09/06/2011 2:27PM

Arlington Park: Pass the Dice lands in tough spot for third start


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Sure, the 3-year-old colt Pass the Dice lacks racing experience. He has started twice – both races during the 2011 Churchill Downs spring meeting – and won twice. But that is not to say Pass the Dice has not gotten around.

Shipped to Monmouth Park from Arlington for a start in the Aug. 28 Restoration Stakes, a 3-year-old-restricted grass race, Pass the Dice had that opportunity washed away by Hurricane Irene. Pass the Dice managed to get in a workout at Monmouth on Aug. 25, then, prepping for a possible start in the Saranac Stakes last weekend at Saratoga, he worked again Aug. 29 at Penn National, where trainer Wayne Catalano had sent another horse for a stakes race. But when Pass the Dice drew poorly for the Saranac, that prospective start also was scrapped.

“The hurricane came through and they canceled my race,” Catalano said. “We had a back-up plan, but we drew the 12 hole there, so he’s back at Arlington.”

Back at Arlington, and one of nine horses in the main body of a second-level, 1 1/16-mile turf allowance also open to $40,000 claimers – featured race 2 on Thursday’s 10-race card. Catalano likes Pass the Dice, the rare horse able to win a first-level allowance fresh off a debut score – “He’s been training like a monster here,” Catalano said – but Pass the Dice has not landed in an easy spot, and that has a lot to do with the state of race conditions in the current era.

Pass the Dice is a straight second-level allowance horse, but straight allowance races rarely are carded these days. Thursday’s, for instance, has a provision that doesn’t count statebred-restricted allowance wins against a horse’s eligibility. That allows talented Illinois-bred Ioya Bigtime into the race with three career victories and the sharp New York-bred Mr. Vegas in with four. Moreover, a $40,000 claiming option adds capable contenders Ice Climber, who won a race here at this class level in May, and six-time winner My Sonny Boy, who scored in an off-the-turf race under these same conditions about six weeks ago.

As a 3-year-old with only the pair of starts, Pass the Dice, a Gary and Mary West homebred by Lemon Drop Kid, presumably has more upside than his more accomplished opponents. And he should not lack for sophistication now, either, having been out to see so much of the countryside the last couple weeks.