|Arlington Park Barn Notes
In today's notes:
William L. Clifton Jr.'s Pleasant Breeze, the 7-year-old multiple graded stakes winner who may be returning to his best form, arrived at Arlington Park Thursday morning after vanning from New York to compete in Sunday's Grade II Washington Park Handicap.
This year, the Washington Park 'Cap will serve as the final local prep for the Grade I Breeders' Cup Classic when the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships come to Arlington Park for the first time in their 19-year history on October 26.
The Breeders' Cup Classic, richest race run in North America with its $4 million purse, will be run at a mile and a quarter on that last Saturday in October. Sunday's Washington Park 'Cap, to be contested at a mile and three-sixteenths, offers a purse of $400,000.
Pleasant Breeze, with 31 trips to the post during his extensive career, seems to have benefited from a single outing on turf last summer at Saratoga. As is often the case, the change of surfaces, used as an experiment, did not result in a winning race that day but may have improved the mental outlook of the somewhat elderly campaigner.
In his lone trip to the post since that turf outing, Pleasant Breeze drew off in the lane for a three and a half-length tally in a nine-furlong test August 30.
"We were able to take advantage of a condition," said trainer Jim Bond over the phone from his Saratoga headquarters when talking about Pleasant Breeze's grass debut. "The race came up for us, and even though he didn't win that day, it seemed brighten his whole outlook. He won his next start impressively and he worked very well at Belmont Park the other day.
"The old guy has been training super," Bond said. "He's always been a nice horse -- an honest horse -- and he's doing a lot better lately."
In his younger years, Pleasant Breeze posed in the winner's circle in 1999 after the Grade II Meadowlands Cup and won the Grade II Saratoga Breeders' Cup the following season.
However, the entire son of Pleasant Tap out of a Turkoman mare was also second in the Grade I Pimlico Special in 2000, second in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap in 2001, and second in the Grade II Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in 1999.
Other stakes placements for Pleasant Breeze include third place finishes in the Pimlico Special in 2001 and the Grade III Skip Away at Gulfstream earlier that year.
The 7-year-old was also fourth in the Grade I Donn Handicap in 2001.
"I haven't decided yet if I'm coming in for the race," said Bond, "because I have several others running in New York this weekend. However, I can tell you he's always tough," said Bond while reviewing Pleasant Breeze's lengthy career, "and he always gives you everything he's got."
James & Dennis Richard's Bonapaw, hero of last Saturday's Grade I Vosburgh Handicap at Belmont Park in New York, returned to his more familiar environs at Arlington Park Thursday at 8 p.m. to prepare for the Grade I NAPA Breeders' Cup Sprint to be held here October 26.
That premier Thoroughbred dash will be held on the last Saturday in October when the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships come to Arlington Park for the first time in their 19-year history.
Although based in New Orleans, Bonapaw resided at Arlington all summer to prepare for his winning efforts in the Grade III Hanshin Cup July 20 and the $100,000 Arlington Sprint Handicap August 24.
Guests at Arlington and members of the Midwestern media adopted Bonapaw as the "local" horse during the summer, as evidenced by his rooting sections near simulcast televisions tuned to Belmont during last weekend's Vosburgh victory.
Bonapaw's trainer, Norman Miller III, has readily accepted Bonapaw's role as the local horse because his grandfather and father were both racetrackers on the Illinois circuit.
However, Miller's fiancée, Colleen Baker, who assists Miller with training and traveling chores, was raised on Long Island in Smithtown, N.Y., and had her own local rooting section during Bonapaw's Vosburgh victory last week.
James Tafel LLC's Unshaded, hero of the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga two years ago, makes a return appearance at Arlington Park Sunday in the ninth race of the afternoon.
The altered son of Unbridled, trained by Carl Nafzger, will be ridden by leading rider Rene Douglas in Sunday's seven-furlong allowance test, which follows the Grade II Washington Park Handicap and the $150,000 Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile carded earlier in the afternoon.
Sunday's program is also the second racing day of Arlington Park's two-day "Preview Weekend at the Park," held in advance of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, which come to Arlington Park for the first time in their 19-year history on October 26.
Unshaded comes to Arlington off a fifth-place finish in the Grade II Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap, run August 17 at the upstate New York oval on the same day as the Grade I Arlington Million. The 5-year-old was also fifth in the Grade I Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on August 3.
However, on July 6, Unshaded was a good second in the Grade III Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Prairie Meadows in Iowa.
Season high place payoffs were established on back-to-back days earlier this week at Arlington Park. On Wednesday, Ranches Partnership's I Be Shy paid $53.80 in the seventh race, and Thursday, in the fourth race, Timothy Cook's Lord Six eclipsed that mark with a place payoff of $55.60
Another season-high mutuel mark was established after Thursday's ninth race when the quinella was a season high $783.80.
Twenty-five years ago Saturday, on September 28, 1977, Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye won four straight races at Arlington Park, including the inaugural running of the Chief Illiniwek Stakes aboard multiple Illinois champion Signor Cotton.
Two handicapping contests take place this week at Arlington Park. Arlington's own contest takes place Saturday and the fourth qualifying round of the Twin Spires Club Handicapping Contest is offered Sunday. Both can lead to positions in the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Contest offered next January in Las Vegas.
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