The Pizza Man headlines Million Preview Day at Arlington
Two of Saturday’s contests, the $125,000 Arlington Handicap (G3) and $100,000 Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3), have attracted 12 and 10 runners, respectively. However, five from each field – Five Green Stars, Greengrassofyoming, Pumpkin Rumble, Quiet Force and Roman Approval – are cross-entered to the other race, which could result in the Stars and Stripes ending up with only five competitors come post time.
Whether all 10 go or not, it would make no never mind to The Pizza Man, who is ready to defend his Stars and Stripes title off a fourth-place effort in the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on June 18.
The Roger Brueggemann trainee also ran a decent fifth in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) to open his seven-year-old season in early February, a little over a month after taking the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar in late November.
The Pizza Man put together his best season to date in 2015, capturing four of his six races and placing in the other one. Among the wins was both the Stars and Stripes and Arlington Million (G1), which was followed by a head second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). The English Channel gelding is seeking to regain that winning form in this spot and gets Robby Albarado in the saddle for the first time.
Roman Approval is one of the five cross-entered to the Arlington Handicap, but could show up in this spot to finally earn a first stakes victory and turn the tables on The Pizza Man. The Mike Maker-trained five-year-old led all the way in last year’s running until just nipped by a neck on the wire by The Pizza Man.
He competed in the American St. Leger instead of the Arlington Million last season and closed out 2015 with a half-length second in the Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
Roman Approval kicked off 2016 by changing his running style, rallying for close seconds in the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap (G3) and Fair Grounds Handicap (G3) instead of leading the way early. He’s continued to mix it up this season, and was third in the Louisville Handicap (G3) going the Stars and Stripes distance of 1 1/2 miles two back. Corey Lanerie has the call whether he goes in that latter race or the 1 3/8-mile Arlington Handicap.
Bullards Alley is entered in the Stars and Stripes only and brings a win in the Louisville Handicap into this, just his third graded try. The Tim Glyshaw pupil made a winning debut against stakes rivals in last year’s off-the-turf Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds, then was fifth in the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (G3) and eighth in the main-track Maxxam Gold Cup, both at Sam Houston.
The Flower Alley gelding wouldn’t face black-type rivals again until showing up for the Louisville ‘Cap, scoring by 2 1/4 lengths that day, and will try to make it three wins in a row here under Francisco Torres.
Kasaqui, Go Around and Messi are the top draws in the Arlington Handicap, and not one is cross-entered to the Stars and Stripes.
Kasaqui earned his shot here off a close second in the Wise Dan Stakes. The six-year-old gray fell in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) prior to that, which came after a half-length allowance score at Keeneland in April. Albarado was in the irons for the Wise Dan and retains the mount on the Lasting Approval horse for the Arlington ‘Cap.
Go Around and Messi are nearly tied with the highest BRIS Prime Power rating in the field, with the former registering a 154.9 and Messi showing a 154.6.
Go Around opened 2016 going two-for-two, including the Tampa Turf Classic Stakes, but faded to eighth in the Man o’ War Stakes (G1) last out after leading in the early running. Winner of that race was Wake Forest, who turned around and finished third in the United Nations Stakes (G1) last Sunday.
Messi captured the Knickerbocker Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park last fall before finishing fifth in the River City Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs behind Heart to Heart, who went on to take the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2) and Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) this season while placing in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1). Messi owns just one race this year, rallying to be third in the Fort Marcy Stakes (G3) at Belmont on May 7.
Jose Valdivia Jr. will ride the six-year-old gelding on Saturday while James Graham has the call on Go Around.
The Pizza Man photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos
Arlington Park is back in action, and with it comes the return of the popular Late Pick 4, featuring a 10% Bonus to all players who hit it on Twinspires.com.
#Let8Ride is also back for another season at Arlington Park. A new game starts every Thursday through the end of August.