Updated on 09/18/2011 1:34AM

Favorites fail in two handicaps

Benoit Photo
Cosmonaut wins the $200,000 Arlington Handicap on Saturday.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Cosmonaut's unexpected early pace won the on Saturday at Arlington.

Cosmonaut's was a minor sort of upset. At a win price of $10.40 he beat the big three in the $200,000 Arlington Handicap. The favored Red Fort finished fourth, second-choice Rush Bay was a distant fifth of six, and Artiste Royal wound up third, with 29-1 shot Load a Chronic a fast-closing second.

Chic Dancer, however, paid $18.20 in scoring by far the most important win of her career, a half-length victory over favored Louve Royale in the Grade 3, $150,000 Modesty. Trained by Arlington-based Christine Janks, and ridden by leading rider Chris Emigh, Chic Dancer had never before bagged anything bigger than an overnight stakes race, and in April 2004 won her maiden for a $25,000 claiming tag.

"If you can keep them around long enough, you can actually teach them something," said Janks, who is in the midst of an excellent Arlington season. Janks said that when she first set eyes on Chic Dancer as a yearling, "she was so crazy that you couldn't even get into the stall with her to take off her shipping bandages."

But Chic Dancer, a 5-year-old owned by the S.D. Brilie Partnership, improved significantly last year, and according to Emigh, finally performed flawlessly in the Modesty.

"She's never been more relaxed in her life than she was today," Emigh said.

Emigh himself was quite relaxed on a beautiful day. Still atop the jockey standings, Emigh said it has taken him a few weeks to fully rebound from a bone-rattling spill that sidelined him last month. In the Modesty, he put Chic Dancer in behind pace-setting Round Heels, who went a half-mile in 48.34 seconds over a course labeled soft and still had the lead turning for home. Chic Dancer found room on the fence, then held off Louve Royal, who had rallied from last while very wide on the far turn, and Minge Cove, who came late to miss second by a nose. Chic Dancer was timed in 1:57.40 for 1 3/16 miles.

If Chic Dancer was a candidate to set the Modesty pace, Cosmonaut did not figure to make the front in the Arlington Handicap. But who did? In a race void of speed, four horses stacked up across the track in the run through the stretch into the first turn. Cosmonaut and jockey Julien Leparoux - who made his Arlington debut - had the rail and ended up in front when Red Fort, Rush Bay, and eventually Embossed backed off.

"I just had a good start, and nobody wanted to go to the front," said Leparoux, who rode Cosmonaut for the Flying Zee Stable and trainer Patrick Biancone.

An off-the-turf victory at Golden Gate Fields in March briefly made Cosmonaut into a dirt horse, but after a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap last month, it was back to turf for Cosmonaut, who came into Saturday's race eligible for a third-level allowance. Rush Bay was finished early; Red Fort, then Artiste Royal made little runs; but Leparoux never asked Cosmonaut until the stretch, and he pulled away for a 2 1/4-length win over Load a Chronic, by far the longest price in the field, and 1 3/4 lengths better than Artiste Royal. Cosmonaut was timed in 2:03.10 for 1 1/4 miles.