05/24/2008 12:00AM

Meal Penalty plenty good on turf


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Meal Penalty flew through a half-mile in 47.02 seconds, blitzed his six furlongs in 1:11.52, and never even blinked, running off to a sharp victory in the $150,000 Arlington Classic on Saturday at Arlington Park.

Racing and winning here at Arlington for the second time in two weeks, and making his turf debut, Meal Penalty gave owner Sassafras Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher a player for the major summer grass races for 3-year-olds, winning the Classic by three-quarters of a length over late-running Prime Realestate.

"We were hoping for something that could participate in the Mid-America Triple," assistant trainer Mike Dilger said, referring to the three-race grass series here that culminates in the Grade 1 Secretariat.

Meal Penalty won an overnight stakes on Polytrack by two lengths here May 10, but that race was at six furlongs, and he had faded in the stretch run of his two route races. Those had come on synthetic surfaces, however, and there was no fade to Meal Penalty in the 1 1/16-mile mile Classic.

"They came to me at the top of the stretch, and when I asked him to go, he responded pretty good," said winning rider Jose Velez.

Velez had inherited the mount from Rene Douglas, who chose instead to ride 3-5 favorite Sporting Art on Saturday. But Sporting Art, racing through traffic in the stretch, never fired, finishing an even fifth.

"I rode him with a lot of patience," Douglas said. "Maybe he fell asleep on me."

Meal Penalty ($16.60) was timed in a swift 1:41.97, .48 of a second off the course record. The longshot Mr. Mischief chased the pace and held third, with Blue Lion fourth.

1000 Guineas: Much Obliged rebounds

It's about a nine-hour van ride from Woodbine Race Course outside Toronto to Arlington Park outside Chicago, but trainer Malcolm Pierce succinctly summed up the journey taken by the filly Much Obliged.

"It was worth the trip, I guess," Pierce said, as Much Obliged jogged back to get her picture taken after winning the inaugural running of the $200,000 American 1000 Guineas by a half-length.

Much Obliged ($7.20) impressed winning a pair of grass races over the Fair Grounds turf course last winter, but had finished sixth on April 16 in the Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland.

"This filly was full of run all winter at Fair Grounds," Pierce said. "That was what she showed again today."

Much Obliged was held up near the back of the pack as Jolie Visage, pressed mildly by Dreaming of Liz, set moderate fractions of 24.67 seconds for the opening quarter and 49.68 to the half. Pierce had told Chris Emigh to sacrifice lost ground in order to keep Much Obliged in the clear, which is what he did. Making her move off the turn, Much Obliged collared late-running Scolara and Rene Douglas in midstretch and pushed past, as the top two zipped their final furlong in 11.09 seconds.

"Rene said after the race that his horse was really running, but I went by her pretty easily," Emigh said.

Seemingly, another closer, checked in third, with Much Obliged, a Pin Oak Stable homebred, getting one mile over firm turf in 1:37.96.

Hanshin: Coragil Cat surprises again

Coragil Cat pulled an 11-1 upset in the opening-day Timeless Native Stakes, and upset the Grade 3, $100,000 Hanshin Stakes at the same price Saturday afternoon. Rallying wide under Diego Sanchez, Coragil Cat ($24.20) blew past favored Lovango in midstretch, and went on to a three-length win over big longshot Morada Key. Steve's Double outfinished heavily favored Lovango for third.

An entry-level allowance horse just two races ago, Coragil Cat won his third straight for owner-breeder Jim Tafel and trainer Greg Geier. He was timed in 1:34.86 for one mile on Polytrack.