Updated on 09/17/2011 5:19PM

Locals vs. invaders on Illinois Day


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. - With six $35,000 stakes races on a nine-race card, Illinois Day at Fairmount Park gives downstate barns a chance to settle whatever scores there are to dispose of with Arlington and Hawthorne shippers who think they can plop onto Fairmount's deep, dry surface and hustle back home with bags of loot and winner's circle Polaroids.

"I'm sure [Chicagoland barns] feel that, being at superior tracks, they're more dominating," said trainer Eddie Essenpreis, who will field the broadest array of entries in the six stakes. "But for being the smaller track, I feel like we've held our own on Illinois Day."

Essenpreis points to Fairmount Park's peculiar surface as the paramount reason for such Beyer-defying success.

"I think that with us having basically a sand track, you have to be acclimated to it to some degree to do well on it," said Essenpreis, who will send out underdog entries in both of the card's mile-long feature races for older horses, the Pete Condellone and Bungalow handicaps.

Fairmount-stabled Thoroughbreds have been installed as favorites in each race, the former for males and the latter for fillies and mares. Seven-year-old gelding Moe B Dick, from the barn of leading trainer Ralph Martinez, drew 3-1 morning-line odds in the Condellone, and Moon Shine Time was set at 2-1 in the Bungalow for Michael Nance.

It would not surprise, however, if second favorite Samantha B., a classy upstate 4-year-old, pulls even by post time of the Bungalow. Samantha B. - who picks up Rafael Bejarano, the nation's winningest jockey - torched Moon Shine Time on June 26 in a 1 1/16-mile turf handicap at Arlington, finishing a close third while Moon Shine Time faded to ninth, a full 14 lengths back of the winner, Lighthouse Lil.

In the Condellone, Martinez looks to have Moe B Dick in top form, with the horse coming off a 2 1/2-length win in the July 31 Forego Handicap at Fairmount. But Butterscotch Dave, a 9-year-old trained by Robert Lawrence, loves this distance and took fourth in last year's Condellone, making him the top returnee.

"I can handle Butterscotch Dave," said Lou O'Brien, who owns Moe B Dick.

Should thunderstorms beckon and the track turns to slop, bettors should turn swiftly to Chicago-based Road Town, who popped an 86 Beyer in a come-from-behind July 3 victory in the Arlington soup.