09/03/2011 6:59PM

Arlington: Mister Marti Gras survives objection, inquiry in Washington Park


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The 4-year-old gelding Mister Marti Gras has gotten caught up in all kinds of intrigue during late summer 2011. In mid-August, he was temporarily elevated from runner-up to the winner of the July 9 Arlington Handicap after Tajaaweed was disqualified for a positive drug test. But on Aug. 25, that ruling was reversed on a technicality, and Mister Marti Gras was back to his second-place spot.

And on Saturday at Arlington, Mister Marti Gras had to withstand a jockey’s objection and a stewards’ inquiry before his number stayed up and he was declared the winner of the Grade 3, $100,000 Washington Park Handicap.

Workin for Hops, the 7-5 favorite, was not so fortunate. He finished second after setting the pace in the Washington Park, but was disqualified to third for coming out in deep stretch and impeding the third-place finisher, the filly Maristar. Maristar, who raced about three paths wide, and Mister Marti Gras, who was four wide, rallied in tandem through the stretch, gaining steadily on a tiring Workin for Hops. Workin for Hops clearly drifted out in the final half-furlong, and E.T. Baird on Maristar had to take up sharply. The question was whether Mister Marti Gras and jockey Eddie Perez had contributed to the trouble, and the answer from the Arlington stewards was “no.”

“I was the winner,” a disappointed Baird said afterward. “Everything worked out great till the end.”

Whether Maristar would have caught Mister Marti Gras is debatable, but both horses turned in a solid performance, with 4-year-old Mister Marti Gras ($16.80) winning his first graded stakes and first Polytrack race for owner-breeder Bob Lothenbach and trainer Chris Block.

“I just wanted to get a clean trip,” said Perez, who hadn’t ridden Mister Marti Gras since a second-place finish last October in the Hawthorne Derby. “He’s only run once on [a synthetic track], and he was jumping a little from the Poly [kickback] at first.”

Workin for Hops set splits of 23.94 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and a moderate 48.89 seconds to the half, but the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Washington Park is pushing his distance limitations, and the Arlington main track was unkind to inside speed throughout Saturday’s program. Workin for Hops stayed on gamely but could not match the late burst from Mister Marti Gras, a son of Belong to Me out of the mare Miss Martawho, was timed in 1:51.60. Pace-pressing Burj Alzain held fourth in a decent effort, and was followed by Color Me Blue, Dark Cove, General Quarters, and Hoosier Kingdom.