06/07/2012 1:23PM

Arlington Park: Mr. Vegas a player in Sea O Erin, if he starts


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – A horse named Mr. Vegas, by all rights, should be game for about anything. One pictures an animal with a wild streak, a martini held casually in one hoof, a predilection for expensive sunglasses.

Alas, this is not the case. Mr. Vegas is a fine racehorse, but a flamboyant playboy he is not. The gelding tends to pace anxiously about his stall. He thrives on a boring homebody’s routine. And these characteristics could land Mr. Vegas in the $65,000 Sea O' Erin Stakes, Arlington’s featured race on Belmont Stakes Day.

Mr. Vegas just ran May 27 in the Kingston, a New York-bred race at Belmont, and his fifth-place finish there wasn’t up to the par he established over the winter in New Orleans. There, Mr. Vegas won two allowance races and the Bradley Handicap, then finished second in the Fair Grounds Handicap and a close fourth in the Mervin Muniz.

“I just don’t feel like he shipped that well,” said trainer Richie Scherer. “He didn’t settle in at Belmont.”

There are upcoming six-figure turf races at Indiana Downs and Churchill that Mr. Vegas would fit on form, but after observing the New York trip, Scherer wonders about another ship, which is why Mr. Vegas was entered in the Sea O' Erin.

“Everything looks great on him coming out of that race, but we’ll just have to see,” Scherer said. “There’s a chance we could scratch.”

Kentucky-based trainer Philip Oliver would have the horse to beat in the Sea O' Erin if he sends Seruni for the race, but Seruni is part of a coupled entry with Middie, a less accomplished horse. Seruni just won a May 20 allowance race at Churchill, beating talented foes Strike Impact and Rahystrada.

Nikki’s Sandcastle makes his first start in a stakes race but fits the spot. Now 2 for 2 on the Arlington turf course, Nikki’s Sandcastle has worked steadily since finishing second by a neck in an off-the-turf allowance race on opening weekend. The gelding held his own over the winter at Gulfstream against the likes of Makers 46 Mile winner Data Link, and that despite poor racing luck.

“He had a lot of bad trips down there,” said trainer Dave Kassen. “He’s been training good.”

Old hand Gleam of Hope edged Nikki’s Sandcastle in that May 6 allowance race and could also contend. Also worth considering is Lil Bit O’Fun, who might still have been rounding into his best form when he finished fifth behind Seruni last month.