Always First and Ramazutti, the second and third-place finishers in the Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) May 26 at Churchill Downs, top a competitive field of nine grass course specialists entered in Wednesday’s $200,000 Stars and Stripes Turf Handicap (gr. IIT).
The traditional holiday headliner, which includes $75,000 in money from the Breeders’ Cup Fund, will be run at the marathon distance of 12 furlongs over Arlington’s turf course.
Merriefield Farm’s Always First, a fast-closing second despite being steadied on the turn in his most recent start, should relish the extra distance. In seven starts at the 1 1/2-mile distance, the son of Barathea has two victories including a score in the Sunset Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park in 2005. Trained by Thomas Voss, the 117-pound highweight will be ridden by 1996 Arlington Park riding champion Robby Albarado.
Anstu Stables Inc.’s Ramazutti also endured a troubled trip in his last race under the Twin Spires, steadying in the stretch to finish just a neck behind Always First for the place spot. The son of Honor Grades picked up his lone win of 2007 in the Mac Diarmida Handicap (gr. IIT) Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park. The 5-year-old gelding is trained by three-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner Todd Pletcher and will have the services of four-time Arlington Park jockey champion Rene Douglas.
Not to be overlooked in the Stars and Stripes is Stream Cat, fourth in the Ben Ali (gr. III) over the Polytrack at Keeneland in his most recent trip to the post. The 4-year-old Black Minnaloushe colt is a two-time graded stakes winner having captured the American Turf (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs in May 2006 and the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) over Polytrack at Turfway Park the previous autumn. The Patrick Biancone trainee will be making his first start at the distance and will be partnered with his regular rider, Julien Leparoux.
Others in the Stars and Stripes include Cloudy’s Knight, a six-time victor over the Arlington lawn and fourth in the Louisville last time out; Major Rhythm, an upset winner in this race last year; and David Bienstock & Charles Winner’s Fantastic Spain, who rallied to take the Golden Gate Fields Breeders’ Cup (gr. IIIT) in Northern California in May.
$200,000 Stars an Stripes Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 9, 5 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Ramazutti (MD), Rene R. Douglas, 116, 4/1
2. Come On Jazz (KY), Christopher A. Emigh, 112, 10/1
3. Swagger Stick (KY), Jesse M. Campbell,111, 20/1
4. Cloudy's Knight (KY), Ramsey Zimmerman, 116, 9/2
5. Mining for Silver (KY), James Graham, 113, 20/1
6. Stream Cat (KY), Julien R. Leparoux, 116, 7/2
7. Always First (GB), Robby Albarado, 117, 3/1
8. Major Rhythm (KY), Earlie Fires, 113, 12/1
9. Fantastic Spain (KY), Brice Blanc, 116, 6/1