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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/25/08)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


The Mid-America Triple – Arlington Park’s three-course serving for sophomores with a grass appetite – is likely to keep Arlington Classic hero Meal Penalty around for the next sitting.

That would be the Grade II American Derby – Arlington’s oldest stakes race – scheduled to observe its 94th running on July 12.

“I just got off the phone with the boss,” said Michael Dilger, Arlington-based assistant to Meal Penalty’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher on Sunday morning. “He said that it is the logical step to keep him here and run next in the American Derby. He is aware of the Mid-America Triple and its history.”

Arlington’s signature sophomore series, which concludes with the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day (Aug. 9), has not been swept since Honor Glide accomplished the feat 11 years ago. Prior to that, a Triple winner had not been crowned for the previous 31 years, since Buckpasser did it on his way to Horse of the Year honors in 1966.

Meal Penalty, owned by Sassafras Racing and Gulf Coast Farms, was making his career debut on turf in Saturday’s Arlington Classic and was ridden by veteran jockey Jose Velez Jr. That Puerto Rico-born reinsman is riding for the first time at Arlington on a regular basis this summer, but has a third-place finish in the 1983 Arlington Million on his résumé.


It is perhaps poetic justice that the heroine of Arlington’s inaugural running of the $200,000 American 1000 Guineas – a race designed in accordance with a global heritage – is Canadian-based, and was to cross American’s northern border Sunday after coming out of her Saturday effort in good order.

However, Pin Oak Stable’s Much Obliged, Kentucky-bred but based in the Woodbine barn of trainer Malcolm Pierce, is likely to return to the United States for her next start.

“That was a nice piece of business we enjoyed yesterday,” said Pierce Sunday, speaking over the phone from his Woodbine headquarters about Much Obliged’s half-length tally under Chris Emigh. “I just saw her briefly before I flew back home last night, but she looked good and will be coming back home today.

“There’s not too much up here for her (in Canada),” said Pierce, “but we like to take it one step at a time. We’ll probably give her about four weeks and then start looking around.”

Incidentally, Arlington Park vice president of racing and racing secretary Kevin Greely, originator of the American 1000 Guineas concept, was justifiably pleased with the inaugural edition of the grass test for 3-year-old fillies.

“I thought the race was very well received,” said Greely. “We always have had a good response to the (Grade III) Pucker Up (also for 3-year-old fillies on turf) later in the season, and the handle on this race was just as exciting.”


Jim Tafel’s Coragil Cat, who came from far back to capture Saturday’s Grade III Hanshin Cup by three lengths, was none the worse for wear the morning after, according to his Chicago-based trainer Greg Geier.

“I’m fine, and everything is okay with the horse, too,” said Geier in the Arlington Park barn area Sunday morning. “We have no thoughts yet on what’s next. We’ll wait a week and take it from there.”


WinStar Farm’s coupling of Leah’s Secret and Ballado’s Thunder has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line choice in Monday’s Grade III Arlington Matron Handicap.

The $150,000 Memorial Day feature for fillies and mares highlights one of only two Monday racing programs this summer at Chicago’s premier Thoroughbred oval.

Leah’s Secret, runner-up in the Grade II Louisville Handicap May 2, is conditioned by Todd Pletcher, defending Eclipse Award-winning trainer of the last four years.

“She just arrived here from Churchill Downs,” said Pletcher assistant Michael Dilger speaking last Friday morning at Arlington, “so I don’t know too much about her. WinStar bought her last November (from the First Klass Stable of George Krall).

“We (the Pletcher barn) also have (Alex Campbell Jr.’s) Awesome Ashley in the Matron,” said Dilger. “She dead-heated for a win at Keeneland (April 19) in her last start, so she obviously likes the Polytrack.”

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