Mister Marti Gras goes for a repeat victory in the $150,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. III) as a co-highweight at 119 pounds Sept. 1 on the Arlington Park Polytrack surface.
The 1 1/8-mile event brings back last year's runner-up as well, Workin for Hops, who was defeated by a neck but disqualified for drifting in the stretch and placed third.
The Washington Park is the seventh on Arlington's big 11-race program Saturday with a scheduled post time of 3:56 p.m. CDT.
Mister Marti Gras, a 5-year-old son of Belong to Me owned by Lothenbach Stables, rallied four-wide to nail front-running Workin for Hops in the final strides of last year's renewal. The chestnut gelding employed similar tactics when taking Churchill Downs' Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) over Breeders' Cup weekend two months later.
Though winless in five starts this year, the Chris Block trainee has been racing well in graded stakes competition. His efforts include a second-place finish over Polytrack in the Eclipse Stakes (Can-III) on Polytrack at Woodbine May 26, and a third on the turf in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) last time out July 14.
Eduardo Perez, who was aboard for last year's Washington Park victory, rides Mister Marti Gras for the first time this year. They break from post 4.
Prayer for Relief is also weighted at 119 pounds. The 4-year-old Zayat Stables-owned runner won the Iowa Derby (gr. III), the West Virginia Derby (gr. II), and Super Derby (gr. II) last year. From the barn of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen, Prayer for Relief comes into the Washington Park off a second-place effort in the $200,000 Governor's Cup at Oklahoma's Remington Park Aug. 11.
The Jump Start colt, previously trained by Bob Baffert, will be ridden Saturday by Arlington Park defending riding champion James Graham. Prayer for Relief is winless in seven tries this season but has been graded stakes placed on four occasions, including two on all-weather surfaces.
Will Farish's grade I stakes winner Pool Play is sure to attract some attention. Winner of the 2011 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, the 7-year-old Silver Deputy horse only recently returned to racing following an injury and ran fourth as the favorite last time out in the Seagram's Cup (Can-III) at Woodbine Aug. 4.
Miguel Mena, his rider for his Stephen Foster victory, returns to the saddle aboard the Mark Casse trainee who will carry 118 pounds.
Workin for Hops, who now races in the colors of Barry Golden, is certainly familiar to the Arlington Park faithful after winning the first two legs of the 2010 Mid-America Triple on turf, the Arlington Classic and the American Derby (gr. IIT) on turf. He also captured Arlington's Hanshin Cup (gr. III) last year over Polytrack.
In his most recent start, the Mike Stidham-trained son of City Zip was stretched out to 1 1/2 miles on turf in the Stars and Stripes (gr. IIIT) and faded to last. Afterward, Stidham said, "That experiment is now over."
Robby Albarado rides Workin for Hops, who was assigned 117 pounds.
Completing the field are Hattaash, Middie, and Ballyjamesduff.
$150,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. III, Race 7, 3:56 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/18 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ballyjamesduff (KY), E T Baird, 112, J Haran
2. Middie (KY), F C Torres, 114, P J Oliver
3. Workin for Hops (KY), R Albarado, 117, M Stidham
4. Mister Marti Gras (KY), E E Perez, 119, C M Block
5. Hattaash (KY), R B Homeister Jr., 114, C L Bettis
6. Prayer for Relief (KY), J Graham, 119, S M Asmussen
7. Pool Play (ON), M Mena, 118, M E Casse