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Free Fighter Wins Off the Turf Stars and Stripes
Frank Mancari’s Free Fighter took the lead in mid-stretch and drew off to win the $100,000 Stars and Stripes Stakes Saturday at Arlington Park. The Mike Reavis-trained son of Out of Place was ridden by Tim Thornton and covered the mile and a half over Polytrack in a track record of 2:31.98 for the seldom run distance.
Originally carded to be run on turf, the Stars and Stripes was moved to the main track after an overnight storm dropped a single-day record of nearly seven inches at nearby O’Hare International Airport.
“Mike (trainer Reavis) and I planned to let him sit comfortably wherever he was and sit off the speed a little bit,” Thornton said. “It worked out perfectly. I was able to sit on the fence all the way around there and save all the ground until (Kingofthebluegrass) was stopping bad in front of me. I was able to ease out and when I asked him to pick it up, he did.”
The Illinois-bred 6-year-old won this race in 2009 when owned by Tom Fedro & Team Block and trained by Chris Block. Mancari purchased the horse privately over the winter in Florida and sent him to Reavis to train.
The 2011 Stars and Stripes was his first victory for his new connections and his eighth in 32 starts overall. He added $58,800 to his bankroll which stands at $441,768.
Multiple Grade I winner Winchester, the 9-10 post time favorite, was making his first start on a surface other than grass and did well to finish second in the seven-horse field.
“He ran great, no excuses,” said Liam Kelly, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. “Cornelio (jockey Velasquez) said he's a different horse on grass. When they took (the race) off the grass we were thinking of scratching. He'd never run on it before, and nothing against the other horses but it didn't look the strongest field. We had to take the chance.”
Proceed Bee was third, followed by Hattash, Lemonade Kid, Kingofthebluegrass and Getta Rhythm to complete the order of finish.
Free Fighter paid $20.60, $7.60 and $4.40. Winchester returned $2.60 and $2.40. Proceed Bee paid $3.40.