The six $125,000 races that make up the Prairie State Festival are:
The Springfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on Polytrack
The Isaac Murphy Handicap for fillies & mares, 3-year-olds & upward at six furlongs on Polytrack
The White Oak Handicap for 3-year-olds & upward at six furlongs on Polytrack
The Lincoln Heritage Handicap for fillies & mares 3-year-olds & upward at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf
The Black Tie Affair Handicap for 3-year-olds & upward at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf
As is often the case with the Prairie State Festival, Illinois champions past, present and future play prominent roles in the six stakes races.
The Black Tie Affair Handicap is topped by 122-pound highweight and defending champion Tazz who races in the colors of Robert & Kelly Dobbs and Carson Springs Farm.
The 6-year-old Roar of the Tiger gelding is a seven-time winner at Arlington Park, winning both the Black Tie Affair and the $60,000 Illinois Owners Stakes here last summer. Seth Martinez, who rode Tazz in the Illinois Owners Stakes, will have the mount Saturday.
One pound back in the weights at 121 lbs are Team Block’s dual Illinois champion Suntracer and Russell Reineman Stable’s Color Me Blue.
The former, who has been competitive in graded stakes competition including a runner-up placing in the Grade II American Derby last year, makes a rare foray into state-bred company. The Chris Block-trained 4-year-old will be ridden by Eduardo Perez.
The latter, a Brian Williamson-trained son of Flatter, beat open company rivals earlier this year when taking Oaklawn Park’s $75,000 Fifth Season Stakes. Robby Albarado has been named aboard the 6-year-old gelding.
Timothy Keeley’s Peyote Patty, S. D. Brilie Ltd. Partnership’s Pathway and Dundalk 5’s Dundalk Dust – the 1-2-3 finishers in the 2011 Lincoln Heritage – will square off again in that race where they will by joined by Two Bucks to Show’s Cumulonimble, winner of the 2010 edition of Lincoln Heritage.
Trainer Chris Block has named Tim Thornton to ride Peyote Patty while that same trainer has slated Jeffrey Sanchez to partner with Dundalk Dust. Christine Janks has given the mount aboard Pathway to Seth Martinez and trainer Wayne Catalano has James Graham slated for the tack aboard Cumulonimble.
Ron Magers, Bob Marcocchio, Roe Conn & Russell Scurto’s Third Chance, the 125-pound Isaac Murphy highweight, will shoot for his third straight Illinois-bred stakes score with the daughter of Kafwain.
Earlier this year, the 4-year-old filly won Hawthorne’s $125,000 Governor’s Lady Handicap to go along with a previous score in the $125,000 Powerless Handicap there last fall. Francisco Torres gets a return call astride the dual Illinois champion who will concede her rivals from three to nine pounds.
Among those to challenge the highweight are Gary & Beth Leverton’s defending champion Wild Hope (James Graham, 119 lbs.) and Last Call Racing’s Our Lady in Red (Julio Felix, 121)
Dana Waier Thoroughbreds’ River Bear will carry top weight of 125-pounds in the White Oak, a race the son of Unreal Zeal won in 2009 and finished second in 2011. The Rusty Hellman-trained 7-year-old has won three straight races this year including the $125,000 Robert S. Molaro Handicap against state-breds at Hawthorne and the open company $60,000 Prairie Express in Iowa. Regular pilot Danush Sukie will be aboard again Saturday.
A pair of Christine Janks-trained runners – S. D. Brilie Ltd. Partnership’s Big Looie (Rosemary Homeister Jr., 120), third in this race last year as well as third to River Bear in the Molaro; and Carson Springs Farm, Letto Thoroughbreds and Phillip Cooper’s 2011 Lightning Jet winner Four Left Feet (Jeffrey Sanchez) – figure to provide solid competition for River Bear,
Shelbi Catalano’s Class Break (Quincy Hamilton), who was never off the board in five starts as a 2-year-old while winning both the $125,000 Showtime Deb Stakes and the $100,000 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante at Hawthorne Race Course last autumn, looks to be the one to beat in the Purple Violet Stakes while Richard Glander’s Report Card (Francisco Torres) and B Jock LLC’s Twelve Hundred (Robby Albarado) are likely to be well-backed in the Springfield.