The Player’s Edge – May 24, 2013: Arlington Park & Churchill Downs

Profile Picture: Matt Carter

Matt Carter

May 24th, 2013


Photo: Ken Smith

Arlington Park - Arlington Matron


Arlington Park – Hanshin Cup


Arlington Park – Arlington Classic


Churchill Downs – Louisville Handicap


Arlington Park – Arlington Matron Fillies and Mares on the Poly

The summer stakes action at Arlington Park gets underway this weekend with three graded stakes races on the card. First up is the Grade 3 Arlington Matron for fillies and mares at nine furlongs on the main Polytrack.

Of the nine runners in the field eight of them have started and won on a synthetic surface. Of those eight, only four have won at Arlington Park. With a wide open field, we start there.

Ausus and Hooh Why are the two "horses for courses" with four wins combined in 11 starts. The pair also have between them four seconds and one third. No matter what, they are must uses in any trifecta and superfecta play.

Hooh Why gets top billing because of her back class. While Ausus was run off the board in the Grade 1 Jenny Wily on the Keeneland turf, Hooh Why is a graded stakes winner and she has been in-the-money in 23 of her 32 career synthetic starts. She was second last year in this race behind the classy mare Upperline and was second in the Grade3 Ontario Matron over the Polytrack at Woodbine. She can set the pace or she can stalk or she can come from way out of it and if you don't know who jockey E. Esquivel is, you better learn fast. He is hitting at nearly 20% for the current meet.

On paper, Hooh Why is likely to take off the pace and that is due to the presence of several other pace players. Ice Cream Silence drew post two for the $150,000 race and just won the Grade 3 Doubledogdare at Keeneland in near wire-to-wire fashion. In her only other route victory, the daughter of Street Sense was one length off the pace at the half call.

Sisterhood and Lotta Lovin finished behind Ice Cream Silence in the Doubledogdare and could be worth a bet if they are overlooked in the wagering. Sisterhood basically chased the leader around the track and was making up ground late while Lotta Lovin made an early move then flattened out. The pair should have a better early scenario to make a late run.

Diva's Diamond has five runs over the Polytrack at Arlington Park with one win and four seconds. She comes off a game neck victory in an Illinois-bred stakes race over the Hawthorne dirt track and is making her first start at Arlington since August 2012. One of her second place finishes over the track was to Imposing Grace, who is also entered in the Matron.

Imposing Grace has come from off-the-pace in her last five starts dating back to December, but prior to that her best races were when she was able to dictate the pace. She broke her maiden at Arlington wire-to-wire and won an allowance race at Churchill Downs with the lead after a half. Not sure why she has not shown that early foot this year, but that may play to her advantage on Saturday.

Distorted Legacy and Absolute Crackers are the final two in the race and even though they don't win a lot, the pair have been in the top three in 19 of their 33 combined starts. Distorted Legacy was second in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl over the Belmont turf in October 2011, but has only made six starts since then.

Scheduled post time for the Arlington Matron is 5:08 pm ET, which starts the 50-cent pick-5.


Arlington Park – Hanshin Cup Nates Mineshaft Returns

The second of the trio of graded stake races on Saturday at Arlington Park is the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup for three-year-olds and upward. The race marks the return of Nates Mineshaft, who is running for the first time since narrowly being defeated in the Grade 1 Foster Handicap in June 2012.

Last year Nates Mineshaft went from a claiming horse, he could have been claimed for $25,000 in December 2011 at Fair Grounds, to a multiple Graded stakes winner. Interestingly enough his first stakes win was in the Mineshaft Handicap, also at Fair Grounds. Last year he also won the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap and Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap. In the Foster, Nates Mineshaft did all the dirty work early, but was just overtaken in the late stages by two pretty good horses Ron the Greek and Wise Dan.

It's possible the six-year-old will need a start and synthetics are still a question mark; he has one run over a similar surface at Turfway Park, but that was in a sprint back in December 2011. Another hurdle to overcome is the perceived anti-speed bias on synthetic tracks and the presence of other speed in the race.

Seruni has made three starts on synthetics with one second and one third, but he is coming off a dominant win in a highly rated allowance race at Churchill Downs. The Saint Liam gelding sat off the early pace then powered home to win going away. He has been training over the Polytrack at Keeneland so the Arlington surface should not pose a problem. Seruni also has in his corner a trainer who has won with 38% of his synthetic starters.

Scatman is one of the probable pace players stretching out to two turns after two straight sprints. The son of Scat Daddy last won a race in November and his last two wins were done on the pace. Not sure; however, if nine furlongs is his best distance.

Hammers Terror, Night Party and Hogy are the other pace players, all three also going sprint to route. Hammers Terror last won over the Canterbury turf in July 2012 while Night Part won a small stakes race over the Polytrack at Turfway Park in December. Hogy has the most recent win, a six furlong sprint over a sloppy and sealed track at Hawthorne. Hogy is the only one of the three with a win at Arlington.

The horse that may be worth a gamble at odds is Patrioticandproud for trainer Mark Casse. The four-year-old Proud Citizen colt gets back on a synthetic surface where he has been in-the-money eight of nine starts. He was second in the Grade 2 Autumn at Woodbine last November and won an allowance race at Keeneland two start back with a bold blitz to the front. He bombed in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill, but that was on the dirt. Tab for a smasher.

Post time for the Hanshin is 6:08 pm ET.


Arlington Park – Arlington Classic Three-Year-Olds on the Turf

The final stakes race on the Saturday card at Arlington Park is the Grade 3 Arlington Classic for three-year-olds on the turf. It is the first stop on the way through the Mid-American Triple, which also includes the American Derby and Secretariat Stakes. Saturday’s Arlington Classic drew a field of 12; let’s take a look.

The morning line favorite for the eight and one-half furlong race is Admiral Kitten, who is coming off a good second place finish in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs. Admiral Kitten finished just under two lengths behind the race winner Noble Tune, who is expected to start in the $500,000 Penn Mile at Penn National on June 1.

Next on the morning line are Procurement, Fordubai and General Election, all with chances to upset the favorite.

Procurement was an easy winner of the La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita in his last start and has won half of his six career starts on turf. Two of his three wins were with jockey Garrett Gomez in the irons and he will ship in for the ride on Saturday.

Fordubai has been first or second in four of his five lifetime starts including a second place finish in the Illinois Derby on the dirt at Hawthorne. The son of E Dubai broke his maiden on the turf in November so the surface switch should not pose a problem. Jockey Kent Desormeaux has gotten off to a hot start at the meet winning 22% of his starts.

By Harlan’s Holiday, General Election will be making his turf debut on Saturday, but is bred to handle the grass and was second in the Grade 3 Lexington over the Polytrack at Keeneland. He has turned up the pressure in the mornings since the Lexington with two solid workouts and with the chances of him being overlooked; General Election could very well out run his odds.

Bambazonki and Yorkshire Icon are next and are two long shots that could hit the board at solid prices.

Bambazonki broke his maiden over the Arlington turf back last September and was sixth as one of the betting choices in the Grade 3 Trannsylvania. Often horses don’t handle the turf course so Bambazonki will appreciate the return to his home turf.

Yorkshire Icon just won an allowance race over the yielding Arlington turf paying $58. The British-bred colt began his career overseas and won two of nine starts for trainer Ann Duffield. He looks like a horse that needs a big pace battle to show his best and that may not happen this weekend.

Brown Almighty, Gefest, Bells Big Bernie, Dorsett, Whiskey Bravo and Bobo round out the field and would create a huge payout in the multi-race wagers. Brown Almighty started his career in style, but has yet to regain that winning form in his last six starts.

First post on Saturday at Arlington Park is 2:00 ET with the Classic scheduled for 6:38.


Churchill Downs – Louisville Handicap Grade 3 Turf Marathoners

The feature race on Saturday at Churchill Downs, and it’s already been three weeks since Orb splashed home in the Derby, is the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap for three-year-olds and upward going the marathon distance of 12 furlongs on the turf. The race drew a field of nine; let’s take a look.

While there are no big standouts in the race, it does look like several horses will take most of the wagering action. The big three look to be Atigun, Dark Cove and Najjaar. We start with Atigun, who drew post four.

Atigun was well regarded last year as a three-year-old with starts in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, Grade 1 Travers and Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup; however, he was no better than third in those four races. This year he was third in the Grade 3 Razorback then seventh of ten in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap before he stepped on to the Churchill turf course where he responded well with a wire-to-wire victory on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Now that was an allowance race and the turf was not exactly firm, but he did it well and can get the 12-furlong distance.

Another horse that will have no problem getting the distance is Dark Cove, who just won the 12-furlong, Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland in dominant fashion. Trainer Michael Maker had a huge meet at Keeneland and has continue the hot hand at Churchill Downs. Expect jockey Rosie Napravnik to be close to the early pace from the get-go.

Najjaar has only two wins in his 12 lifetime starts with four seconds and two thirds on the resume as well. The four-year-old son of Jazil makes his first start at this distance, which is odd because his sire won the 12-furlong Belmont as a three-year-old in 2006. Najjaar has the same owners as Jazil, Shadwell Stable, and they are hoping to have another marathon winner in their stable. Hopefully the jockey can time his ride just right and there does appear to be some pace in the race. In addition to Atigun and Dark Cove, Harrods Creek and Ioya Bigtime should be pressing the pace.

Harrods Creek makes his first start since winning the restricted John’s Call at Saratoga in August, a race that is a furlong longer than the Louisville Handicap. The six-year-old Langfuhr horse finished fourth in this race last year.

Ioya Bigtime is a two-time Grade 3 winner with wins in the Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs and the Stars N Stripes at Arlington Park. Those two races were back in July and September of last year and he is currently riding a five race losing streak. Ioya Bigtime was the favorite against Dark Cove in the Elkhorn, but finished ninth of 11, beaten over 15 lengths. Forgive that start and he makes sense if he can get an easy pace.

The wildcard in the race is Heathcote, the Ontario-bred gelding who is making his first start since winning the Grade 3, 14-furlong, Valedictory Stakes at Woodbine in December. Like some of the other favorites, Heathcote like to do his running on or near the pace and that may just not be the spot to be on Saturday. Looks like Najjaar has a ready-made pace to run into.

Rounding out the field are Prime Cut, Mack’s Blackhawk and Al Qasr.


Thoroughbred Racing Action

Great racing action from across the country this weekend.  Watch these races all on

Saturday– May 25
  • Arlington Park:  Arlington Matron - G3, $150,000, 3yo & up f&m, 9f
  • Arlington Park:  Hanshin Cup Stakes - G3, $150,000, 3yo & up, 8f
  • Arlington Park:  Arlington Classic - G3, $150,000, 3yo & up 8.5f turf
  • Churchill Downs:  Louisville Handicap - G3, $100,000, 3yo & up, 12f turf
  • Hollywood Park:  American Handicap - G3, $150,000, 3yo & up, 8f turf
  • Monmouth Park:  Majestic Light Stakes, $75,000, 3yo & up f&m, 8f 70y
  • Calder:  Memorial Day Handicap, $75,000, 3yo & up, 8.5f
  • Woodbine:  Lady Angela Stakes, $125,000, 3yo f, 7f
  • Woodbine:  Nassau Stakes - G2, $200,000, 3yo & up f&m, 8f turf
Sunday – May 26
  • Hollywood Park:  Great Lady M. Stakes, $70,000, 3yo & up f&m, 6f turf
  • Emerald Downs:  Seattle Handicap, $50,000, 3yo, 6.5f
  • Woodbine:  Connaught Cup Stakes - G2, $200,000, 4yo & up, 7f turf
  • Woodbine:  Marine Stakes, $150,000, 3yo, 8.5f
  • Monmouth Park:  Miss Liberty Stakes, $75,000, 3yo & up f&m, 8.5f turf
  • Monmouth Park:  Monmouth Beach Stakes, $75,000, 3yo & up f&m, 8f 70y