05/07/2012 3:38PM

Arlington Park: Von Hemel stars branching out

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Barbara D. Livingston
Caleb's Posse in on target for the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – During Derby Week in Louisville trainer Donnie Von Hemel was laying low at Arlington Park, but the stars of Von Hemel’s stable – the two or three of them, depending how you look at it – will be swinging back into action in coming weeks.

Von Hemel, reached by phone on Monday, said a tentative plan had been formulated for the 5-year-old mare She’s All In, whose performance April 21 in the Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne suggested she has a chance to join stablemates Caleb’s Posse and Alternation as a nationally prominent horse. She’s All In, who won the Sixty Sails, a nine-furlong dirt race, by almost nine lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 103, will be nominated to the Grade 1, $400,000 Ogden Phipps on May 28 at Belmont Park.

“We’ll see how tough that comes up, and go to the Fleur de Lis if we don’t like the looks of it,” Von Hemel said.

The Fleur de Lis is a Grade 2 race worth $150,000 run on the Stephen Foster Handicap undercard at Churchill. She’s All In had her first work since the Sixty Sails on Monday morning, going an easy five furlongs over Polytrack in 1:04.

“It looked like she was pretty happy doing it,” Von Hemel said.

Should She’s All In wind up in New York, she will be joining the Von Hemel-trained Caleb’s Posse, who remains on track to make the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap the same day as the Phipps. Caleb’s Posse was flattered on Derby Day at Churchill when Shackleford, who finished 1 1/2 lengths behind him in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 7 (a race narrowly won by Jackson Bend) outdueled Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Amazombie to win the Churchill Downs Handicap. Caleb’s Posse has turned in a pair of sharp Arlington works, including six furlongs in 1:13.80 on Saturday.

“He’s doing good, he’s happy, and we’re looking forward to the Met Mile,” said Von Hemel.

And finally, there is Alternation, who ranks among the country’s top two-turn dirt runners by virtue of three stakes wins already in 2012, the last of them a 2 1/2-length score in the Oaklawn Handicap over Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek. Alternation also has worked twice at Arlington, and leaves Friday or Saturday, Von Hemel said, for Pimlico, where he is scheduled to start May 18 in the Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special.

“He’ll do a little something here before he leaves, and a little something there three or four days before he runs,” Von Hemel said.

Meanwhile, back at Arlington, Von Hemel saddled six runners during the meet’s three-day opening week, but the only one to find the winner’s circle was Billy Two Hats, whose win in last Friday’s fifth race came for Von Hemel’s brother, Kelly, who had sent the horse in from Prairie Meadows.

Good crowd on hand

Arlington has been far from immune to the short-field syndrome that plagues so many tracks these days – but one wouldn’t know it from entries on Wednesday, when a total of 102 horses are entered on a nine-race card.

The featured race is the fifth, a first-level allowance also open to $62,500 claimers, restricted to 3-year-olds, and carded for about five furlongs on turf.

The feature drew a pair of coupled entries, one from trainer Larry Rivelli and another from trainer Paul Darjean, but even accounting for the chance of coupled-entry scratches, the race appears loaded with early speed. A fast pace might work in favor of Preoccupied, whose five career starts have come in two-turn turf races. Preoccupied made a big turn move to seize a clear upper-stretch lead in his most recent start on March 23, and could use that same type of move to good effect during the stretch run Wednesday.