Stakes Action In The Midwest


Matron, Classic highlight action at Arlington

A pair of stakes with storied pasts dating back to the early years of racing at Arlington Park will be renewed on Saturday as part of a 10-race program at the Chicagoland course. The $100,000 Arlington Matron H. (G3) technically outranks the $100,000 Arlington Classic, though the latter should yield more than few contenders for such celebrated highlights as the American Derby (G2) and Secretariat S. (G1) later in the meet.

The probable favorite in the Arlington Matron, a nine-furlong Polytrack test for older fillies and mares, is UPPERLINE (Maria's Mon), who exits a disappointing last-place effort in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2). The Mike Stidham-trained filly entered the Derby Day feature on a high note with three wins in her previous four starts, including an authoritative four-length score in the Bayou H. at Fair Grounds, but failed to fire after being forced to steady at the start.

Upperline has two wins from three prior outings at Arlington, including a 4 3/4-length romp over course and distance last summer in the Arlington Oaks (G3). Robby Albarado, who's endured a difficult season due to injury and being replaced aboard Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]) one day before the colt's victory in the Kentucky Derby (G1), has the call.

English trainer Gerard Butler, who is based at Arlington this season, will saddle PACHATTACK (Pulpit) for the Matron. The five-year-old made three North American appearances last year between stays in England, finishing in mid-pack in the Beverly D. S. (G1) and E.P. Taylor S. (Can-G1) before romping in Woodbine's Maple Leaf S. by 5 3/4 lengths going 1 1/4 miles on the Polytrack, a performance that could make her one of the favorites here.

Grade 2 winner SATANS QUICK CHICK (Sky Mesa) ran a dull seventh in last month's Doubledogdare S. (G3) after breaking from post 11, and has never quite seemed a 1 1/8-mile type, but has sufficient back class to make an impact for trainer Eric Reed and new rider Julio Felix, who takes over from the late Michael Baze. Another exiting the Doubledogdare is that race's third-place finisher IT'S TEA TIME (Dynaformer), a Grade 3 winner on dirt who narrowly missed taking the Ashland S. (G1) on Polytrack last season.
Willcox Inn, seen here working for last year's Breeders' Cup, returns to the turf on Saturday (Harold Roth/

MILWAUKEE APPEAL (Milwaukee Brew) is winless since her Canadian champion three-year-old filly season of 2009. Though she placed last year in the Spinster S. (G1), Molly Pitcher S. (G2) and Shuvee H. (G2), she's run far below par in her last three outings. Also in the field is LA GRAN BAILADORA (Afleet Alex), a stakes winner over Turfway's Polytrack in February.

The Arlington Classic, for three-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles on the turf, kicks off Arlington's Mid-America Triple, which continues with the July 9 American Derby and ends with the August 13 Secretariat. WILLCOX INN (Harlan's Holiday), who defeated Animal Kingdom in their mutual debut over Arlington's main track in September, went on to place in the Breeders' Futurity (G1), Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) and Grindstone S. before finishing eighth in the Blue Grass S. (G1) last month. He adds blinkers while in search of his first turf win and goes for the trainer/jockey team of Stidham and Albarado.

The field of 12 also includes two-time grass winner CRIMSON KNIGHT (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]), who narrowly missed upsetting the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at 86-1 two back, and last-out Florida Cup Sophomore Turf S. winner EXTENSIVE (Purge). Keeneland and Gulfstream allowance winner SUNTRACER (Kitten's Joy) is one of two Illinois-breds in the field, while SWAGGER JACK (Smart Strike) hopes to improve on his fifth in the May 6 American Turf S. (G2), where he lost contact with the leaders early before offering a belated rally.

Keertana faces boys in Louisville

Multiple Grade 3 queen KEERTANA (Johar) will take on boys for the first time in her 25-race career when she lines up in the gate of Saturday's $100,000 Louisville H. (G3) at Churchill Downs. The dark bay mare will break from post 4 under jockey Jose Lezcano in the field of 10 while going 1 1/2 miles in her second straight race.

The Tom Proctor trainee first tried 12 furlongs on April 28 at Keeneland, where she pulled off a 1 1/4-length victory in the Bewitch S. (G3) over yielding ground. The five-year-old has plenty of experience winning on firm turf as well, taking The Very One S. (G3) at Gulfstream in February and last year's Glens Falls S. (G3) at Saratoga, and loves the Matt Winn Turf Course. She just missed by a half-length when third in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) under the Twin Spires, and also placed third in the Mint Julep S. (G3) last June.

Keertana has captured three of her four starts this season, with her only loss once again coming as a third, this time in the Hillsborough S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in March. She'll tote the second highest weight in the Louisville field when Lezcano weighs in at 117 pounds.

Only one horse has been assigned more than Keertana, and that contender is recent Elkhorn S. (G2) victor MUSKETIER (Ger) (Acatenango), who will carry 122 pounds including jockey Jesus Castanon. The gray only raced three times in 2010, taking that year's edition of the Elkhorn as well as placing in the Sycamore S. (G3). The Roger Attfield veteran has already run that many times this season, placing in both the Mac Diarmida S. (G2) and Pan American S. (G3) to start his nine-year-old campaign. Musketier will be trying Churchill's turf for the first time in this spot, but has already proven his ability at winning over 1 1/2 miles.

Looking to defend his title in the Louisville will be FREE FIGHTER (Out of Place), who has been well-beaten his two tries so far this year. The chestnut gelding hasn't won since taking this race a year ago but will be getting the services of Churchill veteran rider Calvin Borel this time around.

Also entered are Elkhorn fourth SIMMARD (Dixieland Band), who captured an allowance/optional claimer two back; GUYS REWARD (Grand Reward), placed in the American Turf S. (G2), Commonwealth Turf S. (G3) and Transylvania S. (G3) last year; and Elkhorn sixth-placer BEARPATH (Dynaformer), second in the 2010 Louisville following a seventh-place run in the Elkhorn.



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