05/06/2011 1:37PM

Arlington Park: Taajaweed fit for comeback


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Racing so far this year in Chicago has suffered from short fields, lack of quality, and bad weather that delayed the turf season’s start. Sunday’s featured eighth race at Arlington provides at least a temporary cure for all those ills.

The Sunday feature, carded for one mile on turf, is open to third-level allowance horses or $80,000 claimers and drew 12 entrants. The deep cast includes My Sonny Boy and Princeville Condo, long-layoff comeback runners who were among the best Illinois-bred grass runners of 2010, as well as Taajaweed, who has as a summer goal a race under brighter lights than statebred-restricted stakes.

“Hopefully, he’ll make the Arlington Million again,” said Dan Peitz, who trains Taajaweed for the Shadwell Stable of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum.

Taajaweed, trying to rally into a slow pace on a grass course perhaps wetter than he prefers, could do no better than sixth in the 2010 Million, but he is the class of the Sunday feature. The 6-year-old horse made his U.S. debut here at Arlington about this time last year and won well over second-level allowance foes, coming back two starts later with a fine closing third in the Arlington Handicap. After a sixth on Keeneland Polytrack and a fourth going 1 1/2 miles on turf in the Sycamore Stakes there, Taajaweed had done enough for the year.

“We did something nobody does anymore: Actually just stopped on a grass horse for the winter,” Peitz said.

Taajaweed shows just one published workout – five furlongs in 1:01.40 on April 29 at Churchill – for his first start in more than six months, but bettors shouldn’t be put off by the light work pattern. Taajaweed wintered in Camden, S.C., where extensive use was made of the turf training course.

“He had two or three five-eighths works there, maybe even a three-quarters,” Peitz said. “Fitness should not be an issue. He’s ready to run.”

At one mile, Sunday’s race might be shorter than Taajaweed prefers, since all of his 2010 starts came at nine furlongs or farther. The horse to catch is Exchanging Kisses, a front-runner who excels on the Arlington course and over turf with some give to it, the type he should encounter Sunday.

Princeville Condo shows plenty of workout activity but is racing for the first time since finishing seventh behind Taajaweed in the Arlington Handicap. In the Black Tie Affair for Illinois-bred turf horses here last summer, My Sonny Boy – away from action since October – beat Princeville Condo by a nose.