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Mister Marti Gras Seeks Washington Park 'Cap Title Defense

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/29/2012 #
  • Lothenbach Stables' Mister Marti Gras, winner of the 2011 Washington Park Handicap, looks to defend his title in the G3 stakes

Lothenbach Stables' 2011 Washington Park Handicap winner Mister Marti Gras will be co-highweighted at 119 pounds in his title defense in the Grade III $150,000 race that will be run Saturday at nine furlongs over Arlington Park's all-weather Polytrack surface.

The 5-year-old son of Belong to Me rallied four-wide to nail front-running Workin for Hopps in the final strides of last year's renewal and employed similar tactics when taking Churchill Downs' Grade III Ack Ack Handicap over Breeders' Cup weekend two months later.

Though winless in five starts this year, the Chris Block-trained gelding has been racing well in graded stakes competition including a second-place finish over Polytrack in Woodbine's Grade III Eclipse Stakes and a third on the turf in the Grade III Arlington Handicap. Eduardo Perez, who was aboard for last year's Washington Park victory, rides Mister Marti Gras for the first time this year.

Among those slated to face Mister Marti Gras is co-highweigted Prayer for Relief, the Zayat Stables-owned runner who won the Grade III Iowa Derby, the Grade II West Virginia Derby and Grade II Super Derby last year. From the barn of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, Prayer for Relief comes into the Washington Park off a second-place effort in the $200,000 Governor's Cup at Oklahoma's Remington Park on Aug. 11. The 4-year-old Jump Start colt, who will be ridden Saturday by Arlington Park defending riding champion James Graham, has been graded stakes placed on four occasions this year including two on all-weather surfaces.

Will Farish's Grade I stakes winning Pool Play is sure to attract some attention Saturday. Winner of the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, the 7-year-old Silver Deputy horse only recently returned to racing and last out ran fourth as the favorite in the Grade III Seagram's Cup at Woodbine. Miguel Mena, his rider for his Stephen Foster victory, returns to the saddle aboard the Mark Casse trainee who will carry 118 pounds Saturday

Workin for Hops, who now races in the colors of Barry Golden, is certainly familiar to the Arlington Park faithful after winning the first two legs of the 2010 Mid-America Triple – the Arlington Classic and the Grade II American Derby on turf – as well as last year's Grade III Hanshin Cup over Polytrack. Last out, the Mike Stidham-trained son of City Zip was stretched out to a mile and a half in the Grade III Stars and Stripes and faded to last after which Stidham said, "That experiment is now over."

Robby Albarado rides Workin for Hops, who was assigned 117 pounds for the Washington Park.

Completing the field for the Washington Park Handicap (with jockey and weight assignment) are: KFCBB's Hattash (Rosemary Homeister Jr., 114); G. Watts Humphrey Jr. & St. George Farm Racing's Middie (Francisco Torres, 114); and Eagle Valley Farm's Ballyjamesduff (E. T. Baird, 112).