Sweet home Chicago! I've decided to ignore the risk of being labeled a homer, so please indulge me the opportunity to get in a little old fashioned home town “sis boom bah!” Tomorrow will be my first visit of the season to my home track, Arlington Park, and it looks like I have picked an excellent day to make the drive up 355. The weather forecast promises a warm up, and the big yellow ball in the sky should be shining proudly on the most majestic racetrack in the United States. Furthermore, the racing secretary at Arlington has obliged my hopes of seeing good horses by lining up both the Arlington Matron and the Arlington Classic to start the holiday weekend off in style.
In the Grade 3 Arlington Matron, my top pick will be Upperline. A daughter of Maria’s Mon, Upperline was a big winner in last summer's Arlington Oaks over this same trip. In fact, the Michael Stidham trained miss is only a 2nd place finish, to Eclipse Award winner She Be Wild, from being perfect at Arlington Park. With two stakes wins already this year in New Orleans, the good looking bay filly appears to be in as good form as ever. Robby Albarado will be in the irons.
Chief among her rivals will be the English import Pachattack, who was an easy winner in her only synthetic start in North America when she won the Maple Leaf Stakes at Woodbine last November. She was a troubled trip sixth in Arlington's signature race for fillies and mares, the turfy Beverly D in her only race locally. Trained by Gerard Butler, who is keeping a string at Arlington this summer, she will be ridden by leading rider Junior Alvarado.
Completing the field for the Matron will be: Morning line favorite, It's Tea Time with Eclipse Award winning jockey Julien Leparoux riding, Home’s the Best, La Gran Bailadora, Milwaukee Appeal, Santina Dond, Satans Quick Chick, Spring Party, and She’s All In.
In the Arlington Classic, my top pick in the mile and a sixteenth turf race, which serves as the first leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, will be Suntracer. From Team Block, Suntracer has really has turned things around of late and comes off two sharp wins at Gulfstream and Keeneland. In the latter win, the Illinois bred son of Kitten's Joy defeated the current leader of the three-year-old turf division, Banned. He will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, and if he is able to get up and win the Classic he will need to get by a deep field that includes Willcox Inn and Extensive.
Willcox Inn was a disappointing eighth last out in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Prior to that the Michael Stidham trained colt ran two very solid races on the grass, including a 3rd in last fall's Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Robby Albarado will ride the son of Harlan's Holiday, who boasts a win over Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom at Arlington in both colt's debut last September. Extensive comes from the always strong Thomas Proctor barn, and has done nothing but well after switching to grass in his second career start. He has two wins, and two in the money performances in four starts on turf. Both of his losses came against top competition, so it would be no surprise to see the familiar Glen Hill Farm silks in the winner's circle tomorrow.
Completing the field for the Arlington Classic are: Tampa Bay Derby runner-up, Crimson Knight, Fort Larned, Sandys Diamond, Forbidden Forest, Swagger Jack, Pulpitarian, Strong Appeal, Twojohnsandajack, and Legendary King.
Besides the interesting racing tomorrow, I hope to make a quick stop by the stables, and Donnie Von Helmel's barn to get a look at one of my early picks for the Belmont Stakes. Pin Oak Stable’s Alternation demonstrated his good form today with a strong five furlong breeze over the main track this morning in 1:00.60. The son of Distorted Humor galloped out six furlongs in 1:13. In his last start, Alternation shipped out from his Arlington base to score in Belmont’s Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, getting up in the final jump. A victory in a return trip from Chicago to New York will certainly be tougher in the Test of Champions, but with this horse's talent, certainly not out of the question.
With my two girls in tow, my wife Candie, and daughter, Kendra, I look forward to visiting my old friend, Arlington Park, and renewing acquaintances with many of the fine people there. Most of all though, I look forward to a great day of racing at one of the greatest places to watch the horses.