Making one full trip around the Arlington Park
oval this Saturday are the entrants of the 79th Washington Park Handicap
. Workin for Hops
and General Quarters
are two of the bigger names entering the event which has been dominated by Mike Stidham’s Gran Estreno each of the last two years. Hopefully one or two of these horses get a crack at the Breeders' Cup Classic! Anyway, let’s take a look at the field and see if we can pick a long shot
#5 Workin For Hops
Trainer Mike Stidham goes for three in a row in the Washington Park Handicap with his entry Workin For Hops. This horse favors longer distances as some of his best races have been at 1 1/8 miles and greater. He did finish a career worst 10th two races back on a good turf at Woodbine and finished 4th in his recent start at Monmouth. Don’t let that fool you
though, Hops is a perfect 2-for-2 on Arlington’s polytrack and has not missed the board on the surface. He has been working great lately and definitely figures to contend here. He could also represent what little pace there will be in this race, and if speed holds he could easily cross the wire first.
#4 Dark Cove
Shipping in from Saratoga, Junior Alvarado rides for Kenny McPeek on Dark Cove. Cove, winless since April 28 at Keeneland, has been finishing off the board in recent races. He finished 6th in a restricted stakes race at Saratoga on August 5th, and 6th again in the Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap on July 9th and he hasn’t fared well in graded stakes company. Should we throw out this horse then? Perhaps not as he has twice on synthetic at Keeneland with one of those wins at the 1 1/8 mile distance, however I may be looking elsewhere.
#8 Mister Marti Gras
As I’ve said before, no stakes race taking place in Illinois would be complete without an entry from Chris Block and this race is no different. Usual Block rider Eddie Perez takes the mount for Mister Marti Gras, a horse that has been working out regularly at Arlington since taking a break after his last race on July 9th. And what was that last race on July 9th? I’m glad you asked. He finished 2nd to Arlington Million participant Tajaaweed in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap
closing in hard to miss only by 1 ½ lengths. I think Marti runs well mainly on the turf and would only include him underneath in exotics.
#7 General Quarters
Making his third start of 2011, General Quarters has been working out great since July 4th when he last ran in the Grade 3 Firecracker at Churchill Downs where he finished 7th. I know that was a disappointing finish, but I’m not sure he likes the turf even though he did win one race on the grass. GQ is no stranger to the synthetic surface however as he has hit the board 2 of 3 times, winning the Bluegrass at Keeneland in 2009. That was quite a while back as you know but I still think he can contend in Saturday’s race as the longer distance should help him and he should get a good trip sitting just off the pace.
#3 Color Me Blue
Local entry Color Me Blue is a polytrack machine
winning 3 of 6 starts and finishing in the money four times on that surface. This 5-year-old gelding has won half of his races with much improving form as he won and just missed by a neck at the N2X level. The jump to graded stakes might be a bit steep but the horse loves running in Chicago and he could definitely get up to surprise.
Another horse that could get up to surprise at the wire is Gerard Butler’s Maristar. If you forgive the effort in the Trillium at Woodbine on June 25th then you'd have a horse that has won his four other recent starts. Not bad, eh
? Jumping up into Grade 3 company may scare you a little but he has won 5 of 8 races on synthetic surfaces AND has been working out very well recently. I would definitely include this horse on your tickets.
Rounding out the field is Gerard Butler’s other entry #2 Burj Alzain
(12-1) and Indiana
shipper #6 Hoosier Kingdom
My top three selections for this race (in no particular order) are Workin For Hops, Color Me Blue, and Maristar.Who
are your selections?