08/17/2011 1:13PM

Arlington Park: DiVito juveniles continue to impress


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Since trainer Jim DiVito has won with a somewhat shocking 20 of his last 48 2-year-old starters, a 42 percent strike rate, it comes as little surprise that DiVito is coming off a grand weekend with the juvenile set. Twelve Hundred, an open-lengths winner at Prairie Meadows on Saturday, and Ann of the Dance, equally impressive Sunday at Arlington, both ran particularly well and earned slots in Arlington’s graded stakes races for 2-year-olds next month, the Arlington-Washington Futurity and Arlington-Washington Lassie.

Twelve Hundred, a Cape Town gelding so named because of his bargain-rack purchase price, won his career debut July 14 sprinting on Arlington Polytrack by almost six lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 92, among the best in the country for a 2-year-old of 2011. Sent to Iowa this past weekend, Twelve Hundred switched to dirt and stretched out to a two-turn mile, but the result was much the same, an eight-length, front-running win over seven overmatched rivals in the $60,000 Prairie Juvenile Mile.

“It doesn’t look like he has a [surface] preference,” DiVito said. “I think he’s as effective on both.”

Twelve Hundred relaxed comfortably on the lead, impressing his trainer, before sprinting away in the homestretch. DiVito said Twelve Hundred “came out of the race in really good shape” and would target the one-turn-mile Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 10.

Back in Chicago, DiVito was hoping to give Ann of the Dance, a sharp debut winner of a $40,000 maiden-claiming Polytrack sprint, a grass-allowance race, but heavy rain Saturday moved Sunday’s turf races onto the main track. That didn’t slow Ann of the Dance, who split horses a quarter-mile from home and drew clear to register a 6 1/2-length victory in a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile race.

“Being by English Channel, I was hoping to run her on the turf,” DiVito said. “Her pedigree says she should run a route much more than a sprint.”

Ann of the Dance, who cost a mere $2,500 herself, also exited her weekend race in good condition and will cut back to a one-turn mile in the Sept. 10 Lassie.

Hogy stays perfect with stakes win

Meanwhile, another Arlington-based 2-year-old, Hogy, hit the road and won, capturing the $50,000 Barenscheer Juvenile at Canterbury Park to run his record to 3 for 3. Hogy had won his first two starts at Arlington by nearly 12 lengths combined and was favored at 1-2 because of that form, but he had to work to push past front-running Squid on Sunday and scored by just three-quarters of a length.

“I’m very pleased that he won, but I think he won just because he was the best horse,” trainer Joel Berndt said. “He wasn’t real fond of the dirt. He just didn’t have the turn of foot he had on synthetic. It took until the last hundred yards to get up, and I think on the Poly he would have collared them at the sixteenth pole.”

That Hogy prefers an all-weather surface is unsurprising since his sire is Offlee Wild, whose offspring generally perform best on synthetic tracks, and Hogy will return to his track of choice next month in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, if all goes well.

“That’s the next goal if everything goes right, and it looks like he came back super,” Berndt said. “We’re going to try the one-turn mile, which I love for young horses because you get to run longer but you don’t have to turn twice.”

Never Retreat eyes Canadian Stakes

Never Retreat was one of the horses negatively affected by the heavy rain that fell this past Saturday and turned the Arlington turf course yielding for the day’s three Grade 1 stakes. After pressing a moderate pace on the outside, Never Retreat, well, retreated, finishing seventh while beaten less than five lengths in the Beverly D.

“She handles the soft turf, but she’s not at her very best when it’s like that,” trainer Chris Block said. “You can see how hard she’s trying, but she’s just not really going anywhere.”

Block will hope for more favorable conditions Sept. 18 at Woodbine, where Never Retreat is expected to start next in the $300,000 Canadian Stakes. In her race before the Beverly D., Never Retreat won the Dance Smartly at Woodbine by 1 1/4 lengths, her third graded turf stakes victory of 2011.

Block also has a toe in the water at Saratoga, where Giant Oak remains stabled after a third-place finish in the Whitney Handicap. Giant Oak came out of that closing performance in good shape, Block said last weekend, and is on target for the Sept. 3 Woodward at Saratoga.