Photo: Heidi E. Carpenter
As eyes were turned to California Chrome and his upcoming attempt at Triple Crown history, a filly quietly made history of her own in the first leg of the Mid-America Triple at Arlington Park on Saturday. Consisting of the Arlington Classic (Gr. III) in May, the American Derby (Gr. III) in July, and the Secretariat Stakes (Gr. I) in August, the Mid-America Triple is Arlington Park's turf response to the traditional Triple Crown races.
The Arlington Classic card also included the Arlington Matron (Gr. III) and Hanshin Cup (Gr. III), both for three-year-olds and up.
(Above & below) An allowance optional claiming turf sprint won by Frabster (4).
First-time starter Underhill Drive wins a turf sprint for maiden fillies.
Underhill Drive's groom waits for the filly by the winner's circle.
The favorite for the Matron, Illinois-bred La Tia had won 5 of 9 lifetime starts at Arlington Park leading up to the race.
Bred and owned by Darby Dan Farm/Phillips Racing Partnership, Moment in Dixie had shipped in for the Matron.
Frivolous, a lovely Empire Maker filly, was coming off an allowance win at Keeneland.
(Above & below) Under E. T. Baird, La Tia (3) broke alertly and took the lead without fanfare.
(Above and below) Once in the stretch, La Tia opened daylight on the field and won by 6 lengths over Frivolous. The princess of Arlington Park had returned!
E. T. Baird's smile said it all!
As the winner of last year's edition of the race, Hogy was the favorite for the Hanshin Cup.
A regular on the Illinois circuits, Mister Marti Gras was entering the Hanshin Cup with 37 starts under his girth.
In an exciting stretch drive, Nikki's Sandcastle--in his 40th start--held off Mister Marti Gras to win the Hanshin Cup. It was wonderful to see the two chestnut veterans finish 1-2.
Nikki's Sandcastle, Leandro Goncalves up, heads to the winner's circle.
Tiger Bourbon, by Big Brown, was one of the better-looking entrants in the Arlington Classic.
Istanford was looking to become the first filly to win the Arlington Classic. In the paddock, she was on her toes yet composed and I felt she had a great chance to win.
Istanford in the post parade, James Graham up.
(Above & below) The filly took the lead quickly out of the gate and never looked back.
(Above & below) A very happy James Graham celebrates Istanford's historical win.
James Graham in a post-race interview.