05/25/2010 12:00AM

Next stop unclear for Workin for Hops


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Workin for Hops seized the early advantage, opened up a big lead into the homestretch, and won Saturday's $100,000 Arlington Classic by more than two lengths. And now Workin for Hops will move on to the . . . on to the . . . on to the who-knows-what.

The Arlington Classic is the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America

Triple for 3-year-old grass horses, but this year the second leg, the Grade 2, $300,000 American Derby, doesn't come around till July 17, a gap of seven weeks. That's because the American Derby is part of

Million Preview Day, and the 2010 Million was moved back two weekends to Aug. 21 this year. But the break kind of leaves trainer Mike Stidham in no-man's land with

Workin for Hops.

"We'll be nominating to plenty of races, and we'll pick the spot that suits our program best," Stidham said. "I will say this about him: He's done his best with a little more spacing, because he's a light-bodied horse that we don't train that hard. Not to say I like the idea of seven weeks -- I'd have liked five -- but with this

particular horse, I wouldn't want to run him back in three weeks."

Workin for Hops is the only horse Stidham trains for co-breeder and owner Amy Bondon, who races as Estrorace LLC. Workin for Hops

debuted in a $40,000 maiden claimer last summer at Arlington and won first out by seven lengths, and has been victorious in 4 of 6 starts. He's 3 for 4 on turf, his lone failure having come after a stumbling start in the American Turf on April 30 at Churchill Downs. And in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile race, Workin for Hops answered -- to some degree, at least -- the question of whether he could stay a true route.

"The bottom line is that when he has the ability to control the race, I don't think the distance is going to make a big difference," Stidham said. "I think he'll keep going."

Stidham still is in the process of setting plans for the good mare

Tizaqueena, who worked a half-mile in 48.80 seconds on Tuesday at Arlington. One option is Saturday's Arlington Matron Stakes, but Tizaqueena also is being considered for the Just a Game at Belmont, the Mint Julep at Churchill, and the Nassau at Woodbine.

The next start for Comedero, one of the nation's top 3-year-old sprinters, has been determined, Stidham said. Comedero, based with Stidham's string at Delaware Park, will pass the Woody Stephens on Belmont Day and be aimed for the $400,000 Red Legend June 19 at Charles Town.

Free Fighter in peak form

Free Fighter somewhat quietly has taken his place in the long line of talented turf horses bred and owned by the Team Block partnership, and his win Saturday in the Grade 3

Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs on Saturday might well have been the best of a 20-start career.

"I thought he'd run well," said trainer Chris Block. "I didn't know he'd win, but he was going into it

really well. We sent him down a little early and let him settle down there; that seemed to work quite well with him. He's that kind of horse you have to do that with, because he can blow his gasket."

Free Fighter now has won 7 of 20 starts, and is 2 for 3 in 1 1/2-mile races. Block would like to keep him at similarly long distances, but faces a paucity of such spots on the racing calendar. At Arlington, the 12-

furlong Stars and Stripes, which Free Fighter won last summer, doesn't come up until Aug. 21.

Gaming action stalls again

The Illinois state legislature's

annual rejection of proposed gaming-at-racetrack legislation took place again this week, when the State Senate president, John

Cullerton, told racing industry leaders on Monday that he would not call Senate Bill 3146 for a vote.

The bill, which would have brought electronic gaming devices to racetracks in Illinois within a year, unanimously passed out of a House of Representatives executive committee earlier this month, and would reportedly have passed the house had it come to a vote of the full body. But several key senators whose districts house riverboat casinos were said to adamantly oppose the legislation, and Cullerton was reportedly resistant to allowing the bill to reach the floor of the

Senate were it to pass out of the House. House majority leader Michael Madigan said he was reluctant to call SB3146 for a floor vote without assurance that the Senate also would vote on the bill.

The legislature's regularly scheduled spring session ended earlier this month, but legislators returned to work this week because of ongoing budgetary problems that went unresolved during the regular spring session. The racing industry had hoped its gaming bill would win support because of the millions of dollars in state revenue that would have been generated when racetracks paid licensing fees for gaming devices.

Cullerton told racing leaders this week that he would revisit the bill during the legislature's fall veto session.

* Two allowance races for 3-year-olds top Arlington's 10-race program on Thursday. Race 5 is for fillies

going six furlongs, while race 9 has no sex restriction, and will be contested at one mile on Polytrack. Trainer Wayne Catalano could saddle the favorite in both races, with Jocata entered in the filly sprint, and Best Actor in the open mile.