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Barn Notes: Wed., August 24
In Today's Notes: Arlington's Washington Park 'Cap on Tap for Mister Marti Gras; Junior Surges into Jockey's Race with Sunday Hat Trick; Arlington Offers $11,190 Pick-5 Carryover Thursday
ARLINGTON'S WASHINGTON PARK 'CAP ON TAP FOR MISTER MARTI GRAS
Lothenbach Stables' Mister Marti Gras, who finished third in Keeneland's Grade III Ben Ali Handicap in his lone career start on Polytrack, is slated to try that surface a second time in Arlington's upcoming Grade III Washington Park Handicap on Sept. 3 of Labor Day weekend.
With that goal in mind, trainer Chris Block breezed the son of Belong to Me three-quarters over Arlington's Polytrack last Sunday and the 4-year-old gelding accomplished the distance in a bullet 1:12.60.
"I was very pleased with the work," said Block, speaking from the apron during training hours Wednesday morning, "so the plan is to point him toward the Washington Park. Eddie Perez (aboard for Sunday's move) will ride.
In the Ben Ali, run last April 23, Mister Marti Gras was beaten only 3 1/4-lengths for all the money despite racing five-wide under jockey Rosie Napravnik. Since that Lexington outing, the homebred returned to his more familiar turf footing to win an $80,000 optional claiming race at Churchill Downs June 3 over the Louisville lawn, and was most recently second under the wire over Arlington's world famous turf course in the Grade III Arlington Handicap July 9.
It was over Fair Grounds' Stall-Wilson turf course that Mister Marti Gras broke his maiden in February of 2010 in his third career start after two runner-up finishes on dirt. He returned to main track at next asking to finish eighth in the 2010 Grade II Louisiana Derby.
After being moved back to the grass after that, Mister Marti Gras finished third in last year's 75th renewal of the prestigious Arlington Classic, won Indiana Downs' grassy $200,000 Oliver Stakes and then was runner-up in Arlington's Grade II American Derby. A sixth-place run in last year's Grade I Secretariat Stakes followed despite a wide trip throughout, and then an impressive second-place effort in the grassy Grade III Hawthorne Derby last fall.
Mister Marti Gras will have his final Washington Park work going five-eighths on the grass this coming Sunday, Block indicated, who sometimes likes to switch things up surface-wise with Mister Marti Gras to keep the horse focused.
"We'll see what happens (in the Washington Park Handicap) before we make any additional plans for him," Block said. "Hopefully, he's got better things to come in his future now that he's got some age on him."
Significantly, the Block-Perez trainer-rider tandem has accomplished 17 wins together this season at Arlington, six more than its nearest competition.
JUNIOR SURGES INTO JOCKEY'S RACE WITH SUNDAY HAT TRICK
Jockey Junior Alvarado, Arlington's riding champion in 2009 and runner-up last season, scored a three-race-straight hat trick Sunday at the local oval to surge into contention for leading rider honors once again this year.
The 25-year-old native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, was enjoying a comfortable lead in the early part of the current season before being sidelined by a broken collarbone that cost him five weeks of inactivity.
Alvarado won Sunday's third race aboard Chuck and Maribeth Sandford and Secure Investments' Hollywood Script for trainer Pat Byrne, came right back to the winner's circle after the fourth on Lanni and Youngblood's Lohan for conditioner Tom Proctor and gave Proctor a training double by riding Glen Hill Farm's Struck It Lucky to victory in the fifth race of the day.
Alvarado's three-win afternoon moved him into a tie for fourth with jockey E. T. Baird in the standings through Sunday. Together, they are now 11 wins behind jockey J. Z. Santana, who has led the standings almost throughout the meeting, and nine wins behind Arlington's current runner-up James Graham.
Incidentally, Santana's lone win Sunday came aboard Ronal Land's Doug Junior for trainer Steve Fridley, and that horse returned an eye-opening $64.60 win mutuel despite Santana's status as leading rider,
ARLINGTON OFFERS $11,190 PICK-5 CARRYOVER THURSDAY
As of Wednesday morning, Arlington's $11,190 Pick-5 carryover pool for Thursday was the highest carryover pool in North America, and is estimated to grow to about $35,000 before the horses enter the gate for Thursday's sixth race with its scheduled 3:30 p.m. CDT post time.
Arlington's Pick-5, in which speculators must pick the winners of Arlington's sixth through 10th races Thursday on the same ticket, is based on a 50-cent wager and also offers an attractively low 15 per cent takeout.