Opening-day spot plays at Arlington
Arlington begins its 30-day meeting Thursday, and here are a couple of picks for the opening program:
Six are set for the $12,500 maiden claimer at 5-furlongs on turf, and the five with experience are either camera-shy (morning-line favorite has recorded five seconds from six starts while tumbling down the class ladder) or have done very little running in the stretch of previous outings. I’m going with the first-time starter, #3 Better Than Pearls.
Purchased for $35,000 and by solid fourth-crop sire Atreides, Better Than Pearls is bred for turf on the dam side, with a number of classy performers in the extended female family. The 3-year-old filly has a half-sibling, No Play, who finished third at first asking in a Monmouth turf stakes, and trainer Jimmy DiVito knows how to get them ready (14% first-time out). Better Than Pearls recorded a quick 5-furlong breeze over the Polytrack in preparation last Friday, and she may receive a nice setup with three confirmed front-runners in the lineup.
#4 Shanghai Point looks like the controlling speed and doesn’t return in the toughest spot for Brittany Vanden Berg, who has won two of her last five starts off a 90+ day layoff. A hard-knocking gelding over the past two seasons, the 5-year-old appears to be training forwardly with a series of bullet workouts, including a half-mile move in :46 2/5 over the Polytrack last week, and the versatile runner performs well at the 5-furlong distance. It’s encouraging to see Chris Emigh, one of the top returning jockeys this meet, retake the mount aboard the speedster.
Eleven runners will square off in the $5,000 claiming event for non-winners of two lifetime, and #8 Jimmy At Last should relish the class drop after competing against better at Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park this year. He broke his maiden on Arlington’s synthetic track last summer and two starts ago, the DiVito-trained gelding finished third in a key $10,000 claiming race at Churchill, with the top two (Louie’s Kingdom and Uncle Gregory) both returning to win their next start by open lengths. Jimmy At Last should receive a good stalking trip in midpack with a fair amount of speed signed on here.
Crankshaft is the early 5-2 favorite for top trainer Larry Rivelli. The 5-year-old gelding shows a bullet work over the track, but I’m willing to take a stand against considering he disappointed in his last two starts over the Polytrack and will be making his first appearance since coughing up a clear lead in a third-place effort versus $4,000 claimers last August.