07/09/2011 8:27PM

Arlington Park: Tajaaweed ends stakes drought in Arlington Handicap

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Doug Clark/Four-Footed Fotos
Tajaaweed wins the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Trainer Dan Peitz had been pointing Tajaaweed to the Arlington Handicap since last fall. His aim was true.

Tajaaweed finished strongly under James Graham and won the Grade 3, $150,000 Arlington Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths over Mister Marti Gras.

It was the 6-year-old horse’s first stakes win since being imported from England in late 2009. Dean’s Kitten finished third, Free Fighter fourth, and Juniper Pass fifth. The winner paid $7.40 as the favorite and was timed in 2:01.83 for 1 1/4 miles.

Peitz said that last fall at Keeneland he conferred with Rick Nichols, manager of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Shadwell Farm, about winter plans for Tajaaweed. Nichols asked if Peitz wanted to consider taking the horse to Oaklawn Park and pointing for grass races at Fair Grounds, but Peitz preferred a break at Camden, S.C., where Tajaaweed had wintered the year before.

“He said that sounded like a good idea,” Peitz said.

Tajaaweed was third in the Arlington Handicap and sixth in the Arlington Million in 2010, but Peitz thinks he has a stronger horse this season. Tajaaweed, second in his first two starts this year, suggested as much Saturday.

The early pace in the Arlington Handicap was sluggish, with Amun Re leading through an opening quarter in 24.76 seconds before a headstrong Interaction pulled his way to the front turning down the backstretch. The second quarter was slightly quicker, but the pace slowed again into the far turn with Tajaaweed moving into striking position at the three-furlong pole before finishing off his foes with a decisive wide move coming into the stretch.

Tajaaweed held a half-length advantage at the stretch call and widened through the final furlong while drifting out, perhaps looking for competition after making the lead somewhat easily. The going will get tougher in next month’s Million, but so far, Peitz’s plan has played out perfectly.