06/22/2010 11:00PM

Dashel looking for 2009 form


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Handicappers have to decide which pair of races turned in by the filly Dashel better represents her baseline ability. Was it the back-to-back wins last fall while sprinting on turf at Arlington and Keeneland? Or the pair of disappointing losses while running short on the Fair Grounds grass course this past winter?

If Dashel returns to her best 2009 form and gets a clean trip, she should win the featured eighth race Friday at Arlington, a second-level allowance race also open to $40,000 claimers and carded for about 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Dashel, a 4-year-old with only six starts, is all about the Block family, one of the leading owners and breeders in Illinois. She is by Cashel Castle, a stallion the Blocks stand at Hill N Dale Farm not far from Arlington, and she is out of the Block's mare Dancing Das. Chris Block has trained Dashel for much of her career, though she wintered with Neil Pessin in New Orleans.

After two Polytrack starts here last summer, Dashel looked like a decent Illinois-bred prospect, but her form changed dramatically when she was moved to turf. She won an open entry-level allowance race at Arlington on Sept. 24, and about a month later at Keeneland, Dashel scored in a no-conditions turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies. Third in that race was Starfish Bay, who has since won 3 of 4 starts, all of them in turf-sprint stakes.

So, it was understandable that Dashel was made a 3-2 favorite in a third-level allowance race on Jan. 1 at Fair Grounds. Less comprehensible was a flat sixth-place finish. Bettors had backed off when Dashel came back Jan. 23 in the $75,000 Leggio Stakes, and Dashel turned in the same sort of performance, rallying mildly for sixth.

Both New Orleans starts came over a course rated less than firm, and perhaps Dashel does not care for give in the ground. If that's true, there could be more trouble Friday, since Chicagoland has been in an everyday rain pattern the last week or so and the Arlington course will not be at its firmest.

But if not Dashel, then who? Summer Flight twice was second in turf sprints at this class level last summer at Arlington, but she's a 5-year-old mare with 15 races under her belt. And if Summer Flight has limited upside, what about Megawattie? She does not appear overmatched in the Friday feature, but after 64 career starts, including 27 on the Arlington turf course alone, Megawattie very much is what she is.

It's Dashel or bust.