There is a big weekend on tap throughout the Midwest this weekend as six $100,000 stakes go postward between Arlington Park and Canterbury Park. A pair of horses are cross entered between the two tracks and there are several dual entries within the Arlington card as well.
At Arlington Saturday afternoon it is Arlington Million Preview Day with four graded turf stakes worth $400,000 on the card.
First up is the Grade 3 American Derby. The American features seven three year olds going a mile and eighth. Winner of two of four over the turf, World Approval is the 2-1 morning line favorite having run behind graded stakes winner Divisidero in each of his last two starts. He ran an even race up front at Belmont last out while he came from off the pace in Churchill’s Grade 2 American Turf to finish 3rd. His tractability should be a help to pilot Jose Lezcano.
Julian Leparoux, on World Approval for his last two starts, moves over to the Mike Maker trained Firespike. Firespike finished well behind World Approval in the American Turf. He has had a brief freshener and has been training consistently leading up to the race.
With virtually no pace in the race at all, if Lezcano can get and control the font end, it could spell trouble for the rest of the field, especially for a deep closer like King of New York. Crittenden will look to stalk the pace if possible and Nun the Less could possibly be another that tries to do some damage up front with the lack of any confirmed front runner.
The Grade 3 Arlington Handicap has a field of ten, though three of those are cross entered in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes. Of the three cross entered, The Pizza Man is the one that changes the complexion of each race depending upon where he runs. Word is that his connections will opt for the Stars and Stripes.
Without The Pizza Man, the action looks to be toward the outside with the one-two finishers in the Grade 2 Monmouth going at it again. In the Monmouth, multiple European Group Stakes winner Triple Threat narrowly defeated Middleburg as both came flying off the pace. The win by Triple Threat was particularly impressive given that the Monmouth was his first race after a long layoff (September 2014) and was also his first race in America. Second off the layoff trainer Bill Mott is a sterling 31% so I wouldn’t expect to see a bounce here.
Having a pace to run into will be key in the mile and three sixteenths contest and that should be provided on the inside with Dramedy (if he stays in as he is also cross entered in the Stars and Stripes) as well as possibly Coco Mon or Looks to Spare. The three longshots may see their only key to victory is to try and steal it on the front end which will have fans looking for the two favorites late.
The fillies and mares step up in the 7th race in the Grade 3 Modesty Stakes and Mott has a live one in here as well.
Riposte, breaking from the far outside has had some issues in her last few starts, but certainly has the class to compete with this group. A fair trip under Lezcano and she’s going to be very tough to beat especially given that she’s won up front and by tracking early speed, flexibility that’s invaluable.
Overheard has to be used if for no other reason than she rarely misses the trifecta. In sixteen lifetime starts she’s only missed the board once and has fives across the board in her career. Off since early May after a 3rd place finish in the Grade 2 Nassau at Woodbine, she has been working well and trainer Malcolm Pierce has his charges winning at 21% off of layoffs. She’s the one I would look to possibly upset this field at a decent price. Her morning line number is 5-1.
Preview Day will close out with the Grade 3, 1 ½ mile Stars and Stripes. Defending champion The Pizza Man looks very tough in this spot. His second race of the season, he prepped beautifully in the Opening Verse at Churchill at the end of May over Frac Daddy and Departing. Departing came out of that race to take the Grade 2 Firecracker next out. While trainer Roger Brueggermann is winning at a 15% clip this season, his second off a layoff percentage is a staggering 36% from 14 starters.
All systems look to be “go” for the Pizza Man in here. His stalking style is an asset, he’s won at the distance before and has been working splendidly heading into the race.
Of course his ten foes aren’t going to surrender without a fight. Consistency has been the watchword for Grade 3 Louisville Handicap winner Xtra Luck. Two of three this season, Xtra Luck is coming off a short breather after his Louisville win and has been training well as has Dramedy.
Should Dramedy’s connections choose this spot rather than the Arlington Handicap he could be big trouble up near the front of the pack. He battled gamely in his last race, a neck victory in the mile and half Elkhorn at Keeneland. While earning a break after that mid-April win, he has been training like a monster since with a pair of bullet works in his last five after the win. If you don’t believe in The Pizza Man, the latter two should provide you with some value and a run for your money.