Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Arlington Classic Preview

The Arlington Classic has been run in some form since 1929, though it has only been run on grass since 1994, and at its current distance since 2002.  It began at the American Classic distance – a mile and a quarter on the dirt — but has been run at distances as short as a mile.  It has been limited to three-year-olds through its entire history except for 1977, when it was run as the Arlington Classic Invitational Handicap, and was open to the handicap division.  A pair of Triple Crown winners count the Arlington Classic among their victories — Gallant Fox (1930) and his son Omaha (1935).  Alydar (1978), second behind Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races, found the winners’ circle here as well.  Other top horses who counted the Arlington Classic among their wins include Hall of Fame inductees Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Swoon’s Son (1956), Buckpasser (1966), Dr. Fager (1967), and other Champions T. V. Lark (1960), Tom Rolfe (1965), and Smile (1985).

Nowadays, the $100,000 race is the first in Arlington’s series of sophomore turf races.  It serves as a local prep for the American Derby (G3) on Ride to the Million Day (Saturday, July 7), which in turn prepares runners for the Secretariat Stakes (G1) on Million Day (Saturday, August 11).

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

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!