05/25/2013 7:41PM

Arlington Park: Hogy scores in Hanshin Cup

Four-Footed Fotos
Hogy, with Chris Emigh riding, is a clear winner in the Hanshin Cup.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - One could curl a couple fingers closed and still count on one hand the number of Illinois Thoroughbred owners who might step up to the plate with an $80,000 claim these days. William Stiritz, the Fairmount Park owner who runs a substantial racing string, is one of them, and when Hogy was dangled for $80,000 in an optional claimer last Nov. 1 at Hawthorne, Stiritz took him.

The investment paid off nicely Saturday at Arlington, where Hogy scored a sharp 1 1/2-length victory over Mister Marti Gras in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hanshin Cup Stakes.

Hogy ($18.40) and jockey Chris Emigh sat in a good spot in third as Hammers Terror and Nates Mineshaft battled through taxing fractions, going a half-mile in a flashy 45.73 seconds. The question was whether Hogy had gotten too much of the pace, and Hogy provided a definitive answer, leaving the front-runners behind after turning for home, then comfortably holding clear a sustained move from Mister Marti Gras. Hogy’s winning time was 1:34.25, one of the fastest Arlington miles since Polytrack was installed in 2007.

“He was so relaxed,” said Emigh said. “At the five-sixteenths pole he just took off with me. He knew where the stretch was and what to do.”

Stiritz, the former chairman of Ralston-Purina, gets many of his racehorses by breeding them, and he regularly buys yearlings at auction, too. Claims are rarer, and in Hogy, a gelded son of Offlee Wild, Stiritz made a significant bet. It was one that made decent sense, since Hogy, a precocious 2-year-old in 2010, can handle all-weather surfaces as well as turf, giving him various Arlington options this summer for trainer Scott Becker. Hogy had never before won at a mile, but Emigh said his mount stayed the distance Saturday without tiring, and with maturity, Hogy might be carrying his speed farther.

Mister Marti Gras, a two-turn horse for most of his career, finished with good energy in a rare one-turn appearance, but came up short. Hammers Terror held well for third, a half-length in front of Seruni, who somewhat surprisingly was bet down to 5-2 favoritism. Nates Mineshaft, making his first start since a close third-place finish in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap in June 2012, tired badly after battling on the lead and wound up last of nine.