Edward P. Evans' homebred Pleasant Strike was angled out mid-stretch by jockey Rene Douglas and finished with aplomb to win the $150,000 Arlington Classic (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds going away at Arlington Park on Saturday.
Douglas had the Virginia-bred Smart Strike colt perfectly positioned behind three front-runners in the 1 1/16-mile turf test, then slid him to the outside of his rivals to register a 3 3/4-length score in 1:42, one second off the course record. The Todd Pletcher trainee, sent off at odds of 5-1, was making his graded stakes debut, which serves as the first leg of Arlington Park’s "Mid-America Triple."
“In the stretch, this horse really took off,” said Douglas, who won four straight riding titles at Arlington from 2001-2004. “Todd did a good job with this horse. I was just the pilot.”
The remaining legs are the American Derby, presented by Jack Daniel’s (gr. IIT) July 21, and the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 11. Mike Dilger, assistant to Pletcher, said he wasn't sure if Pleasant Strike would return to take a shot at the final two races in the series.
“That depends on how he comes off (this race),” said Dilger, who saddled Pleasant Strike at Arlington Saturday. “That depends on what the boss wants to do.”
Lovango, ridden by Seth Martinez, finished second, a half-length ahead of Quasicobra and Julien Leparoux. Vaunt, the 6-5 choice in the field of nine, finished fifth after a mild rally in the stretch for jockey Robby Albarado.
Starbase, who would finish fourth, led the first quarter-mile in :23 3/5, then continued to fight on the front end as Beta Capo put a head in front through a half-mile in :47 4/5 and six furlongs in 1:11 2/5. Lovango, three wide, was also vying on the front end as the field reached the stretch. But Pleasant Strike was eased off the inside for the run to the wire and soon was in control.
Pleasant Strike has back-to-back wins at Arlington, winning an off-the-turf optional claiming event last out May 26. Overall, the dark bay colt owns a 3-2-1 mark in eight lifetime starts. Saturday's winning purse -- $86,400 -- increased his earnings to $150,970. He is out of Colonella, by Pleasant Colony.
A lukewarm second choice, Pleasant Strike paid $12, $6 and $4.60.
Lovango returned $8.80 and $6.20.
Quasicobra was $4.80 to show.
Pirate Saint, Beta Capo, Tom Archdeacon, and Riverside Rascal trailed.