09/08/2011 3:51PM

Arlington Park: DiVito's bargain babies step up to graded stakes company

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – To say trainer Jim DiVito has been on a tear in 2-year-old races is not doing the man justice. Twenty-one of the last 52 juveniles DiVito has sent out to race have come home first for an audacious 40-percent strike rate. And DiVito hardly is operating with an inherent talent advantage. He has a major contender for the $100,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity in Twelve Hundred, and for the $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie in Ann of the Dance. The two horses combined cost a mere $3,700 at auction.

“I guess I must be seeing something other people don’t see,” DiVito said of his success with bargain purchases.

If either of the two run to their ability it could alter a less glowing statistic – DiVito is 0 for 5 with his most recent graded stakes starters. The Saturday stakes, both carded at a one-turn Polytrack mile, are Grade 3’s. The Lassie, race 8, comes up first, immediately followed by the Futurity.

Twelve Hundred’s task might be the tougher of the two, since the Futurity drew 14 horses and appears to include greater depth of talent than the Lassie. Twelve Hundred, a Cape Town gelding so named because of his purchase price, won his career debut here by almost six lengths over two Futurity rivals, Ville and No Spin, before stretching out from a sprint to a two-turn mile and switching from synthetic to dirt in the Prairie Juvenile Mile last month in Iowa. That race produced an eight-length, front-running victory, and Twelve Hundred should be prominent throughout Saturday’s contest while breaking from post 14 under Francisco Giles.

“He’s usually pretty quick leaving the gate,” DiVito said. “He should have a good position getting out of there, but I think he can lay off the pace and win if someone else wants the lead.”

Twelve Hundred faces another undefeated Arlington-based horse in Hogy, who won a maiden and an allowance race here before capturing a $50,000 sprint stakes at Canterbury Park despite disliking dirt.

“He just didn’t have the same turn of foot as he does on Polytrack,” said trainer Joel Berndt.

Hogy won his two races at Arlington by nearly 12 lengths combined, and turned in a powerful workout on Aug. 27, going one mile in 1:40.60.

“My plan was to work him twice, but he worked so much faster than we expected,” Berndt said. “We had a target horse out front of him, and he did that under a stranglehold. Afterward, I got together with the gallop boy and decided one work was going to do it. We’re set.”

Take Charge Indy lacks experience, but was an impressive 6  1/2-length winner of his career debut July 30 at Arlington, and has an excellent pedigree being by A.P. Indy and out of the top racemare Take Charge Lady. Shared Property galloped to an Ellis Park maiden score for trainer Tom Amoss in his only race.

The Lassie has just nine entrants and seems ripe for Ann of the Dance, who won her career debut over a five-furlong distance far shorter than her best despite trailing the leader by seven lengths at the stretch call. Unsurprisingly, she proved even better in a two-turn route, whipping males by more than six lengths on Aug. 14 with a flashy move coming off the far turn. The move back to a one-turn mile doesn’t concern DiVito, who said Ann of the Dance has been training with aplomb.

“She should run a good race,” he said.

Always Here Too, another Amoss-trained runner, might be favored based on superior speed figures and a flashy last-out Ellis maiden win following a fifth-place finish at Churchill in her debut.

“Both races were very good, I think,” Amoss said. “She just had a lot of trouble first time out.”

Essence of Bubbles is a front-running threat, having captured an entry-level allowance race over seven furlongs by two lengths here Aug. 25, a performance that led to her private purchase by owner Richard Ravin. Rocket Twentyone was cross-entered in an allowance race earlier on Saturday’s card.