The $200,000 Arlington Handicap attracted a field of eight older horses including Coalport, Keep Up, and Najjaar. But the runners likely to be highly regarded by the betting public are Dullahan, trained by Dale Romans, and Rahystrada, conditioned by Byron Hughes.
Rahystrada, a 9-year-old gelded son of Rahy, carries top weight of 121 pounds under jockey Rosie Napravnik from the 6 hole. With more than $1.2 million in earnings and a placing in last year's edition of the Arlington Million (gr. IT), Robert E. Courtney Jr.'s contender looks to return to winning form in the event that provided his only victory of 2012.
Like last year, the race will be Rahystrada's third of the season and comes after a decent performance in graded stakes company. Last out, he finished fourth behind Boisterous in the June 9 Monmouth Stakes (gr. IIT) at Monmouth Park. Tables were turned in the 2012 edition of the Arlington Handicap, as Rahystrada held off Boisterous by a front-running neck. The defending winner has finished out of the top four only once in his past 10 starts.
Not so for Dullahan, who looks to get back on track after a lackluster two-race attempt in Dubai. The winner of more than $1.7 million finished 11th in two stakes on the Tapeta Footings surface there, including the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in his most recent outing March 30.
He also will be making his first start on the lawn since last fall's Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), where he finished ninth. But despite having never won on the grass in five attempts, the 4-year-old son of Even the Score has an Equibase Speed Figure (115) from that Breeders' Cup Turf that is higher than any of his fellow Arlington Handicap entrants have achieved on the grass.
While Rahystrada's connections hope to use the Arlington Handicap for its traditional purpose—as a prep for the Aug. 17 Arlington Million (gr. IT)—Dullahan's owners have their sights set on defending the colt's title in the TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) on the synthetic surface at Del Mar, which provided the chestnut runner's most recent victory last August.
This year's Arlington Handicap also features two quickly improving contenders, Coalport and Keep Up. Illinois-bred Coalport was a 2 3/4-length winner of the June 15 restricted Black Tie Affair Handicap going 1 1/16 miles on the Arlington turf last time out. The son of Kitten's Joy also won a local allowance at the same distance by 6 1/4 lengths for Arlington's top trainer Wayne Catalano and leading national owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. At 3-for-3 over the surface, 4-year-old Coalport attempts 10 furlongs for the first time in his 12-race career—a distance he is bred to relish.
Like Coalport, Mill Ridge Farm's Keep Up is coming off an impressive local stakes win. On June 8 the Alex Clarkson trainee displayed a flashy late kick to mow down graded stakes victors Corporate Jungle and Workin for Hops in the listed Swoon's Son Stakes. A 6-year-old son of Unbridled's Song out of Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Keeper Hill, Keep Up will be making only the 14th start of his career. He sprung a 30-1 upset in the River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs by half a length over Boisterous last year.
Shadwell Stable's Najjaar, a 4-year-old son of Jazil who was third in last year's Arlington Classic Stakes, also comes into the race in sharp form off a third, beaten only a half-length, in the May 25 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) for trainer Danny Peitz.
Completing the field are Team Block's 5-year-old Suntracer, a son of Kitten's Joy who has won multiple stakes but still seeks his first graded win for trainer Chris Block; Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Beer Garden, a 4-year-old Tapit colt making his stakes debut for trainer Mike Maker; and Niall Racing's allowance winner Temeraine, a 4-year-old gelded son of Arch. Suntracer is cross-entered in the Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/2 miles on the Arlington turf on the same day.
$200,000 Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 10, approximate post 5:25 p.m. CDT), 3YOs & Up, 1 1/4 miles (turf)