07/01/2011 4:03PM

Arlington: Plenty of contenders in Chicago Handicap

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Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Tidal Pool, winning the Red Bud in April, is one of eight fillies and mares entered in the Grade 3 Chicago.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Informed Decision, where are you?

The Jonathan Sheppard-trained female sprint champion journeyed to Arlington Park the last two summers and won the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap as a standout both times. Sunday’s edition of the seven-furlong Polytrack race has no such clarity. Not even close.

Eight fillies and mares are entered in the Chicago, a field perhaps headed by Tidal Pool. A two-time winner this year, Tidal Pool won the $100,000 Red Bud at Oaklawn Park in April and exits fourth- and third-place finishes in Grade 1 and Grade 2 competition, but her form might have peaked a couple of starts ago. Tidal Pool got Grade 2-placed when third last out in the Vagrancy at Belmont, but she was seriously outrun in the stretch while beating only two rivals. Drawing the rail Sunday was no bargain, and Tidal Pool has raced only once on a synthetic surface, finishing sixth in the 2009 Alcibiades. One potential positive is her sire, Yankee Gentleman, the 15th-ranked synthetic sire in the country this year.

Hooh Why, the field’s top earner with a bankroll approaching $800,000, eked out a nose win in a June 15 allowance race here, her first victory in three 2011 starts. Mark Hoffman, a hands-on co-owner of the mare, insists there are particular explanations for Hooh Why’s slightly diminished 2011 form and believes she is as good as ever.

Dr. Zic once beat the mighty Informed Decision herself, in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes two springs ago at Keeneland, but Dr. Zic has lost six straight since. The mare still has good speed, but she has consistently been fading late in her races. Trainer Joan Scott adds blinkers trying to arrest that trend.

Hot Hot Mama might not be quite good enough to win – but then again, she might. She has won two of four since coming under the care of trainer Kellyn Gorder this year and is well drawn on the outside.

La Rocca makes her first start of the year and first ever for trainer Mike Stidham. She does fine on synthetics but appears to prefer slightly longer distances. Stidham also saddles Lookn Even Finer.

And finally, Devil by Design, the pick to come out on top of this crapshoot. Devil by Design is another mare with limited Polytrack experience, but her lone all-weather start produced a career debut win in 2008. Devil by Design has posted a series of highly encouraging workouts for her 2011 debut training with Bill Mott’s string at Churchill Downs, and four of her five wins have come at Sunday’s seven-furlong distance.