05/18/2009 11:00PM

Von Hemel, Euphony adjust to Poly


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - New venue, no problem.

Donnie Von Hemel, stabling on a synthetic surface for the first time since Remington Park's Equitrack experiment in the late 1980s, has been among the most active trainers early at the 2009 Arlington Park meet. Von Hemel, who pulled up stakes at Lone Star to summer in Chicago, had made 21 starts through Sunday's racing, winning four races. Only a handful of outfits - all Arlington regulars - have sent out more runners.

"We've been happy so far," Von Hemel said Tuesday morning. "It looks like we're fairly competitive here."

Arlington kicks off its real stakes schedule Saturday with a four-stakes program, and the Grade 3 Matron Handicap will include the Von Hemel-trained Euphony, who is set to make her synthetic-surface debut. Given the way she's handled every other surface on which she has raced, that should not be a problem. The Pin Oak Farm colorbearer won her career debut sprinting on a fast track at Oaklawn Park in 2008 and came back weeks later to win a sloppy-track sprint there. She has since won on Prairie Meadows dirt and on turf tracks at Louisiana Downs and Remington Park - 7 wins from 9 career starts, in all.

Four-year-old Euphony has posted four timed workouts over Arlington's Polytrack, including a major six-furlong gate drill in 1:12.60 on May 9. While laid-back Euphony sometimes will be given a workmate to keep her interested, that six-furlong move was of the solo variety.

"We've been happy with the way she's worked here," Von Hemel said. "She's finished up well in them. She's run on every track we've taken her to."

In the early stage of the synthetic-track era, horsemen often were surprised when horses worked well in the morning but failed to race well in the afternoon. Von Hemel might have seen something similar so far at Arlington, but can't say for sure.

"I think there are some cases of that," he said. "But for some of those that didn't run as well as I thought they would, it was their first start of the year, so I can't say for sure it was the surface. I'm still learning on that part of it."

Euphony may go off as the second choice in Saturday's Matron Handicap, which figures to have 2008 Matron winner Indescribable as a favorite. Other potential starters include Boudoir, Born to Be, Kiss With a Twist, Serenading, Sky Mom, and Venetian Causeway.

Venetian Causeway is one of four Shug McGaughey-trained horses expected to start in the Saturday stakes. Three-year-old filly Consequence should be among the favorites in the $200,000 American 1000 Guineas, a one-mile grass race.

The Arlington Classic may draw a field at least above par for an ungraded race. Among the probables for the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple are Giant Oak, Orthodox, Golden Mexico, Proceed Bee, Southern Anthem, and Turfiste, along with one of two McGaughey-trained horses, Conservative or Rescue Squad.

Stonehouse tests streak in Hanshin

Arlington-based Coragil Cat will try to win the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup on Saturday for the second year in a row, but among those standing in his path is another Arlington horse, Illinois-bred Stonehouse.

Stonehouse will come into the Hanshin, a one-turn Polytrack mile, on a three-race, all-stakes winning streak. In February, Stonehouse won the Gulf Coast at Delta Downs, and on April 9 he won the Fifth Season at Oaklawn. He came back 16 days later to romp in the statebred-restricted Milwaukee Avenue at Hawthorne. All those races came at two turns on dirt, meaning the Hanshin will offer a new set of challenges, but Stonehouse worked a bullet five furlongs in 59 seconds last Thursday and worked well.

"He definitely ain't going the wrong way," trainer Spanky Broussard said.

Stonehouse has won 7 of 16 dirt starts and is just 1 for 5 on synthetic surfaces. That said, Stonehouse made only two Polytrack starts in 2008, and "is a better horse now than he was last year," Broussard said.

Veteran jockey Perry Compton will be in from Prairie Meadows to ride Stonehouse for the third time in a row.

Trainer Graham Motion said Tuesday that he would ship Cherokee Artist, winner of two in a row, from Keeneland for the Hanshin. Coming from New York for the race is the McGaughey-trained Vacation.

Janks off to red-hot start

No barn at Arlington is hotter than that of trainer Christine Janks, who not only has won with 10 of 24 starters so far this season but has placed 18 of those 24 in the top three.

The strong Arlington start comes after a slow spring at Hawthorne, where early-season struggles were not expected.

"Hawthorne was the surprise," Janks said. "Things didn't click over there. I'm coming into Arlington with some talented maidens and nonwinners-of-two, and they're doing what I thought they'd do earlier in the year."

Janks is an Arlington veteran with strong ties to the track, but she is no cheerleader for Arlington's Polytrack. In fact, Janks said many of her horses - like longshot winner Big Vic on Sunday - have benefited from daily exercise on Arlington's dirt training track.

"The horses that get sore on the Poly, I send there," Janks said.

A couple of the recent Arlington winners, like Tazz and Pathway, could wind up in Illinois-bred stakes races next month, Janks said.