05/03/2008 12:00AM

Lord Carmen cuts through the soft grass


Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, spending the whole summer in Chicago for the first time in several years, won the first stakes race of the Arlington Park meeting, capturing the $100,000 Illinois Owners Stakes by two lengths over favored Fort Prado.

Zimmerman got a major assist from Mother Nature, with a rainy couple days softening the Arlington grass course, just the way Lord Carmen likes it.

"This horse loved the way the turf was," Zimmerman said. "It was just a question of pushing the button at the right time."

That time was late in the race, even though the pace in the race was slow. Major Rhythm broke second but quickly took the early lead from post 1 under Jesse Campbell, going his opening quarter-mile in 25.46 seconds, and his half in 50.77. That seemed slow, but the course definitely was demanding, and Major Rhythm was the first to crack in midstretch.

Major Rhythm managed to hold a straight line turning into the stretch, which basically ruined the chances of Fort Prado. Rating in behind the lead pack under Carlos Marquez, Fort Prado was guided to the fence turning for home, but was shut off before he could come through. As Fort Prado regained his stride and came around, Zimmerman had Lord Carmen - eighth in the early going - in full flight on the outside. Fourth at the stretch call, he zoomed to the lead in the final half-furlong, and was clear at the finish.

Fort Prado finished a neck better than late-running Rey del Sol, with the winner running the 1 1/16 miles in 1:50.76. Lord Carmen, trained by Frank Kirby for J. David Banks and Hondo Ranch Inc., paid $19 to win.

Also on the card, Coragil Cat, by far the longest price in a five-horse field, rallied wide and easily won the $53,000 Timeless Native Stakes earlier on the card. Trained by Greg Geier and ridden by Diego Sanchez, Coragil Cat paid $24.60 to win, and was tied in 1:33.55 for a mile on Polytrack. Throng finished second, well clear of his stable-mate Cowtown Cat. - Marcus Hersh