08/23/2007 11:00PM

Dangerous storms cause problems


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Arlington Park lost the last of its nine races on Thursday to weather, but dodged the worst of strong thunderstorms that moved through Chicagoland. The storms uprooted trees and damaged buildings while cutting power in some areas of the city and its suburbs. Worst hit were the northern suburbs. Arlington Heights sits northwest of Chicago proper.

After a delay of about one hour just prior to Thursday’s sixth race, Arlington resumed the program, and with an expedited post parade the track managed to squeeze in race 8 before another round of torrential rain and high winds passed through. Race 9, an Illinois-bred allowance, was scrapped, but neither the racetrack nor the backstretch had any consequential damage. The public address system was down on the backstretch for a time, and tree limbs were felled, but neither horses nor humans suffered adverse consequences from the storms.

The biggest Arlington issue was the loss of power at Trackside, the simulcasting facility located adjacent to the track. Trackside was closed on Friday afternoon, and track officials were facing a Friday night closure, too, if power wasn’t quickly restored.

“It’s a [Commonwealth Edison] problem, so there’s not much we can do but wait,” said Dan Leary, an Arlington spokesman.

Chicago is in the midst of an unusually wet August, and after keeping an inordinate number of races on the turf during the first three months of the meet, Arlington has been rained off the grass several times this month. There hasn’t been turf racing here since last Saturday, and the prospect of a move back to grass this weekend also looks bleak, with rain in the forecast through Saturday.

Big field expected for futurity

Saturday’s Arlington-Washington Futurity, moved up one week on the calendar this year, is beginning to take shape – kind of.

Arlington stakes coordinator Craig Lytel listed these names as possible starters in the one-mile race for 2-year-olds: Mr. Harry, Blackberry Road, Bucky Came Home, Pulaski Runner, Sebastien County, West Coast Coach, Wicked Style, Gold Coyote, and Texas Wildcatter. Bill Mott and Steve Asmussen also are expected to start one among their several nominees.

The Bret Calhoun-trained Gold Coyote, who should be among the favorites off three consecutive blowout victories at Lone Star, breezed five furlongs in just over 1:00 on Friday morning.

Lytel pointed out that last year’s Arlington-Washington Futurity was a key race for this year’s 3-year-old crop, since it produced Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense along with Dominican, who won the Grade?1 Blue Grass Stakes.

Three allowance races on card

Three allowance races made it onto Sunday’s 10-race card, but all are of the entry-level type.

First up comes race 5, which is carded at six furlongs on Polytrack, and is restricted to 3-year-olds while also open to horses entered for a $50,000 claiming tag. Seven were entered here, and none would be mistaken for a stakes-class animal. That said, the rail horse, Spanish Ghost, appears to have done some learning through the course of the year. Once a front-runner who would give way in the stretch, Spanish Ghost traded in her front-end habit two races ago, and began coming from off the pace. Held up near the back of the field in her two most recent starts, Spanish Ghost was beaten a nose for a $50,000 tag at Churchill, and was second by a half-length over the Arlington Polytrack last out. She looks like the one to beat for trainer Bernie Flint and jockey Chris Emigh.

Race 6 is for fillies and mare at one mile, and Spirited Away will win it if her Churchill dirt form transfers to Polytrack. In her most recent start, Spirited Away won a Churchill maiden race by five lengths.

And finally comes race 9, for older males, which drew eight horses and no defined favorite. Citi Smoke could run well off a Tom Amoss claim, but a case could be easily made for any of the entries in the last of the three allowance races.

Speed doing well on Polytrack

There was widespread outcry over the supposed inability of speed horses to win races over the Polytrack at Keeneland, which used to harbor a dirt surface often biased toward inside speed. Well, Arlington’s Polytrack is said to be identical to the all-weather track used at Keeneland, but speed horses often have had great success here. In fact, much of the Thursday card looked like the old Keeneland dirt track. Five of the eight winners went straight to the front and never were headed, and many of these speed horses ran on in the stretch after setting a fast pace.