Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, June 17

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/17/2011 #
  • S. D. Brilie Partnership’s Big Looie winning the 2010 Springfield Stakes

Arlington’s Prairie State Festival One Week Away;Saturday’s Jefferson Cup Serves as Secretariat Stakes Preview;Saturday’s Hill Prince Also Shows Off Secretariat Sophomores

Stakes racing returns to Arlington Park in a big way next Saturday when Chicago’s northwest oval hosts the 12th Prairie State Festival, featuring six $100,000 stakes restricted to horses registered, conceived and/or foaled in Illinois.

Seventy-eight horses, including one cross-entered, are nominated to the half-dozen stakes slated for June 25, including three of last year’s Prairie State Festival winners.

William Stiritz’s My Sonny Boy, hero of the 2010 Black Tie Affair Handicap, has been nominated to defend his championship in that 1 1/16-turf test for 3-year-olds and up; Team Block’s Shrewd Operator, winner of last summer’s White Oak Handicap, is nominated to defend his championship in that six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up; and S. D. Brilie Partnership’s Big Looie, who captured last year’s one-mile Springfield Stakes restricted to sophomores, is also nominated to the White Oak ‘Cap as a 4-year in 2011.

Shrewd Operator is conditioned by the Prairie State Festival’s all-time leading trainer Chris Block, who has celebrated 16 wins in the state-bred series to date and has nine nominations included next Saturday.

Big Looie is trained by Christine Janks, who has saddled at least Prairie State Festival winner in each of the last six years and has submitted six nominations for next Saturday’s renewal.

Increasingly, it’s time for fans of Arlington Park’s upcoming International Festival of Racing Aug. 13 to start paying attention to what’s going on around the country this weekend.

In Virginia, Colonial Downs is offering the $500,000 Colonial Cup as a set-up race for the Grade I Arlington Million, and also the Grade III All Along Stakes as a preview for the Grade I Beverly D., but in Kentucky on Saturday, half the horses in the field for the Grade III Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs are original nominations to Arlington Park’s Mid-America Triple, which concludes with the Grade I Secretariat Stakes as the Festival’s other highlight.

Also, Arlington’s Grade II American Derby, middle leg of the Chicago Triple, is still three weeks away on July 9, and remains a possibility to attract some of the grass-favoring sophomores scheduled to run in the Jefferson Cup.

Easily favored over the Louisville lawn in the Jefferson Cup is Glen Hill Farm’s Banned, who is coming off a facile 4 1/2-length score in Churchill’s Grade II American Turf on Kentucky Oaks Day May 6.

Trained by Tom Proctor, Banned was also fifth in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall and gets the riding services of Jose Lezcano Saturday.

Co-second choice in the Jefferson Cup is another Mid-America Triple nominee – Millennium Farms’ Great Mills – who won Fair Grounds’ $59,000 Grindstone Stakes during the winter, finished second by a nose in Keeneland’s Grade III Transylvania Stakes early in the spring and was then fourth behind Banned in the American Turf.

Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Julien Leparoux, who each won Eclipse Awards in their respective divisions during the 2009 racing season, make up Great Mills’ trainer-jockey tandem.

Courtlandt Farm’s Perregaux and Silverton Hill’s Swagger Jack complete the quadrant of Jefferson Cup entrants also nominated to the Mid-America Triple.

Four of the nine grass-favoring sophomores slated for Saturday’s Grade III Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park are also original nominations to the 2011 Mid-America Triple.

They include Stuart Janney III’s 3-1 morning line favorite Air Support and Gary and Mary West’s Casino Host, co-second choice in the projected wagering at 5-1.

Air Support won Belmont’s Grade III Pilgrim Stakes last fall over yielding ground and also Keeneland’s Grade III Transylvania Stakes over the Lexington lawn this spring before finishing third in Churchill’s Grade III American Turf on Kentucky Oaks Day.

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey conditions Air Support, who will have the riding services of Alex Solis Saturday.

Casino Host, a son of Dynaformer, is cross-entered at Monmouth Park on Saturday, while Sagamore Farm’s Humble and Hungry and Prantlack Farm’s East of Danzig complete the Hill Prince entries that are also original Triple nominees.