06/09/2010 11:00PM

Hot barns square off on Arlington turf


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Wayne Catalano barn is rolling along at a 30 percent win clip this Arlington meeting, but as far as raw win percentage goes, they ain't got nothin' on the Ingrid Mason operation. The Mason people, albeit with limited starters, are carving up the meeting, scoring their seventh victory from just 13 starters here at Arlington on Thursday. In Saturday's nominally featured ninth race, an entry-level turf allowance, a Catalano-trained horse, Snake River Canyon, and a new arrival in the Mason barn, Cross Village, represent two major pieces of the handicapping puzzle at hand.

Catalano has done well with Snake River Canyon, who won just 1 of his first 21 starts but has gone 3 for his last 9, including a May 27 victory in a $16,000 starter race on the Arlington turf course. Snake River Canyon appears to be in peak form, and Catalano figures the time is ripe to take a shot at an entry-level allowance. Snake River Canyon drew post 8 and should get a favorable pressing trip under jockey Mike Baze.

Cross Village also exits a turf victory, his over the Tampa course for trainer Peter Walder. That was on May 2, and just two weeks later, Cross Village was zipping five furlongs over Arlington main track in a morning breeze. He has since logged two more sharp workouts and has a decent chance of padding Mason's gaudy win percentage.

Saturday's ninth, however, goes deeper than two. Yep just finished second in a similar spot and is a reliable grass performer. On May 20, Snapped was beaten a dirty nose (really dirty - a clean trip would've won him the race) in an entry-level grass allowance here.

But the pick to score a mild upset late Saturday afternoon is Tripp O Steel, who threatens to lead all the way under jockey Jesus Castanon for trainer Tom Proctor. Tripp O Steel won a $35,000 maiden-claimer on turf here on July 4, didn't race again until May 21, and then wired a field of $40,000 nonwinners-of-two claimers in that off-the-turf race. Tripp O Steel gets a positive class hike and has speed that could control a potentially tepid Saturday pace.

Free Fighter to face statebreds

Free Fighter was moderately dominating when winning the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap by two lengths on May 22 at Churchill Downs, but his connections will stay close to home for Free Fighter's next start, choosing the June 19 Black Tie Affair for Illinois-breds over a more ambitious spot.

"We really don't want to go anywhere right now," said Chris Block, who trains Free Fighter for the Team Block family partnership. "We're content to stay right here at home and run him."

Free Fighter won the Louisville over 1 1/2 miles. In 2009, he finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Black Tie Affair, which was rained off turf and won by Team Block's Fort Prado.