Stars and Stripes Good Spot for Suntracer
Team Block’s homebred Suntracer hasn’t won a race in over two years, going 0-for-11 in 2013 and ’14, but he has several things going for him in the $150,000 Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/2 miles at Arlington Park July 12.
First off, the 10-horse field did not come up very tough, with Mister Marti Gras, like Suntracer, trained by Chris Block, the only other in-form class horse in the race. But Mister Marti Gras also is entered in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT), the race before, and looks more likely to run in that six-horse field despite it being a much tougher race.
Second, Suntracer has been keeping much better company than this, and third, he’s been knocking off bullet works over Arlington’s Polytrack surface. And getting Julien Leparoux back aboard certainly won’t hurt his chances.
If the 6-year-old son of Kitten's Joy can run back to his last start, a head defeat to the top-class War Dancer in the grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs in his last start, he should take a lot of beating in here. In two of his other starts this year he was a close fourth in the grade II Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland and MacDiarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park behind world-record holder Twilight Eclipse.
The Illinois-bred Suntracer, despite going winless the last two years, did run a strong second in last year’s Stars and Stripes and also placed in the American St. Leger at Arlington and the Kentucky Turf Cup (gr. IIIT) at Kentucky Downs.
Mister Marti Gras would give Block a powerful one-two punch that should dominate this field if he were to run here. The 7-year-old Belong To Me gelding appears to be rounding into form, coming off a victory in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claimer following a fast-closing second in the Hanshin Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Arlington.
Another reason pointing to Mister Marti Gras running in the 10-furlong Arlington Handicap is he prefers a shorter distance, having run the majority of his races at a mile to 1 1/8 miles.
Suntracer drew post 3, with Mister Marti Gras right alongside in post 2.
Another horse who may have found his form stretching out to 1 1/2 miles is Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Moro Tap, trained by Mike Maker. The 4-year-old son of Tapit has been pretty mediocre in recent months, but did pop up with a solid third-place finish in the 1 1/2-mile Louisville Handicap, finishing three lengths behind Suntracer. Victor Espinoza replaces Rosie Napravnik and will break from the rail.
The remainder of the field is made up mostly of allowance horses and high-priced claimers.
The most dangerous of these looks to be Illinois-bred The Pizza Man, winner of his last three starts—a state-bred stakes, a restricted stakes, and the Carey Memorial at Hawthorne Racecourse last October two races back. In his first and only start this year, he captured the state-bred Black Tie Affair Stakes at Arlington.
Another with a shot is Olympic Thunder, a group I winner in Brazil whose biggest effort in the U.S. was a second, beaten a neck, in last year’s Kentucky Turf Cup for trainer Kenny McPeek. Alan Garcia has the mount.
Arlington International Racecourse, Saturday, July 12, 2014, Race 8
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