05/23/2011 2:52PM

Arlington Park: Workin for Hops at the top of his game

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Workin for Hops, with James Graham up, earns a 100 Beyer for his Hanshin Cup victory.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Back at his best distance of one mile or thereabouts, Workin for Hops turned in his second straight strong performance winning the Hanshin Cup on Saturday at Arlington. The three-length victory marked his first win of the year, but Workin for Hops was coming off a good second-place finish to Get Stormy – subsequent winner of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill – in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile over the Keeneland turf course.

Saturday’s race came on Arlington’s synthetic main track, but no matter, Workin for Hops was at least as effective as he’s been on turf, his one-mile time of 1:34.55 producing a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

“That horse amazes me time and time again,” trainer Mike Stidham said. “He’s been such an overachiever, so consistent, and so game. He keeps proving himself.”

Workin for Hops, chasing good money in the middle-distance turf division, has made six of his 14 starts at distances longer than 1 1/16 miles and has won only one such race. At 1 1/16 miles and shorter, Workin for Hops has five wins and two seconds from eight starts. His talents as a miler were on full display Saturday, when he was able to stick close to a fast pace before breaking the Hanshin open with a big upper-stretch move under James Graham. Stidham suggested that the Firecracker Handicap, a one-mile grass race July 4 at Churchill, could be Workin for Hops’s next start.

The Stidham barn has action in two Arlington stakes this weekend, when Willcox Inn goes in the Arlington Classic and Upperline runs in the Arlington Matron.

Butler gets off to decent start

English trainer Gerard Butler’s first weekend of Arlington starters produced decent returns. Butler, who has a six-horse division at Arlington right now, won a third-level allowance race Saturday with Maristar, a filly beating boys, while on Friday, the promising 3-year-old Burj Alzain finished a close second behind the tough older horse Dehnam, also in a one-turn Polytrack mile. Two other runners, Joe le Taxi and Akhmatova, went unplaced. Patchattack, who has more proven class than Butler’s other Arlington horses, is scheduled to race Saturday in the Matron.

Rivelli tops among trainers

Trainer Larry Rivelli has pointed his stable to the Arlington meet for several months, and almost half his runners early this season have hit the mark. Through Sunday’s racing, Rivelli had won with 10 of his 22 starts at Arlington, while six other Rivelli-trained horses have finished second or third. Rivelli’s 10 winners are four more than Gennadi Dorochenko and Scott Becker, who are tied for second in the standings.

Junior Alvarado, the 2009 Arlington champ, has jumped out to an early lead in the jockey standings, with a seven-win lead, 17-10, over second-place Graham.

◗ The Arlington forecast calls for a chance of rain throughout the week, and the track will be hoping to dodge most of the raindrops Wednesday, when four of the nine races on the card – none of the allowance variety – are carded for grass.