09/01/2012 5:57PM

Arlington Park: Middie upsets Washington Park Handicap for first stakes win

Four-Footed Fotos
Middie wins the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap by 3 1/4 lengths.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Four-year-old Middie had only won a maiden and two allowance races before Saturday, but under a keen ride from Cisco Torres he tallied a 3 1/4-length victory over Mister Marti Gras in the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington, the first stakes win of Middie’s career.

Racing along the rail and just behind pacesetters Workin for Hops and Ballyjamesduff, Torres sent Middie up two wide to take the lead partway around the far turn, when Ballyjamesduff dropped off the pace. The pair opened a big lead coming into the stretch and had plenty left to hold clear Mister Marti Gras, who rallied steadily to be a clear second.

“When I saw a little seam open up, I just went ahead and took it,” said Torres, who is maintaining a narrow lead in the Arlington jockey standings.

Finishing with good energy after such a long drive, Middie ($30.80) stopped the timer in 1:49.27, which barely bettered the Arlington Polytrack record of 1:49.30 for 1 1/8 miles. Behind Mister Marti Gras came Pool Play, Hattash, Workin for Hops, and the 8-5 favorite, Prayer for Relief, who dropped tamely away after stalking the pace. Ballyjamesduff stopped badly and was eased.

Middie, an Officer gelding owned by G. Watts Humphrey and St. George Farm, came to Arlington earlier this summer to finish third on turf in the Sea O’ Erin. This time, he was here specifically because of Polytrack, over which Middie had won a first-level allowance race last fall at Keeneland.

“He likes the Poly and he hadn’t been on it in a long time,” said Neil Pessin, who saddled Middie for Kentucky-based trainer Phil Oliver. “Phil thought he had a good shot.”

Mister Marti Gras ran his typical solid race in defeat, but was out-quicked by the winner at a key moment in the Washington Park.
“We ran into a buzz saw right there,” trainer Chris Block said.