SUNTRACER, MORO TAP TOP GRADE III STARS AND STRIPES
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (July 9, 2014) – Saturday's Grade III $150,000 Stars and Stripes Stakes at a mile and a half on the turf drew a contentious field of 10 marathoners including Suntracer and Moro Tap – the two-three finishers behind War Dancer in the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs.
Finishing just a head behind War Dancer in the Louisville was Team Block's Illinois-bred Suntracer, who will likely benefit Saturday from home turf advantage. Runner-up to Dark Cove in the 2013 Stars and Stripes and to the sensational Dandino in last year's American St. Leger, the Chris Block-trained son of Kitten's Joy is coming into this year's Stars and Stripes off several sharp works at Arlington, including a five-furlong work in 1:00 on Polytrack on July 6. Julien Leparoux has been named to ride.
Block has also entered Lothenbach Stables' Mister Marti Gras, a multiple graded stakes winner with earnings in excess of $1 million. The son of Belong to Me has yet to win at distances father than a mile and an eighth, but is graded stakes placed at a mile and a quarter. The Stars and Stripes will be his first start at a mile and a half. The 7-year-old gelding comes in to the race of a victory in a mile and a sixteenth turf allowance last month. Eduardo Perez gets the return call. Mister Marti Gras is cross-entered in the Grade III $200,000 Arlington Handicap at a mile and a quarter on the turf.
Moro Tap, who races for the partnership of Skychai Racing, Sand Dollar Stable, Terry Raymond and Jana Wagner, was three lengths behind War Dancer and Suntracer in the Louisville Handicap and is winless in five starts this year for trainer Mike Maker who saddled Dark Cove to take last year's running of the Stars and Stripes. The son of Tapit last won when capturing a $96,000 allowance race at Kentucky Downs last September. Victor Espinoza has the mount.
Midwest Thoroughbreds' multiple Illinois champion The Pizza Man carries a three stakes race win skein dating back to last summer into the Stars and Stripes. The son of English Channel opened his 2014 season with a victory in the restricted $100,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap after winning the Illinois Owners Stakes here and the open $75,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne to close out his successful 2013 campaign. Leading rider Florent Geroux will ride the Roger Brueggemann-trained 5-year-old.
The remainder of the field for the Stars and Stripes (with jockeys listed) is: Rollin Fishback and Charles Logsdon's Dreams Cut Short (Joe Bravo); Windridge Farms and Donald Donohue's Seton Hall (Brian Hernandez Jr.); Rhonda Thurman and J. C. Cleary's Bubba's Big Show (Stephanie Slinger); Haras Regina's Olympic Thunder (Alan Garcia); John Royer's Dad Are We Here (James Graham); and Donegal Racing's O'Prado Ole (Channing Hill).
The Stars and Stripes serves as the final local prep for the running of the Listed $400,000 American St. Leger, which will be held Aug. 16 as part of the International Festival of Racing. In addition to the Stars and Stripes, the 12-race card includes the Grade III $200,000 American Derby, the Grade III $200,000 Modesty Handicap and the Arlington Handicap. As an added bonus, the 1-2-3 finishers in the Stars and Stripes will have their entry and starting fees waived for the American St. Leger should they elect to run in that event next month.