Photo: Four Footed Fotos
I had the pleasure of my first visit of the year to Arlington Park yesterday, and I picked an excellent day to attend. If you’ve never been to the suburban track just a short drive northwest of Chicago, I can only ask why not, as there is not a finer facility in American racing, and when the quality of racing is high, as it was yesterday, there is no place I’d rather be. With a troika of graded stakes, Arlington delivered not only solid racing, but also great opportunities to cash in big with juicy payoffs. On paper, the day’s most interesting race was the Arlington Classic, and the running did not disappoint.
The first leg of the Mid-America Triple, the Arlington Classic sees three-year-olds go 8 ½ furlongs over Arlington’s lush turf course. Earlier races held on the grass demonstrated it was a good day to rally, and sure enough a cavalry charge came charging into the stretch of the Classic. With the long shot early leader Bells Big Bernie stretched to his limits, it was just a matter of which closer was going to prove strongest in the stretch.
In the end it was WinStar Farm’s General Election who made the strongest run of all. Down on the inside, the first time on turf stakes winner, prevailed by a length under Joe Rocco, Jr over the fast finishing Admiral Kitten, who won a four-way battle for second. The winner then had to survive a claim of foul by fourth place finisher, Gefest, before finally being declared a winner. The stewards rightfully decided that third-place finisher, Dorsett was the real culprit in the stretch shenanigans, and he was placed behind Gefest. Trained by Kellyn Gorder, it was the second straight big performance for General Election, who was coming off a bang-up runner-up finish in the Lexington Stakes. Despite that, he still rewarded his backers with a $28.20 win windfall. The son of Harlan’s Holiday would seem to have a future on the turf. One race earlier on the card, fans saw the performance of the afternoon in the Hanshin Cup. My day’s best bet, Mister Marti Gras ran a big race to pull away from every horse down the stretch, that is every horse but one. Hogy is a horse who I’ve often wondered why he hasn’t accomplished more. Yesterday, much of those thoughts were put to bed as the gelded four-year-old from the Scott Becker barn ran the race of his life to keep the determined late run of my choice at bay and win the Grade 3 affair by 1 ½ lengths at the wire.
Supported by a brisk early pace of Nates Mineshaft and Hammers Terror, Hogy completed the flat mile in an excellent 1:34.25 under a perfectly timed ride by one of the nicest guys in the business, Chris Emigh. Going along with the afternoon’s theme of ‘no chalk please’, those who went with the ten, happily collected $18.40 for the win. Hogy also collected his largest check to date, as he raised his lifetime record to a sparkling 9 wins from 16 starts. More performances like this one, and Hogy should be able to make some noise on a national scale.
Last, but certainly not least, was the day’s first graded stakes, and the girls put on a good show in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron. Owned by one of the best names in racing, Imposing Grace wore down front running Lotta Lovin and then had enough to hold off Sisterhood to claim victory in the $150,000 affair by a hard fought half-length for Coffeepot Stables. Also somewhat disregarded by bettors, Imposing Grace returned $19.00.
“I wasn’t expecting to be so close to the pace but she broke well and was sitting extremely comfortable on the backstretch,” said winning jockey, Channing Hill. “She gave me all the confidence in the world picking it up at the eighth pole. When she got her head in front, she got to playing around a little bit.”
It was not easy, but the well-bred daughter of Empire Maker earned her first-ever stakes victory by finishing the nine furlongs over Polytrack in 1:50.21. While yesterday was a fight all the way around, it had to feel a lot easier for Imposing Grace than what she dealt with this winter in New Orleans. In consecutive races she finished second in stakes races at Fair Grounds, but both times she was taken to task in a big way by one of the more classy fillies in the land, Believe You Can. Without the big mare, Imposing Grace was able to flaunt her ability in a winning way. Yesterday’s victory raised her solid lifetime record to four wins, and four seconds in only 11 starts, and boosted her earnings to $241,320.