by NICOLLE NEULIST
Saturday is the flagship day of the summer meet at Arlington: Arlington Million day! Though the day features five stakes, that’s not all it has to offer. It’s a 12-race card packed with competitive fields all day long.
Here are some spot plays for earlier in the card, to help you build your Arlington Million bankroll.
Race 2: Maiden Special Weight, two-year-olds, 6 furlongs on the Polytrack
This seems an ideal race in which to take a shot. Sure, #2 W W Springtime (5-2) is the morning line favorite in this race: Kantharos progeny can run on anything, and $67K qualifies as a pricey auction buy for owner William Stiritz. But, despite Becker’s success with first-time starters in maiden races, more of that comes at Fairmount and Hawthorne than at Arlington. On debut, #9 The Dogmen (3-1) showed the most among the experienced starters, but even that was a well-beaten third.
At long odds, why not try #8 Ship Of the Line (10-1)? Though he is a shipper, he will almost certainly fly under the radar. Trainer Jack Sisterson isn’t shipping anyone in for the stakes races at Arlington, just this maiden. Sisterson is just beginning to send horses out on his own as a private trainer for Calumet Farm — but, after years in the barn of Doug O’Neill, he should know a thing or two about getting a young horse ready to go. The worktab is a positive, with regular moves at Keeneland stretching back about two months. Expect him to come in looking fit and ready.
Even though the breeding suggests distance — he is by Red Rocks out of 1998 champion grass mare Fiji — there is some precocity in the female side. Fiji herself won at first asking at age two. Though she did so at a mile on the grass, she produced Marcus Andronicus (Danehill), a six-furlong winner a first asking as a juvenile. This is also the family of Moment of Majesty (Saint Liam), who broke her maiden on an all-weather surface at two before growing into a stakes horse on both turf and Polytrack.
Race 5: Maiden Special Weight, two-year-old fillies, 5 1/2 furlongs on the Polytrack
#11 Kajawa (7-2) will prove tough to beat. She is bred well for a two-year-old Polytrack sprint: Cross Traffic’s foals have taken well to juvenile sprints so far, and dam Milagra produced Bear Holiday (Harlan’s Holiday), a debut winner and multiple stakes winner over Polytrack at age two.
Kajawa was a credible second on debut at Arlington on July 27, as she chased a well-intentioned and well-bred filly named Craft Show all the way around. The winner got an easy lead that day; when Kajawa made a bid approaching the lane, Craft Show spurted away. The eleven gate is a minus, but the jockey change to E.T. Baird is a major plus. Baird is as good a gate rider as they come, and he should be able to send Kajawa cleanly and be forward throughout.
Without any of the other experienced horses showing a lot of speed — and with none of the first-time starters hailing from the barn of Larry Rivelli, whose debuters almost always send — Kajawa looks a threat from gate to wire.
If there looked to be a bit more speed #6 Crafty’s Dream (5-1) would be the play, as she rallied beautifully up the rail on debut. But, she looks more likely to run on for a piece once again; keep her in your pocket for when she gets a little more of a target to run at.
Race 6: $12,500 claiming, non-winners of two races lifetime, 1 1/16 miles on the turf
Trainer James Gulick excels at spotting his horses, and he could not have found a better spot for #2 Speared (4-1).
After tries against tougher company earlier in the summer, he responded well to the drop to this $12,500 N2L level on July 21. He ran on well, only failing to catch Yellow Wolf — an in-form horse who returned on August 4 to clear his N3L condition. Constantino Roman, who rode Speared to that second-place finish last time out, retains the mount.
This time around, there’s no Yellow Wolf. The horses in front of Speared look unlikely to stay on to the end: Two Pair probably needs a return to state-bred claimers, and Colonel Fred looks far more interested in finishing underneath than on top. Even Sacred Legacy, who should be finishing well, has a tendency to lag too far away and have too much to do late. This all bodes well for Speared, who can win this with anything like his last outing.