Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada, hero by a half-length in the Grade III Arlington Handicap two summers ago, is now probable to return for this year’s spirited 76th renewal of the Arlington Handicap on Million Preview Day July 14.

The Arlington Handicap, at 10 furlongs over Arlington’s world-famous turf course, is once again the designed local prep race for this year’s 30th anniversary edition of the Grade I Arlington Million – centerpiece race of the suburban Chicago oval’s International Festival of Racing on Aug. 18.

Rahystrada returns to Arlington as a valiant veteran of the last two Arlington Millions, finishing fourth two years ago and fifth last summer after experiencing traffic problems in both runnings. The 8-year-old gelding finished third in Virginia’s $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup in his last start June 16, beaten two lengths for the win by the winning P and G Stable and Off the Hook LLC’s Turbo Compressor and Stuart Janney III’s Air Support – both prominent among the nation’s best turf runners.

Last summer, Rahystrada was the length and a half-winner of the Colonial Turf Cup and went on to capture the Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs later in the season. He is trained by Scooter Hughes.

Also now considered as a probable starter in next Saturday’s Arlington Handicap is Richard Sherman’s Nikki’s Sandcastle, coming off a 1 1/4-length score in Arlington’s $65,000 Sea o’ Erin Stakes June 9. Although the Sea o’ Erin is run at a flat mile, Nikki’s Sandcastle did his best running in the final furlong and might be capable of the added quarter-mile distance.

Trained by longtime Arlington-based conditioner Dave Kassen, Nikki’s Sandcastle has finished on the board in his last seven starts and in 12 of his last 13 trips to the post.

Rahystrada and Nikki’s Sandcastle join a list of probable Arlington Handicap starters headed by Phipps Stable’s Boisterous, winner of Belmont’s Grade III Fort Marcy Stakes May 5 and most recently third behind Swift Thoroughbreds et al.’s Desert Blanc in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap over the Long Island lawn on Belmont Stakes Day June 9. Desert Blanc has since behind retired.

Also likely for the Arlington Handicap at this time is Joyce Young and Gerald McManis’s Sky Blazer, fourth in Saratoga’s Grade III Saranac late last summer and fifth in Belmont’s Grade I Jamaica Handicap early last fall. Trained by Barclay Tagg, Sky Blazer is coming off a 4 1/4-length win in allowance and $75,000 optional claiming company at Belmont on May 19.

Lael Stable and All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, winner of both the Arlington Classic and Grade II American Derby at the local oval last summer and the Grade III Hawthorne Derby after that, remains an intriguing possibility for the Arlington Handicap.


John Campo III’s Hard Seven, third in Churchill’s Grade III Mint Julep Handicap, Santa Anita’s Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap and that same southern California oval’s Grade II Santa Ana Handicap earlier this year, has been added to the list of those likely to contest Arlington’s Grade III Modesty Handicap on Million Preview Day July 14.

The Modesty, for fillies and mares at 1 3/16-miles over Arlington’s grass course, is the designed local prep for the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes Aug. 18 as the Grade I Arlington Million’s sister race also run during the Chicago oval’s one-day International Festival of Racing.

Other members of the distaff set that are considered as probable starters in the Modesty are Stone Farm et al.’s Upperline, winner of the Grade III Arlington Oaks two years ago and this season’s Grade III Arlington Matron; Robert Zoellner’s She’s All In, winner of Hawthorne’s Grade III Sixty Sails Handicap this spring; Catesby Clay’s Bizzy Caroline, winner of Churchill’s Grade II Regret Stakes last year; and Frank Calabrese’s Romacaca, winner of Monmouth’s Grade III Matchmaker and runner-up in Saratoga’s Grade II Ballston Spa last summer.

Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. celebrated her 40th birthday in Thursday’s fourth race and moved into sole possession of third place in the jockey standings with a win aboard Barr Three LLC and Cherrywood Racing Stable II’s Charlotte’s Cape for trainer Michele Boyce.

Arlington’s leading apprentice jockey Alejandro Contreras celebrated a riding double Thursday, taking the fifth race astride Pam Marcum’s McLard for trainer Charlie Livesay and the finale aboard Hondo Ranch’s Distant Mesa for Arlington’s two-time trainer champion Frank Kirby.