05/13/2013 4:53PM

Arlington Park: Saint Leon taking advantage of second chance

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Saint Leon, the winner of last year's Arlington Sprint, is being pointed toward that race again this summer.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – It was unseasonably cold this past weekend at Arlington Park, and at low temperatures, Arlington’s Polytrack tends to play fastest. Right on cue, raw times in main-track races quickened.

But even accounting for the speed of the track, Beyer Speed Figure-makers tabbed two winners from the weekend’s racing as particularly fast. Work All Week earned a 102 Beyer in winning a first-level allowance Saturday, and Saint Leon did even better Sunday, with his three-length, third-level allowance victory producing a 107.

Saint Leon’s speed figure, derived from a six-furlong clocking of 1:09.34, reached into rarefied air. It equaled the highest synthetic-surface Beyer of 2013 and was the second-highest figure (behind Shrewd Operator’s 114) recorded in six-plus seasons of synthetic-surface racing here.

More remarkable was the horse who earned the figure. Saint Leon is an 8-year-old gelding who was making his first start since July, a former $5,000 claimer whose racing career nearly ended in 2009.

Through care and patience, Saint Leon has put together a very good career, winning 13 of 28 starts, including a victory last summer in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint, a race he is being pointed to once again by trainer Michele Boyce and owner Margaret Burlingham.

Boyce said a series of minor setbacks kept Saint Leon out of action between his Arlington Sprint win last July 7 and his race Sunday.

“Every time we would just get him close, he’d pop up with some little problem,” Boyce said. “He had a good six months off over the winter, and he looks exceptionally well – dapples on his dapples. He’s been very good this spring.”

Saint Leon was very good last spring, too. His first start of 2012, another six-furlong Polytrack allowance race, produced a comfortable win and a 103 Beyer. Those are the rewards Saint Leon’s connections have reaped doing right by the horse.

Burlingham was part of Saint Leon’s original ownership group and claimed him for $5,000 in July 2009 after Saint Leon started slipping into shadows, finishing seventh in a bottom-level claimer at Mountaineer. Boyce was instructed to give Saint Leon all the time he needed to return to the races, or to not bring him back at all, and since Saint Leon’s second chance, he has won nine of his 15 starts.

Saint Leon is not the only heartwarming story in the barn. Boyce also trains Magna Fortuna, the 3-year-old Illinois-bred whose rescue from potential slaughter while in utero has been widely documented. Magna Fortuna, in whom Burlingham also owns an interest, won the second start of his career May 8, capturing a first-level Illinois-bred allowance race by a neck. Boyce said he is a possible starter in the June 1 Springfield Stakes.

As for Work All Week, the 102 Beyer-earner, he, like Magna Fortuna, is likely to surface at the Prairie State Festival for Illinois-breds on June 1, with his connections pointing for the six-furlong Addison Cammack Stakes.

Work All Week, a son of City Zip bred and owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds and trained by Roger Brueggemann, finished sixth while debuting in a turf route race last fall but has since reeled off three straight victories by more than 24 lengths combined.

After winning a pair of Illinois-bred dirt sprints this spring at Hawthorne, he beat open-allowance foes by more than five lengths Saturday, running six furlongs on Polytrack in 1:09.21.

“He’s done about everything right so far,” said Jim Miller, Midwest’s racing manager.

Also pointing for the Prairie State Festival, Miller said, is The Pizza Man, who escaped injury while clipping heels and nearly falling in a May 4 allowance race at Churchill. The Pizza Man, a 4-year-old by English Channel trained by Tom Amoss, has won seven of his nine grass starts and is 5 for 5 in Illinois-bred turf races. He is likely to be favored to win the Black Tie Affair Handicap on June 1.

◗ Jockey Diego Sanchez broke his collarbone and several ribs when his mount, Old Low Down, clipped heels and fell at the three-sixteenths pole in the second race Saturday. Sanchez was aboard Fordubai for the colt’s runner-up finish in the Illinois Derby.