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Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/19/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


She's won on turf, and she's won on dirt, so trainer Tony Mitchell was asked which surface Saturday's Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks candidate Lovely Afternoon preferred.

"The jury is still out on that," said Mitchell of his 3-year-old filly owned by Richard Otto Stables Inc., "but I can tell you she's never really let us down. If we run good Saturday (in the Grade III Arlington BC Oaks on the main course), we'll try and bring her back in the (Sept. 18 Grade III) Pucker Up Stakes (for 3-year-old fillies) on the grass."

Lovely Afternoon, a sophomore daughter of Afternoon Deelites out of a Green Dancer mare, was named Pennsylvania's 2-year-old filly champion last year, based largely on her win in the $50,000 Blue Mountain Juvenile at Penn National last November. However, despite several good outings in Illinois, she is listed at 12-1 on the morning line for Arlington's main event for sophomore fillies on the dirt course.

In her most recent start July 15 at one mile on the Arlington lawn, Lovely Afternoon was beaten a nose at 18-1, and two starts back on May 31 here, she won by two and a quarter on the main track when the going was sloppy.

"She loves slop," Mitchell conceded, "but she doesn't like mud. When it's sloppy, she can run right through it, but when it's mud, it holds onto her feet a little bit and she can't really get going. All in all, she's a pretty versatile filly, but at Arlington, I think she may be a little better on the main track. She's had a little bit more success here on that surface. In her last race (on grass) she just got beat a 'bob' in a photo finish, and we turned her out after that and have had her swimming since then. Now, she's training some kind of good (breezing a half Tuesday in :48.60.) She did everything just the way I wanted in that work. She got a good blow out of it, and that was just what she needed."

Lovely Afternoon's 2-year-old season in Illinois, while somewhat unorthodox, was encouraging enough to send her to Pennsylvania where she nailed down her Keystone State championship off her tally in the Blue Mountain Juvenile.

Lovely Afternoon had bled in her first career start last August when going one mile at Arlington, but she came back to finish third in the $45,000 Top Flight at seven furlongs after making a belated run in that local prep for the Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie.

"She made a brave race out of the Top Flight," said Mitchell. "She was coming on at the end. Then we brought her back in the Lassie and she came up a little short, (finishing fourth behind eventual Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies contestant Zosima) even though she was a maiden going in. We were just taking a shot there but she didn't disappoint us at all.

"She's a hard-knocking filly," concluded Mitchell of Lovely Afternoon. "She's built like a marathon runner, rather than a robust horse. She's not at all like 'Julie' or 'Summer' (Julie's Prize or Summer Mis, two other Mitchell-trained stakes winning members of the distaff set.) She's won at six furlongs to a mile and an eighth, but we don't throw her in sprints any more. She's a decent little sort, and we like to spot her races now."


Bernard G. Schaeffer's Fly Away Angel was dismissed at 10-1 in the $54,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes on July 30, a local prep for Saturday's Grade III Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks, but the daughter of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away rallied five wide in upper stretch, gained the advantage at the furlong grounds and held sway the rest of the way to win by a half-length.

Off of that race, and a winning effort before that at Ellis Park July 10, Fly Away Angel will not be so easily dismissed again, and has been made Saturday's 3-1 tepid morning line favorite for Arlington's premier race for 3-year-old fillies over the main track.

Trainer William R. Connelly took over Fly Away Angel's training just before her two recent victories, but admits that she's been a lot of fun to be around in the time he has had her.

"I don't know what we're looking for, to be honest," said Connelly in the Arlington winner's circle immediately after the Sweetest Chant, when asked if the Oaks would be next.

This week, when it was mentioned that her two recent scores had been over different racetracks, Connelly was asked if Fly Away Angel was a filly that could run over any course.

"I hope so," said Connelly. "Those were the only two times I've run her. We're at Turfway right now, but I'll bring her up there to Arlington Friday afternoon."

Jockey Jason Lumpkins has been named to ride Fly Away Angel Saturday, replacing John McKee, who was aboard for her score in the Sweetest Chant. Lumpkins, who began the 2004 Arlington season as a member of the local colony, was for many years a leading rider at Thistledown, but has been more recently known as a challenger to Northern California's perennial champion Russell Baze in 2001 and 2002.

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