Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Saturday, June 14, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/14/2014 #
  • The Pizza Man winning 2012 Tex's Zing Hcp

In Today's Notes: The Pizza Man Leads Black Tie Affair Noms; Defending Champ La Tia the Standout of Lincoln Heritage Noms; Arlington Welcomes Apprentice Aragon


Midwest Thoroughbreds' The Pizza Man leads the nomination list for next Saturday's (June 21) $100,000-added Black Tie Affair Handicap for Illinois-registered colts and geldings. The son of Breeders' Cup Turf winner English Channel will be looking to make his 2014 debut if entered and has turned in a series of solid works at Arlington International Racecourse in preparation.

Trained by Roger Brueggemann, the Illinois champion sophomore of 2012 won his last two races to close out 2013, including the Illinois Owners Stakes at Arlington over a turf mile in September. Last year, the four-time stakes winner was second to eventual Illinois champion turf horse Coalport in the Black Tie Affair – beaten just under three lengths.

Trainer Chris Block has nominated Tim Keeley's Awol Adam and Fortino Inc.'s Sweet Luca. Despite being polar opposites in appearance, the robust gray Awol Adam and smallish dark bay Sweet Luca both have strong closing styles and have done some of their best running at two turns on the turf. Awol Adam would have to be wheeled back rather quickly off a runner-up finish in a June 8 allowance, but with only a facile victory to open his season (prior to the June 8 event) on the year, contesting the Black Tie Affair does not seem like an implausible or arduous task for the son of Military.

Sweet Luca – often a deep-closing sprinter – previously stretched out on the lawn to finish a strong third in the aforementioned Illinois Owners Stakes behind The Pizza Man. In his seasonal debut on June 1, the son of Candy Ride was fanned five-wide in the stretch of the six-furlong Polytrack event and seemed to need the race. The 5-year-old looks to move forward off such and may appreciate a return to two turns.

Frank Irvin's Fear the Kitten has been a project in patience for trainer Mike Maker. Regarded highly enough to nearly enter the 2013 Kentucky Derby, the son of Kitten's Joy has consistently raced competitively in stakes and allowance races, but still rides a 15-race losing streak after winning his first two races. Assistant trainer and head of Maker's local string Jessica Howell remains very high on the 4-year-old bay who has not disgraced himself in two Arlington appearances in 2014 – including a closing second to Awol Adam on May 16.


Recent runaway Grade III Arlington Matron winner and defending champion La Tia tops the nominations for next Saturday's (June 21) $100,000-added Lincoln Heritage Handicap for Illinois-registered fillies and mares. The multiple Illinois champion has been pointed toward the event by owner owner Hernandez Racing Club and trainer Armando De La Cerda since her open-length win on May 24.

De La Cerda has indicated that the timing of the Lincoln Heritage works perfectly with the mare's summer goals, including possible runs in the Grade III Ontario Matron at Woodbine Racetrack in late July. Still on her radar is a potential repeat attempt at the Grade I Beverly D., in which she finished an excellent fifth last year.

The powerhouse stable of Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey could unleash up to two 'kittens' on La Tia in the Lincoln Heritage in the form of stakes winner Bold Kitten and last year's Lincoln Heritage runner-up Tipsy. Both emblazoned chestnut daughters of Kitten's Joy trained by Mike Maker, the Ramsey duo are approaching possible runs here in different ways. Tipsy will be looking to make her first race since last year's edition, while Bold Kitten has raced three times in 2014 and ran arguably the most impressive race of her career last out when defeating an allowance field by a widening 3¾ lengths.

Last year, Bold Kitten outdueled multiple Illinois champion My Option in the Purple Violet Stakes on the Chicagoland oval's main course. Interestingly enough, despite being a daughter of a turf champion and out of a turf-friendly female family, she has yet to win on the lawn in five attempts.

Arlington veterans and constant rivals Kepi and Katie the Lady are both nominated for their respective connections after finishing first and third in a competitive June 5 allowance. Nancy Vanier and Lyda Williamson's Kepi proved victorious that day and trainer Brian Williamson indicated immediately after that the daughter of Strategic Mission would be wheeled back for the Lincoln Heritage. Cherrywood Racing et al's pacesetting Katie the Lady finished a solid third in her first race of 2014, losing by just 1¼ lengths for trainer Michele Boyce.

Dick Otto's improving Alette is both nominated and pointing toward the Lincoln Heritage, according to trainer Chris Block. The daughter of Lemon Drop Kid has proven quite versatile in her 13-race career, winning on both turf and dirt, while placing on the synthetic last year behind Bold Kitten in the Purple Violet. In her last race, after two subpar performances to commence the year, Alette returned to her winning form with a gritty win in open allowance company at Arlington – earning a notable 100 Equibase Speed Figure.


Apprentice Rolando Aragon made the first two starts of his riding career on Friday afternoon at Arlington International Racecourse – finishing on the board in the latter aboard the Moises Yanez-trained and –owned La Pinata. Aragon may be new to riding in the afternoons, but is a veteran at the racetrack.

"It feels magnificent. I've been dreaming of this day," Aragon said after his second mount. "I've worked on the backside, been an exercise rider for 11 years and been around horses since I was five years old. I grew up on the backsides of Arlington, Sportsman's (Park) and Hawthorne."

Aragon credits a plethora of trainers, including Moises Yanez, Justin Johns, Doug Matthews, Hugh Robertson, and Tom Swearingen for helping him make this career leap. He currently receives the introductory 10-pound allowance and is represented by Pat Cuccurullo.