at Picks and Ponderings, and catch up with the end of the Hawthorne Thoroughbred season before moving across town to Arlington on Friday!

Picks and Ponderings: Older Illinois Horses (and Colour Guard) Take the Spotlight Saturday at Hawthorne

Saturday is closing day of the all-too-brief Hawthorne spring meet.  After Saturday, the Thoroughbreds migrate north to Arlington, the main track surface at Hawthorne gets swapped out again, and standardbreds take centre stage at 35th and Cicero.

However, closing day features a slate of stakes races for older Illinois-registered horses.

The card includes a pair of six-furlong sprints, the Robert S. Molaro for ages four-and-up, and the fillies’ complement, the Third Chance Handicap.  The mile and a sixteenth Milwaukee Avenue Handicap is open to Illinois-breds aged three and up; the lower age limit makes sense, as there was no two-turn stakes for three-year-olds at Hawthorne.  There was a fillies’ complement in the condition book, The Peach of It Handicap, but it did not draw enough nominations to go.  The Peach of It’s loss is the Milwaukee Avenue’s gain: a pair of top-quality Illinois-bred mares, Prado’s Sweet Ride and Babybluesbdancing, will challenge the boys.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s closing day stakes at Hawthorne, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!