Midwest Thoroughbreds' homebred The Pizza Man, the popular 4-5 choice in July 11 Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. IIIT), won the race for the second time in a row at Arlington International Race Course. Watch Video
A year ago the son of English Channel won the 1 1/2-mile turf race by a half-length and this year it was closer, winning by a neck over pacesetter Roman Approval. Calvados was three-quarters of a length back in third.
The Pizza Man was cross-entered in the 1 3/16-mile Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) but trainer Roger Brueggeman and owner Richard Papiese opted for the $100,000 Stars and Stripes because they liked the distance progression off his previous race, a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Opening Verse Stakes May 30 at Churchill Downs.
The Stars and Stripes is a prep for both the 10-furling Arlington Million Stakes (gr. IT) and 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger Stakes both on Aug. 15. The Pizza Man won last year's St. Leger, but his connections will likely take aim at the Million.
The Pizza Man is now a nine-time winner in 12 tries at Arlington.
"He's close to perfection. He's calm and he can run any distance: a mile, a mile and a quarter, and a mile and a half," said winning rider Florent Geroux.
The Pizza Man sat a few lengths off the pace in the Stars and Stripes off Roman Approval's pace of :25.56, :52.53, 1:18.78, and 1:44.49 for the mile. As the field bunched, Geroux took the The Pizza Man to the outside for clear run and he was able to forge to the front .He got clear of Roman Approval, but Roman Approval and jockey Julien Leparoux fought back to make it a photo finish.
The final time was 2:34.13. Calvados was three-quarters of a length in front of fourth-place finisher Xtra Luck. Mister Marti Gras was fifth with For Greater Glory sixth.
Yankee Dealer, Castlederg, and Dramedy were scratched. Dramedy ran fourth in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) earlier on the card.
The Pizza Man paid $3.80, $2.80, and $2.40. Roman Approval paid $4.80 and $4.60 and Calvados returned $5.60. The $1 exacta paid $10.90. The 50-cent all stakes pick four returned $151.40.
Geroux was winning for the fourth time on the day's program at Arlington and has been the regular pilot of The Pizza Man.
"He's a great horse; he's very strong," Geroux said. "He knows where the wire is and I just try to be good passenger."
The Pizza Man is an Illinois homebred for Richard and Karen Papiese's Midwest Thoroughbreds. He is out of the Lear Fan mare I Can Fan. He is now 14 of 22 lifetime with earnings of $902,337.