08/24/2011 11:47AM

Arlington Park: Saint Leon the one to catch in sprint


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Arlington Park racing officials adopted a hit-’em-early approach to Friday’s late-afternoon program. Race 1 is the feature on a nine-race card, and a fairly meaty feature at that.

Seven horses were entered in a six-furlong Polytrack race with multiple high-end allowance conditions and an $80,000 claiming option. The field includes the coupled entry of Flavor and Tend from the barn of trainer Joe Woodard; Flavor was cross-entered in a Friday race at Hoosier Park.

The form here is all over the place. Rail-drawn Karama makes his first start in almost two years, but showed plenty of talent back in 2009. He won the Prairie Meadows Derby before finishing third to Misremembered and Giant Oak in the Indiana Derby, but Friday’s comeback figures to be a stepping-stone to a longer race.

A Diehl has gone 11 months without winning, but drops in class from a solid pair of Kentucky stakes performances. Only one of his last 12 starts has come on an all-weather surface, but A Diehl, based at Keeneland with trainer Rusty Arnold, has gone 2-1-1 from 5 synthetic-surface starts.

Tend, one of the Woodard-trained horses, was claimed for $80,000 last October by owners Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays, and has earned back his purchase price and a few thousand dollars more while winning two minor stakes races from three starts this year. Tend returned from a six-month layoff to capture the $85,000 Senator Robert Byrd Memorial on Aug. 6 at Mountaineer Park, beating the accomplished Native Ruler into second. That race was on dirt, but Tend has won 6 of 13 synthetic-surface races. He’d be in for the $80,000 claiming option, if his connections choose to run.

But the Friday feature goes through Saint Leon, a locally based 6-year-old gelding who has not lost a one-turn Polytrack race since a major post-layoff form turnaround that began in July 2010. Claimed for a mere $5,000 in July 2009, Saint Leon didn’t race for almost a year after being taken, but has since won 6 of 9 starts for owner Margaret Burlingham and trainer Michele Boyce. Saint Leon has gone 2 for 3 this summer at Arlington after being given a winter break by Boyce, and by far the best of those three performances came in his only Polytrack sprint start, a May 11 victory that produced a 103 Beyer Speed Figure. With an inside draw and noted gate rider E.T. Baird, Saint Leon should shoot straight to the front. Catch him if you can.