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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/1/10)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


The first two runnings of Arlington’s Chicago Handicap for fillies and mares were both won by J. J. Devaney’s Lazer Show – trained by Don Winfree and ridden by Pat Day – but no filly or mare has annexed back-to-back renewals of the seven-furlong extended sprint since 1987.

That may change Sunday, when Augustin Stable’s Informed Decision, heroine of last fall’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, returns to defend her local title in last summer’s 20th renewal of the Grade III Chicago Handicap.

When entering the starting gate for last year’s Chicago Handicap, Informed Decision, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, was coming off a win in Churchill’s Grade I Humana Distaff Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day earlier in the spring of 2009, and before that she had won Keeneland’s Grade I Madison Stakes in her first start of the year. But in her two 2010 starts since her Breeders’ Cup score – again in the Madison and the Humana Distaff this season – she has yet to reach the winner’s circle while posting a pair of thirds.

“She seems the same as usual,” said Sheppard Thursday morning, speaking from the Erie, Pennsylvania, airport shortly before going through security on his eventual way to Chicago. “She was in South Carolina for the winter and in her first start (the Madison) she may have been a little short.

“It’s just human nature to tend to take things easily when you have a horse who has accomplished what she has,” said Sheppard, as always self-effacing in spite of his Hall of Fame induction two decades ago. “That might have been my complacency that got her beat. It just shows you can’t coast when you’re coming up to a Grade I race.

“That was a ‘useful’ work we gave her the other day,” said Sheppard, speaking of Informed Decision’s five-furlong bullet breeze in 59.40 at Presque Isle Tuesday morning. “I’d say it was a little more than a maintenance move because she’s very forward, very aggressive in her training.

“She’s still at Presque Isle,” concluded Sheppard of the 5-year old gray mare, a daughter of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos with whom she shares her roan characteristics. “She’ll leave tomorrow and get to Arlington about 8 or 9 o’clock Friday evening.”


The Grade III Arlington Handicap will observe its 75th running two weekends from now on July 17, and Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well might now be in a position to join Kerr Stable’s Round Table (1958-59) and Flying Zee Stable’s Cosmonaut (2006-07) as the third back-to-back winner of one of the local oval’s oldest stakes events.

Since the inaugural Arlington Million in 1981, the Arlington Handicap – also at a mile and a quarter over Arlington’s world famous course – has become a designed prep for the Million as the showcase race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season. This summer the Million will be run Aug. 21.

Although no Arlington Handicap winner has repeated in the Million, Just as Well came close last summer – finishing as the runner-up in the Million after winning the 2009 Arlington Handicap.

“I think we might try the Arlington Handicap again,” said trainer Sheppard Thursday morning, speaking over the phone from Erie, Pennsylvania on the day after Just as Well accomplished a bullet breeze in 59.20 at Presque Isle. “I was going to run him in (Monmouth’s Grade I) United Nations Handicap Saturday, but I think the ground was going to be too hard for him up there. He wouldn’t like that.”

The Arlington Handicap is one of three graded stakes on July 17, which has been designated as Arlington’s Million Preview Day. Also on that day the Grade III Modesty Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 3/16-miles on the grass serves as a prep for the Grade I Beverly D. Handicap, the Arlington Million’s sister race Aug. 21.

The third stakes slated for July 17 is the Grade II American Derby restricted to 3-year-olds and run at 1 3/16-miles on the turf. As Arlington’s oldest stakes race, observing its 95th renewal, the American Derby is the middle leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple and also the designed prep for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on the third Saturday in August.


Barbara Hunter’s Snow Top Mountain, 5-2 second choice in the morning line for Saturday’s Grade III Arlington Oaks, breezed three-eighths in 36.40 at Arlington Thursday morning in advance of Saturday’s featured event for 3-year-old fillies.

- END -

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