Hondo Ranch’s Sandia Crest closed like a shot in Saturday’s $126,500 Springfield Stakes, shocking most in the crowd of more than 10,000 on hand for Arlington’s 12th renewal of the Prairie State Festival for Illinois-breds.
Sandia Ranch’s win price of $42.40 was easily the largest of Saturday’s six stakes races restricted to horses foaled in the Prairie State, but it came as no surprise to his conditioner Frank Kirby – the gentle bear of a man who will always be remembered for capturing two training titles at Arlington 30 years apart.
“Plus, I had the best distance rider on the grounds riding him,” Kirby added, “and James rode the horse perfectly – like the absolute champ he is.”
Graham, incidentally, was the only jockey who rode two winners from the sextet of six-figure purses that made up Saturday’s Festival. The Irish-born reinsman also tallied aboard Two Bucks To Show’s Cumulonimble, the Wayne Catalano-trained mare who captured Saturday’s $113,325 Lincoln Heritage Handicap after winning the same race two years ago.
Arlington’s current leading jockey Francisco Torres and fifth-place rider Seth Martinez also posted riding doubles Saturday, with one of Torres’ coming in the $112,125 Isaac Murphy Handicap astride Ron Magers and Bob Marcocchio et al.’s Third Chance.
DIVITO-TRAINED THIRD CHANCE IN FINE FETTLE SUNDAY
Ron Magers and Bob Marcocchio et al.’s Isaac Murphy heroine Third Chance is trained by Jimmy DiVito, who reported all was well with the homebred filly Sunday morning.
“She ran a very impressive race yesterday,” DiVito said, “and she’s real good today.
“There were a lot of people in that winner’s circle with us yesterday,” added DiVito. “I don’t know who they all were but they were all having a good time and that’s a good thing.”
DiVito also saddled B Jock’s Twelve Hundred Saturday to a sixth-place finish in the Springfield Stakes. The 3-year-old gelding got the lead in upper stretch but tired steadily down the lane.
“He’s fine today,” said DiVito, “but for now at least we’re going to stick with sprinting for him.”
FESTIVAL’S CHAMPION TRAINERS BLOCK, JANKS SUFFER RARE SHUTOUTS
Illinois-born trainers Chris Block and Christine Janks, first and second respectively on the list of Arlington’s Prairie State Festival winning trainers, both suffered unlucky shutouts in Saturday’s 13th running of the six-stakes series restricted to Illinois-breds.
Block, born downstate in Champaign, had saddled at least one winner since the series’ inception prior to Saturday’s renewal, and Janks, born in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park, had her seven-straight season Festival win streak come to an end.
Fortunately, both Block and Janks reported all of their Festival runners came back from their races in good order, although Block’s duo of Team Block’s Suntracer and Ioya Bigtime both suffered traffic problems in Saturday’s $114,625 Black Tie Affair Handicap.
“Ioya Bigtime took the worst of it,” said Block Sunday morning. “He got absolutely annihilated in the stretch when you look at the head-on shot. But they’re both fine today and so are all my other horses. We’ll live to fight another day.”
Contacted by phone as she traveled to O’Hare International Sunday morning for a return trip to North Florida, Janks also reported no major problems with her horses.
“Everybody was fine this morning,” said Janks. “Unfortunately, nobody ran hard enough for me yesterday not to be fine.
“Actually, I was teasing Chris Block after the races last night,” Janks said with a laugh, “because we both seem to be getting shutout lately in state-bred competition. To everybody else’s joy, I guess.”