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Arlington International Notes (9/11/14)

Contact: Michael Adolphson

In today's notes:


The Pizza Man
The Pizza Man - Photo courtesy Four Footed Fotos
Midwest Thoroughbreds' locally based fan favorite and Illinois champion The Pizza Man will be entered today for the Grade I $300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine in what will be his first race since his popular score in the Listed $400,000 American St. Leger on Arlington Million Day, Aug. 16. After dismantling a quality field – including the Group I-placed European duo of defending champ Dandino and quality staying mare Moment in Time – the son of English Channel will cut back three-sixteenths of a mile to the 1 1/2 grassy miles of the Northern Dancer in what could be a final preparation for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 1.

“He’s doing great right now,” said Richard Papiese, principal of Midwest Thoroughbreds. “(Trainer) Roger (Brueggemann) is pleased and (jockey) Florent (Geroux) was smiling ear-to-ear when he got off him the other day and is flying up to ride him. (The Breeders’ Cup Turf) is the plan if he runs well. We will obviously take it one race at a time.” The Pizza Man worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 flat on Sept. 7 under the aforementioned meet-leading rider in purses earned.

Carefully managed throughout his career, the turf specialist has won his last five races – all stakes – including the Grade III $150,000 Stars and Stripes on July 12 at the Northern Dancer’s 12-furlong distance. The 5-year-old has won 12 of 17 starts and at $730,203 in earnings is the fifth-leading money earner of his sire – a champion turf horse and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, himself.

“The English Channels – they’re running really well and they get better with age,” Papiese remarked. “If you keep them sound and spot them the right way while racing them lightly, they hold up well. He is a horse who would have been in this spot last year if he didn’t have a setback in a Churchill Downs allowance where he almost went down. That race almost ruined him and he wasn’t the same horse right after that, but in due time he came back to himself and we’re lucky. He was with Tom Amoss then – who did a great job – but has now been in Roger’s care for a while and has done very well.”

The Northern Dancer – like the American St. Leger – is expected to draw a competitive field of North American horses as well as possibly Europeans and could be the tall bay gelding’s toughest task to date. Possible combatants include the well-regarded graded stakes victor Aldous Snow and defending champion Forte Dei Marmi.

“He wouldn’t be running if he didn’t need the race,” Papiese said. “He was bouncing around after he won the (American St. Leger) and acted like he hadn’t run a week later. It wouldn’t be fair to him if we took him to the Breeders’ Cup without another race to prepare him. This race, with the course and competition, is a good prep for him.

“I’m not sure who entered the race, but I’m sure it’s a pretty salty field,” he continued. “I don’t worry about anyone else – I just worry about my horse. We have had him since he was a baby and it doesn’t matter how good the others are – we’ll do our thing. I think he’ll show up and run well and if everything goes well, we’ll go to California.”


An already deep field for Saturday’s Grade III $150,000 Pucker Up was enhanced when Dennis Narlinger’s promising Ameliatheaviator was supplemented and entered Wednesday. The cleverly named daughter of multiple Group I-winning champion Henrythenavigator enters off a poor showing in a turf allowance at 1 1/16-miles on July 19, but was an eye-catching victor of a grassy maiden at the Pucker Up’s 1 1/8-miles distance three weeks prior.

“We always had this race circled,” said conditioner Kellyn Gorder from his Keeneland base. “She’s been training really well and we decided to take a shot. More than anything the added distance is what I really like for her. The last race was a throwout. Things didn’t shape up the way we would have liked on race day. Hopefully she’ll run her race. I’d like to see her get covered up and settle nice and make her run.”

Displaying flashy acceleration in her lone victory, the bay sophomore filly ran an 89 Equibase Speed Figure that day while finishing under wraps. A return and further progression off that form could make her competitive against a field that already includes expected favorites Aurelia’s Belle and Stellaris. Ameliatheaviator drew post four and will get the return call from C. H. Marquez, Jr., who rode her to victory two races prior.

- END -

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