Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras, hero of last summer’s Grade III Washington Park Handicap, breezed Sunday at Arlington in advance of Saturday’s 78th renewal of the $150,000 Washington Park ‘Cap, Arlington’s richest race for older horses over its Polytrack course each year.
Sunday’s five-furlong tune-up was accomplished in 1:04 over Arlington’s grass course with the “dogs” well out from the rail. The turf was rated “firm” at the time, hours before showers hit the Chicago oval later in the morning.
Last summer, Mister Marti Gras finished second in the Arlington Handicap on the grass before going on to his score in the Washington Park Handicap over the Polytrack, and last fall he won the Grade III Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs over the Twin Spires oval’s main track which was rated “muddy” for the race.
POOL PLAY PREPARES IN CANADA FOR WASHINGTON PARK HANDICAP
W. S. Farish Jr.’s Pool Play, a projected starter in Arlington’s Washington Park Handicap Saturday, accomplished a breeze going five furlongs in 1:02.80 over Woodbine’s Polytrack course last Friday.
Conditioned by Canadian-based trainer Mark Casse, Pool Play finished fourth in Woodbine’s Grade III Seagram Cup Stakes over Polytrack in his most recent start August 4, but before that was also fourth in Woodbine’s $100,000 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes over the Canadian lawn July 2.
Pool Play won Churchill’s Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap in June of 2011 but was sidelined following that race until returning to competition in this summer’s Ontario Jockey Club Stakes.
G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm Racing’s Middie, considered to be the more probable of two Washington Park Handicap nominees trained by Phil Oliver, breezed a bullet five furlongs in a minute flat over Keeneland’s Polytrack Saturday morning.
The 4-year-old Officer gelding out of a Green Dancer mare finished third, beaten a length and a half for the win, in Arlington’s $65,000 Sea o’ Erin Stakes over the local lawn on June 9.
Zayat Stables’ Prayer for Relief, another probable contestant in the Washington Park, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 at Remington Park Saturday.
Trained by two-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Steve Asmussen, Prayer for Relief was second by a nose in Remington’s $200,000 Governor’s Cup in his most recent start August 11 and was sixth but beaten only a length and a half for the win in Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap over Del Mar’s Polytrack July 28.
Prayer for Relief also was the 2 1/2-length hero of the Grade II Super Derby last fall over the main track at Louisiana Downs.
One intriguing possible starter in the Washington Park ‘Cap is Barry Golden’s Workin for Hops, who breezed five furlongs in a minute flat over Arlington’s Polytrack Saturday.
Workin for Hops won the first two legs of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple two years ago and was second by a neck in last summer’s Washington Park ‘Cap before being disqualified and placed third.
JOCKEY JAMES GRAHAM RIDES TWO WINNERS SATURDAY
Arlington’s defending jockey champion James Graham had a riding double Saturday and was two wins in arrears of current leading rider Francisco Torres entering Sunday’s races.
Accomplishing training doubles Saturday were Arlington’s current leading trainer Wayne Catalano and fellow conditioner Wesley Ward.