09/21/2009 11:00PM

Holiday Tap a solid contender


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Someone is going to win his first Arlington Park riding title, but with only four days left in the 2009 meet, it's too soon to say whether that someone is James Graham or Junior Alvarado.

Through Sunday, Alvarado held a 105-101 lead over Graham in the jockey standings, but Graham has ridden 95 more horses than Alvarado here this summer, and he holds a significant edge in opportunities on Thursday's card. Alvarado has mounts in five of Thursday's 10 races, but Graham rides in nine of 10, and as has been the case throughout the summer, Graham's business is spread all over the place: Those nine mounts come for nine trainers.

In Holiday Tap, Graham appears to have a live one in race 7, one of two co-featured entry-level turf allowance races. Holiday Tap finished a closing third under similar conditions here July 25, but did not rally as strongly last month at Ellis Park. Lacie Slew and Giddyup Gadfly also look like contenders in race 7, a 1 1/16-mile race in which Alvarado has no scheduled mount.

Alvarado and Graham will both ride in the other entry-level allowance, race 9, but neither is on the most likely winner of this turf sprint, Cat at Play. Trained now by David Carroll, Cat at Play was bought privately after she won her career debut July 4 sprinting on Arlington turf. In her first post-purchase start, Cat at Play finished third in a race moved from turf to Polytrack, beaten by two horses who came back to win their next starts.

Two punished for for altercation

Chris Emigh has been fined $300 by Arlington stewards for "striking another jockey in the jockey's quarters," but Emigh avoided suspension for his role in an altercation that sent jockey Eddie Perez to an area hospital. Perez also visited the Arlington Heights police department to request assault charges be filed against Emigh.

Perez was handed a three-day suspension that starts Thursday for his role in the incident that led to the fight. Perez was suspended for "jostling and interfering" with Emigh's mount, Friendly Face, while riding Belerive to a first-place finish in the first race on Sept. 13. Belerive was disqualified and placed fifth.

* Shrewd Operator, winless in three starts since a year-plus layoff, returned to his best 2008 form, winning the featured ninth race Sunday. Illinois-bred Shrewd Operator won a second-level allowance race by almost seven lengths, and ran six furlongs in 1:09.39, one of the fastest clockings of the summer.