07/20/2010 3:09PM

Lisa Merritt has contenders in two Arlington allowance races


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The numbers jump off the past performance page: 19-7-4-1. That is the record compiled so far this Arlington meet by horses trained by Lisa Merritt. It is an excellent record by any measure, but even more so considering that Merritt has only eight horses stabled at Arlington, and that she won only four races during all of 2009.

The Merritt mark could shine even brighter by Thursday night, since she has contenders for the two allowance races on Arlington’s nine-race Thursday program. Basilio’s Thunder tries for her second straight victory in race 3, an Illinois-bred entry-level allowance for Polytrack sprinters, while Sweet Lemon Chello looks like a player in featured race 6, a turf route for second-level Illinois-bred allowance horses.

Merritt, 45, is the son of former trainer John Oder. She had trained in Illinois several years ago, but went home to Paris, Ky., to care for ailing parents. She said that Slapshot Racing LLC, a partnership of horses owners, contacted her about training a couple years ago, and last year, Merritt took them up on their offer. That decision has paid off for both parties.

Merritt, who has a couple other clients, said she gave many of her horses time off during the winter, and pointed most of her stock for the Arlington season.

“I kept telling the owners to wait for this meet, knowing that we had some maidens and horses with conditions,” Merritt said, reached by phone while traveling from Kentucky to Arlington on Tuesday.

Both the Thursday runners are owned by the Slapshot partners, Lisa and Dan Sullivan, and Pat Beauvais, all from the Chicago area. Sweet Lemon Chello won the six-figure Debutante Stakes for Illinois-bred 2-year-olds by more than eighth lengths last winter at Hawthorne, and after a poor 2010 debut, finished second in the Purple Violet here June 19. She’s set to make her grass debut on Thursday, and on pedigree, she should like the lawn.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed that it will move her up,” Merritt said of the move to turf.

Sweet Lemon Chello is part of a deep field, however. Also entered in the race are Heavenly Lass, the filly who won the Purple Violet, and Dundalk Dust, the likely favorite. Dundalk Dust is 1 for 1 on turf, and exits a third-place Polytrack finish in the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks.

Basilio’s Thunder is one of seven fillies entered in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race, which should have Princess Ally Rose as the favorite. Basilio’s Thunder turned in a career-best performance last out, finishing strongly winning her maiden by three lengths last time out.