Arlington International Barn Notes (7/24/15)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
In today's notes:
FORCE THE PASS GOES FOR RICH TRIPLE IN SECRATARIAT
If there is an unofficial Triple Crown for American sophomore turf horses based on purses, it commences with the Grade III $500,000 Penn Mile on May 30 at Penn National, carries on to the rich Grade I $1,250,000 Belmont Derby Invitational at its namesake course July 4 and then ends with Arlington International Racecourse’s prestigious Grade I $450,000 Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 15.
Unfortunately there is no Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old turf horse, but there is a great deal of money to be made in those events and Richard Santulli’s Force the Pass has already landed the first two legs. A chestnut son of champion sprinter Speightstown, the Alan Goldberg trainee has done little wrong in six trips to the post – winning four and finishing a charging second in two others. Such reliability is par for the course for the handsome, emblazoned Kentucky-bred.
“He does everything right,” Goldberg said. “Right now he’s doing the same as he’s always done. He’s a good work horse and excellent on the racetrack. He can be a bit of a bad boy when you take him off the track and gives his hotwalker trouble, but he’s a very straight-forward horse.”
After finishing second to future stakes horse Saham upon debut in February at Gulfstream Park – charging from 10 lengths astern to lose by 1 1/2 lengths in the 7 1/2-furlong grass event – Force the Pass graduated three weeks later at the same trip and then won the $60,000 Cutler Bay Stakes at a mile over the same course. Given a month and a half off, he ran a sharp race to finish second in the Listed $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico before returning just 14 days later to win the Penn Mile by a head at odds of 9-1.
Five weeks later, the talented charge moved beyond a mile for the first time and defied his pedigree when taking the 10-furlong Belmont Derby by an impressive 3 3/4 lengths at 10-1. Now, the goal is to win the summertime sophomore turf classic Secretariat at the same distance.
“That’s the plan right now,” Goldberg said. “Everything is good. We will likely breeze him again this Sunday or Monday with company and depending on how he goes, we’ll decide on what the next work will be. We will likely leave the 11th (of August on a flight for Arlington) and maybe the day before the race we might do a little something with him.
“I thought he was a little high-priced (in the Belmont Derby),” Goldberg continued. “But, coming off the loss at Pimlico he probably should have been that in the Penn Mile. You’re always worried (if they can get distance), but he has a big nice long stride and has the mind for it. I trained (his dam Social Queen) and she had distance limitations, but he seems to be fine with it.”
In his sextet of starts, Force the Pass has already earned $1,030,084 – most of that with Joel Rosario on in his last three races. Rosario will be back aboard on August 15.
VALDIVIA WINS FOUR ON THURSDAY, CLOSES IN ON MURRILL
Jockey Jose Valdivia, Jr. may have had a slow start to the meet, but he is quickly picking up steam. On Thursday, the journeyman won half the eight races for a grand slam and tightened the margin on leading rider and first-year journeyman Mitchell Murrill.
Through Thursday’s card, Valdivia moved to within four wins of Murrill with a new margin of 41-37. Close behind them is last year’s leading money-earning jockey Florent Geroux with 33 victories.
Valdivia, a native of Peru who is represented by Steve Leving, now boasts a 20 percent strike rate and has been in the money an impressive 55 percent of the time. While the 40-year-old’s 19 percent main track win percentage is admirable, it is his 22 percent turf record that speaks for itself. In his career, his is closing on 1,300 wins and boasts a Breeders’ Cup victory (on Val Royal in the 2001 Mile), Belmont Stakes win (on Ruler On Ice in 2011) and a triumph in the 2003 Beverly D. at Arlington on Heat Haze.
LEIGH COURT MAKES FIRST STIDHAM START IN ROYAL NORTH
Arlington International Racecourse-based Leigh Court, a Canadian champion, graded stakes winner on all three types of racing surfaces and $1 million Fasig-Tipton November 2014 sale purchase, makes her debut for Arlington trainer Mike Stidham this weekend at Woodbine in the Grade III $150,000 Royal North Stakes – also her seasonal debut.
The 5-year-old daughter of Grand Slam has been working impressively over the local Polytrack surface in advance of what could be a launching pad back to the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Her work pattern includes a sharp :59 flat five-furlong bullet move two works back on July 9 with assistant trainer Hilary Pridham in the irons.
“She’s been working really well,” Stidham said. “There are a lot of expectations when they pay that kind of money and a little pressure, but she’s ready. John Adger, whom I’ve been involved with for about 25 years and who managed Stonerside when I was involved with them in Texas, recommended me to the owner as a trainer. That’s how she came to be under my care. When we first got her in the fall, she needed a little time – but since we brought her back and moved her to Arlington, she’s trained very well over this surface.
“I’m hoping for a good run, but I have a lot of respect for (Lael Stables’ Arnaud Delacour-trained morning-line favorite) Ageless,” Stidham continued. “She is one of the best female turf sprinters in the country. Of course, I would have loved to not have her in there, but she is and we hope to run well against her and then move on to the (Grade II $250,000) Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, which she won last year, and then hopefully the Breeders’ Cup.”
LOTS O’ LEX REGROUPING, COULD RACE AGAIN AT ARLINGTON
Lisa Lex’s talented 4-year-old turf filly Lots o’ Lex is no worse for the wear after her surprisingly dull performance in the Grade III $100,000 Modesty Handicap on July 11. A visually impressive allowance winner on June 7 at Arlington International Racecourse, the graded stakes-placed daughter of Kitalpha showed little in her recent outing and finished eighth of nine.
“She didn’t give us what we were looking for,” said trainer Gerald Aschinger. “It’s easy to get her upset and she was on the muscle. She didn’t wash out, but she was mentally flustered and really struggled with the pre-race experience. We’re going to give her some additional time and then look at an allowance or maybe even a stakes before the meet’s over.”
Aschinger also touched on John James Revocable Trust’s graded stakes-winning Dramedy, who ran fourth in the Grade III $100,000 Arlington Handicap one race prior.
“He came out fine, but he threw a shoe in the race. After he threw it, he dropped back a bit,” Aschinger explained. “The owner sent him to Saratoga and he has joined the Steve Asmussen barn.”
Fortino, Inc.’s multiple stakes winner Sweet Luca worked a half-mile on Monday in :50.40 for trainer Chris Block. Last seen finishing a good third in a conditioned allowance on July 9, a next race has not been decided.
Private Prospect, a multiple stakes winner for the Mike Campbell barn and owner Mellon Patch, Inc., worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Monday – the bay colt’s first work since finishing third in the Grade III $250,000 Iowa Derby on June 27.
Nancy Vanier et al.’s R. Great Adventure returned to the work tab for the first time since a minor hoof injury scratched him out of the Grade III $100,000 Arlington Handicap on July 11. The Brian Williamson trainee worked a half-mile in :52.40 on Wednesday.
Hugh Robertson’s multiple stakes-winning sprinter Bet Seattle worked a half-mile in :48 flat for his owner-trainer as he prepares for a return to stakes company.
William Stiritz’s multiple allowance-winning sprinter Card, who has been one of the swiftest (119 Equibase Speed Figure) on the Arlington grounds the last two years, worked three furlongs in :36.40 on Thursday for trainer Scott Becker.
Ike and Dawn Thrash and Sam and Janet Alley’s romping 14-length maiden 2-year-old winner Amira J worked a half-mile in :48.20 on Friday. A next race is not yet known for the Mike Stidham trainee, but the $75,000 Arlington Washington Lassie on Aug. 29 is not out of the question, according to her connections.
Raul Bahena’s Happy to Go, a stakes-winning 3-year-old filly, worked five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Friday for trainer Armando De La Cerda. Remarkably consistent, the bay filly has finished in the top three in eight of 11, including five stakes.
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