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Smooth Air, Recapturetheglory both regrouping
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The recent sailing has not been smooth for the two leading 3-year-olds based at Arlington Park. Recapturetheglory traveled to Churchill Downs and finished a disappointing fourth in the Northern Dancer Stakes on Saturday, just one spot higher than his fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Recapturetheglory is now back at Arlington, where Smooth Air, 11th in the Kentucky Derby but a sharp winner last month of the Ohio Derby, has resumed regular training after having his regular exercise pattern interrupted by tender feet.
Smooth Air has not had a timed workout since before he won the Ohio Derby by four lengths on May 31. His trainer, Bennie Stutts, said Smooth Air had developed sore feet not long after returning to Arlington from his trip to Ohio.
"I pulled his shoes, and he walked for five days," said Stutts. "He's been back galloping for four days now, and we've been working on his feet, soaking him in a hot tub, putting on some stuff I mixed up, and we're getting good results."
Stutts and owner Brian Burns had targeted the June 27 Iowa Derby for Smooth Air's next race, but a trip to Prairie Meadows hinges on Smooth Air getting in a good work this weekend, Stutts said.
"I'm going to try and work him Saturday. He needs one good breeze, something like six furlongs in 1:12, and if he can get that, and he comes out of it good, then I can still make it," said Stutts.
Smooth Air, Stutts said, has no prior history of foot soreness. Stutts speculated that a period of wet weather here had led to the flare-up. Smooth Air has done his recent gallops on Arlington's dirt training track rather than the Polytrack main track. Stutts, who has a small string of horses based in south Florida, and had not been to Arlington in decades before he arrived here last month with Smooth Air and the 3-year-old turf filly Cubs Fan, said he planned to stick close to his stable star.
"I'm not leaving the horse the rest of the summer," he said.
Meanwhile, Recapturetheglory went to the track to jog Wednesday morning, his first real exercise since he returned from his trip to Churchill for the Northern Dancer, where he broke slowly, raced well off a tepid early pace, got into traffic trouble at the top of the stretch, and still finished a respectable fourth. Lara Van Deren, assistant to trainer Louie Roussel, said that Recapturetheglory had come back in good physical condition, and that no concrete plans had yet been made for the Illinois Derby winner.
It's no festival without Fort Prado
Saturday brings about the annual Prairie State Festival, six Illinois-bred stakes races at Arlington. And at this point, Prairie State Day would not seem right absent the presence of Fort Prado.
Fort Prado has won a race on Prairie State Day four consecutive years: in 2004, he captured the Springfield, a one-mile main-track race (dirt at that time) for 3-year-olds, and he has won the last three editions of the Black Tie Affair, for males on the main track. Fort Prado's 2005 victory was the easiest, a 1 1/4-length romp. In 2006, he won by a neck, and last year he was home by a nose.
Trainer Chris Block would be happy with any margin of victory on Saturday, especially since Fort Prado has run into poor luck throughout his 2008 campaign, and has so far failed to win a race in five tries.
"You hope he'd be able to stretch his legs down the lane, which he hasn't been able to do the last two times he's run," Block said.
Block has horses to start in five of the six stakes on Saturday, including major chances Secret Kin in the Isaac Murphy, and Apple Martini in the Purple Violet. But Block's stakes squad could have been stronger. Shrewd Operator, who would have been a heavy choice in the White Oak, came up with an injury after a win here earlier in the meet and is out of training indefinitely, Block said.
Block, however, is not the only trainer holding a potentially strong hand Saturday. Christine Janks has entries in most of the stakes, as does Brian Williamson, who sends out the sharp sprinter Last Gran Standing in the White Oak.
Sr. Henry needs only better luck on Friday
How much bad luck can come one horse's way in a four-race span? Ask the connections of Sr. Henry, one of 10 horses entered in the featured 10th race on Friday at Arlington.
Purchased privately in Florida late last year as a grass prospect, 3-year-old Sr. Henry was turned over to trainer Mike Stidham at Fair Grounds, and began his tough-luck run before he even raced. His first Fair Grounds start, on Jan. 26, was rained off turf. On Feb. 11, Sr. Henry endured a five-wide trip in a seven-horse field, and ran into a sharp winner while finishing second. On Feb. 29, Sr. Henry was buried behind a wall of horses in the stretch, and never had a chance to run. And on April 6, this time at Keeneland, the gelding was stuck with post 12, pressed a quick pace, and held on gamely for fourth in a race won by the good turf prospect Sailor's Cap.
So, no surprise then that Sr. Henry fared poorly at the draw for Friday's race, landing post 10. But Sr. Henry has been posting good-looking workouts, and may be good enough to get past major contenders Rebounded and Snoose Goose - provided things finally break his way.
Cloudy's Knight moves toward Stars and Stripes
Grade 1 winner Cloudy's Knight breezed five furlongs on turf Wednesday at Arlington, and was timed in 1:05.60 while working around dogs set well out into the grass course. Cloudy's Knight capped an awesome 2007 season with a win in the Grade 1 Canadian International, but started his 2008 run with a seventh-place finish in the Opening Verse Stakes on May 31 at Churchill Downs. At one mile, that race was well short of Cloudy's Knight's best distance, and trainer Frank Kirby continues to aim Cloudy's Knight to the 1 1/2-mile Stars and Stripes Handicap here July 4.
"I thought he went pretty good today," Kirby said. "He'll have one more serious work before the race."