09/25/2009 12:00AM

Closeout classy, but not unbeatable


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It's closing day of the Arlington Park 2009 race meet. The calendar's about to flip to October, and this season got started on the first of May. There's weariness in the air, and it would be easy at this point to stop thinking after noticing the obvious: Closeout is a graded-stakes winner in a highly restricted stakes race on Sunday at Arlington.

But while Closeout might just run away and hide in the closing-day feature, the more you look at the $100,000 Virginia Tarra Illinois Owners Stakes, the more you think, "Well, maybe not."

Sunday's feature, carded for fillies and mares at about 1 1/16 miles on grass, and restricted to horses owned by Illinois residents, drew a field of just seven. Chicago racing shifts to Hawthorne on Thursday.

Closeout trained at Arlington for her 2009 debut, a fifth-place finish in the Mint Julep Handicap on June 6 at Churchill Downs. Back in action there a month later, Closeout won the Grade 3 Locust Grove by three lengths, but beat only four foes. In the Aug. 29 Ballston Spa at Saratoga, she had a less-than-ideal trip run over a course as wet as one could find in American racing, and finished seventh.

To buttress her Locust Grove win, and justify her likely favoritism Sunday, backers will point to a nice score in the Grade 3 Pucker Up over the Arlington grass course last summer. And finally, Closeout, a closer, should have pace help up front from Positivelycharming, like Closeout trained by Tom Proctor and owned by the Glen Hill Farm, but not coupled with her in the betting.

But two rivals might have a shot at her. Never Retreat was purchased privately by Team Block early in 2009 as a racing-breeding prospect, and her third-place finish over soft turf here Aug. 21 was a comeback race designed to get Never Retreat to the Owners Stakes in top form. Here she is, with three September works for trainer Chris Block.

And Peyote Patty has been nothing less than a revelation here this summer. Who knows if she can run on turf - this is Peyote Patty's grass debut - but she has won four in a row over Arlington Polytrack by a combined 17 lengths, getting better with every start. Peyote Patty's recent Fairmount works suggest continued strength, and she is the horse to beat with a rain-off onto the main track.