06/11/2012 3:14PM

Arlington: Caleb's Posse getting a breather

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Tom Keyser
Caleb's Posse will likely race at Saratoga and Santa Anita later this year.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – If you happen to be passing Candy Meadows Farm near Lexington, Ky., and see a powerful-looking bay horse deeply brooding in a paddock, that’s probably Caleb’s Posse. American’s toughest-luck horse of 2012 is getting some rest and relaxation at Candy Meadows Farm before gearing up for a second half of a racing season that probably will include starts at Saratoga and Santa Anita. His connections most certainly hope it goes somewhat differently than the first half.

If horses know frustration, Caleb’s Posse must be burning with it during this down time. He began his season with a neck defeat in the Tom Fool Handicap on March 3, a race in which he closed almost five lengths from the stretch call to the finish. The April 7 Carter was void of early speed, but Caleb’s Posse still rallied furiously to finish second by a nose to Jackson Bend, passing third-place Shackleford in the process. May 28 might have been the toughest loss: Closing from the back of the field on a track favoring inside speed, Caleb’s Posse surged alongside Shackleford in the final strides of the Metropolitan Handicap, but again came up a nose short.

“You try and step back and try and take an objective look at it,” trainer Donnie Von Hemel said of his own perspective on the string of difficult defeats. “He just has run so well each time this year. I thought speed was so much the best the day of the Met, and for him to make a run like he did, to get that close. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a horse turn in a losing effort that was so good.”

Von Hemel said that no specific racing schedule has been plotted for Caleb’s Posse, though he mentioned the Forego at Saratoga, where Caleb’s Posse won two stakes last summer, as one goal. Longer-term, a decision must be made on whether Caleb’s Posse seeks to defend his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile title from 2011 or go instead in the BC Sprint. This year’s Dirt Mile at Santa Anita is a two-turn race, compared with the one-turn mile at Churchill last fall.

Another Von Hemel stakes horse, She’s All In, will make her next start in the Delaware Handicap. She’s All In impressively won the Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne in April, but was ineffective racing a one-turn 1 1/16-miles over the same glib Belmont strip as Caleb’s Posse, finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Phipps.

“She never really kicked in at all,” Von Hemel said. “We’ll just throw it out and move on to the next spot. The Delaware Handicap at a mile and a quarter, I think that’s really good for her, and I don’t know that you can say that about too many horses.”

Record payout

Arlington’s Jackpot High-5 was hit Sunday, the bet’s $1,115,184.20 return the highest payoff in Arlington history.

The Jackpot High-5 pays out if a single ticket correctly selects the first five finishers in the last race of the day. If there’s more than one correct ticket, half the day’s pool is paid out to the winners, the other half carrying over to the next race day. There had been no unique winner of the Jackpot High-5 during the meet’s first 23 days, leading to the massive carryover on Sunday.

Arlington reported that the winning ticket was solid outside Illinois. The top five finishers in the race, a $5,000 claimer, were Better Make Money (42-1), Dixie Banner (14-1), Milwaukee Wolf (5-2), Dictum (6-1), and Shorty Small (3-1).

Retirement benefit

Galloping Out, a non-profit organization that helps provide care for retired racehorses, will hold a fund-raiser this Saturday, June 16, at Arlington during the Prairie State Festival. Included in the fund-raising activities is a jockey-autograph session before the races begin and a silent auction during a race card featuring six $125,000 stakes for Illinois-breds.