07/10/2009 11:00PM

Just as Well another successful invader


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Two Saturdays, two graded stakes at Arlington Park for Pennsylvania-based trainer Jonathan Sheppard.

On July 4, Sheppard won the Chicago Handicap with George Strawbridge's Informed Decision, and this time, Sheppard won the with Just as Well, whose soundness issues a couple years ago led Strawbridge to sell the horse to Sheppard himself.

Just as Well, a 6-year-old A.P. Indy horse, won the first stakes of his career - but he'll be back for more. Sheppard said Just as Well was likely to return to Chicago next month of the Arlington Million.

That is a long way from 2007, when Just as Well was on the shelf after going bad following a promising one-turn dirt start to his career in 2006. Sheppard said Strawbridge, who bred Just as Well, was looking to cull about a dozen horses from his stock during 2007. Just as Well's name made it onto the list, and rather than running the horse through a sale, Sheppard bought him for himself.

Just as Well didn't race for almost two years, but won his first two starts back last summer. Just as Well progressed steadily, came close in two earlier graded stakes this year, and broke through Saturday under jockey E.T. Baird, who rode five winners on Saturday's 12-race card.

Baird took Just as Well back to last in a 12-horse field Saturday as Public Speaker, Ordination, and 2-1 favorite Cosmonaut led through a slow pace, going 25.49 seconds for the first quarter-mile, and 49.89 to the half. Baird started "creeping up," as Sheppard put it, as the field approached the far turn, and midway around the turn, Just as Well began moving in earnest.

"We had discussed moving sooner," said Sheppard. "He doesn't have that great acceleration."

But Just as Well does have a long, sustained move, and his run stayed strong through the stretch. He and Baird hit the front inside the sixteenth pole, and Just as Well held clear 17-1 shot Gentleman Chester to win by one length. Cosmonaut was a neck farther back in third, and a head better than 60-1 shot My Happiness. Just as Well was timed in 2:02.84 for 1 1/4 miles, and paid $10.40 as the third choice.

Yankee Injunuity by a neck in Arlington Sprint

One and one-sixteenth miles on May 9, five furlongs on May 27, three-quarters on June 21, and 5 1/2 furlongs on Saturday: Yankee Injunuity's trainer and co-owner Jim McMullen has kept poking around, trying to find his horse's hole card. Everything came together in the $200,000 Arlington Sprint, with Yankee Injunuity home by a neck over favored Chamberlain Bridge.

"It's like a test every time," McMullen said. "I'm still figuring it out, but this worked pretty good today."

McMullen scored the biggest win of his training career in the Arlington Sprint, and 5-year-old Yankee Injunuity, a route horse for most of his 29-start career, confirmed his fondness for short grass races. This was Yankee Injunuity's fifth grass start, and the horse now has two wins, two seconds, and a third.

He broke from the rail Saturday under E.T. Baird, who was winning his fourth race on the card, and tracked a hot pace set by Shrewd Operator. Chamberlain Bridge, outrun early, headed Shrewd Operator at the top of the stretch, but Baird was soon on the attack. Yankee Injunuity collared Chamberlain Bridge inside the eighth pole, and though the favorite fought gamely, he was worn down in the end, with St. Joe well back in third.

Yankee Injunuity paid $19 to win, and was given a time of 1:02.50 for 5 1/2 furlongs on a firm turf course. The race was hand-timed because of a timer malfunction, and the final time first posted on the board - a course record - was determined to be incorrect.

* Romacaca scored her second straight turf blowout this meet, leading all the way for an easy win in the $53,300 Diamond Ring Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Trained by Danny Miller for owner Frank Calabrese, Romacaca went straight to the lead under E.T. Baird, and never was challenged, beating late-running Tale of the South by three lengths. Romacaca, claimed for $25,000 in April at Gulfstream, paid $5.40 to win.

* Dee's Rose edged Taletobetold by a head in the $54,300 Pink Ribbon Stakes, coming back for the narrow win after giving up the lead to Taletobetold in midstretch. Dee's Rose ($15.40) is trained by Dale Bennett for Dyedra Kademoglou, and was ridden to victory by James Graham. She ran five furlongs on firm turf in 56.70 seconds.