05/23/2013 3:17PM

Arlington Classic: Admiral Kitten, Procurement are lukewarm favorites


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Admiral Kitten finished second May 3 in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs behind Noble Tune, one of the better 3-year-old grass horses in North America. While out west April 21 at Santa Anita, Procurement scored a comfortable victory in the La Puente Stakes. Mike Smith makes a rare Arlington appearance to ride Admiral Kitten for trainer Mike Maker, while Garrett Gomez is here to pilot Procurement.

Yet it is unclear if either of these colts, the potential favorites, has a discernible edge over several of the other 10 horses entered Saturday in the Arlington Classic.

And that’s a story line running through all three Grade 3, $150,000 stakes carded Saturday at Arlington. The field of 10 in the Hanshin Cup, headed by long-layoff comebacker Nates Mineshaft, seems nearly impossible to separate, and the Matron Stakes for older fillies and mares is at least as contentious as the Hanshin.

Admiral Kitten, a Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred trained by Mike Maker, was risked for a $50,000 claiming tag in his debut last fall at Keeneland, but just five starts into his career, he has banked more than $114,000 in purses.

He shipped to Texas and won the El Joven Stakes last fall in his turf debut, and after a Polytrack dud at Turfway Park to start his 3-year-old campaign, Admiral Kitten has turned in two more good grass showings – a nose loss in a second-level Keeneland allowance race and his second to Noble Tune earlier this month at Churchill. The pace in the American Turf was moderate and even, and Admiral Kitten’s sustained rally from ninth to second makes him the one to beat Saturday at the same 1 1/16-mile distance.

Procurement might have more flaws. While Procurement, a Glen Hill Farm homebred, won his second turf race, it took him five starts to find the winner’s circle, and while he appears to have improved steadily this year, his La Puente win came over only four foes and with a favorable journey. Bettors seeking to extract more value might look elsewhere.

Illinois Derby runner-up Fordubai is the sort of horse whose odds might be greater than his chances of winning the Classic. While Illinois Derby winner Departing finished just sixth in the Preakness, he, like Preakness favorite Orb, wound up on the worst part of the Pimlico surface for the stretch run, and it’s probably premature to downgrade the 14-horse Illinois Derby.

Fordubai won the only turf start of his career last fall with a fast final furlong, and trainer Greg Geier said the Jim Tafel homebred had a good in-company five-furlong work when breezing in 1:00.40 on Polytrack on May 15.

Bambazonki, who drew poorly in post 12, won a turf maiden on the Arlington course last summer and looked like one of the better 3-year-old grass horses in Florida this past winter, but he checked in sixth in his most recent start, the April 5 Transylvania at Keeneland.

“I don’t know what happened that day, but he’s been training very well for this race,” trainer Chris Block said.

The turf-debuting General Election has been wildly inconsistent during his six-start career, but possesses enough talent to factor if his best synthetic form transfers to grass.

Yorkshire Icon beat older horses May 4 at Arlington while making his first start for trainer Dan Peitz. And Dorsett, another horse reportedly working strongly on Arlington’s Poltytrack, was a sharp turf-maiden winner at Fair Grounds in his last start on grass.