09/21/2012 4:01PM

Arlington Park notes: Jeffrey Sanchez a perfect 10 for 10 on Awesome Feather

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Jeffery Sanchez is a perfect 10 for 10 aboard Awesome Feather.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The jockey Jeffrey Sanchez was off his mounts Thursday at Arlington Park. He had a good excuse.

Sanchez flew to New York to accept the mount Thursday at Belmont on Awesome Feather. That worked out pretty well. Awesome Feather won the Nasty Storm Stakes by more than 11 lengths, and in so doing punched her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, taking Sanchez along for the ride. Sanchez, hardly a household name in racing, is the only jockey to have ridden Awesome Feather in a career that has seen her win all 10 of her starts while being named champion 2-year-old filly of 2010.

“She’s the best horse I’ve ridden my whole career,” Sanchez said Friday, where he was out working horses at 6 in the morning, about 19 hours after Awesome Feather’s race. “Yesterday she felt better than at any time that I’ve ridden her.”

The jockey pipeline usually flows the other direction, with New York-based riders coming to Chicago to snag live stakes mounts. And it’s not like Sanchez has established some holy bond with Awesome Feather’s trainer, Chad Brown. Sanchez has ridden only 10 horses for Brown his entire career, but he was riding first call for trainer Stanley Gold when Awesome Feather made the races two summers ago. Sanchez had ridden the filly in workouts before she ever started and knows Awesome Feather as well as any rider.

“I’m just not going to take him off a horse that’s undefeated; there’s no reason,” said Brown, who took over Awesome Feather’s training when Frank Stronach bought the horse. And Brown said he’s not about to make a change for Awesome Feather’s biggest race of the year. “Oh yeah, he’s not coming off this horse. He gets along with her really well.”

Sanchez rode Awesome Feather to victory in the BC Juvenile Fillies in 2010. Provided Awesome Feather – who has seen limited action the last two calendar years – makes it to Santa Anita, Sanchez will be riding his fifth Breeders’ Cup starter. Besides Awesome Feather, Sanchez has a third and two fourths from three BC runners.

The 27-year-old Sanchez, a native of Puerto Rico, is spending his first summer in Chicago, and he has fared well here, entering Friday’s races fourth in the local standings with 53 winners at the meet. Sanchez has regularly ridden for Wayne Catalano and Jim DiVito, and among a few horses he picked up for trainer Chris Block is Ioya Bigtime, who has won the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes and the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Turf this summer, both under Sanchez.

Sanchez and agent Penny Ffitch-Heyes are headed for the Keeneland meet as soon as Arlington wraps up. Then it will be back on to Florida – where Sanchez originally got on his horse of a lifetime.

Fires Tricks a deserving favorite

The Sunday feature, an open allowance for 3-year-old filly turf-sprinters, comes early, carded as the third of nine races. It’s a tricky race to figure, with a bunch of speed horses and a deserving favorite, Fire Tricks, who is running back on fairly short rest.

Illinois-bred Fire Tricks, the only horse with whom trainer Sharon Wilson has won in 2012, scored back-to-back victories here in the first two starts of her career this summer. She was a troubled third stepping into open allowance competition in her third race, then won a first-level allowance in her turf debut, rallying from behind a slow pace with a decisive move. But that performance came just 15 days ago, and even with a favorable pace setup, one wonders if Fire Tricks will reproduce it.

St. Louis City, the other filly with clearly sufficient talent to win, is drawn inside several other speed horses and has yet to make a start on turf,

The fourth race Sunday bears at least as much watching as the feature. The 2-year-old turf-route maiden includes promising runners like Mughadir, Bambazonki, and Lifes Reward.

◗ By winning the second race Friday, James Graham crept to within seven winners of leading rider Cisco Torres in the Arlington jockey standings. The meet ends Sept. 30.