2009 Washington Park Handicap winner Gran Estreno tries for a repeat in 2010.

2009 Washington Park Handicap winner Gran Estreno tries for a repeat in 2010.

Four Footed Fotos

Gran Estreno Defends Washington Park Title

Field of seven vies for potential berth in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

Gran Estreno, who posted a mild upset when winning the 2009 edition of the Washington Park Handicap (gr. III), returns in search of a repeat as part of a seven-horse field in the $150,000 race Sept. 4 at Arlington Park.

The 1 3/16-mile Polytrack event offers its winner an automatic berth into the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 6. The Washington Park Handicap is the eighth race on the Arlington program with a 4:37 p.m. CDT probable post.

A son of Lucky Roberto, Feel the Thunder Stable’s Gran Estreno has an affinity for Arlington Park with five victories and two second-place finishes from seven runs here. The Mike Stidham-trained 7-year-old won a third-level allowance in early May before finishing third in the Hanshin Cup (gr. IIIT) later that month, both over Arlington's Polytrack. 

In his last start, which was on the turf, he was bumped and steadied at the break but recovered to again finish third in an allowance test. Michael Baze takes the ride for the first time aboard Gran Estreno, who shares co-starting high weight of 118 pounds with Giant Oak.

Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak, a graded stakes winner with earnings in excess a half-million dollars, is winless in six starts in 2010. The Chris Block-trained son of champion Giant's Causeway  has been keeping good company, however. 

Earlier in the summer, the 4-year-old Illinois-bred ran fourth in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs and most recently endured a troubled trip to finished fifth, beaten only 1 ¼ lengths, against a strong field in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) on turf. Junior Alvarado gets the riding assignment.

The co-highweights will spot their five rivals from one to five pounds.

Hickory Tree Farm’s Coolcullen Times, a son of Rock of Gibraltar, comes off a third-place run in the John’s Call Stakes on grass at Saratoga Aug. 6. The Graham Motion trainee is winless in four North American starts but is a minor stakes winner in his native Ireland. Jesus Castanon will ride.

Jim Tafel’s Country Flavor, by Empire Maker , makes his first start since defeating Gran Estreno in the May 29 Hanshin Cup. The Greg Geier-trained 4-year-old will be ridden by Inez Karlsson.

Others in the field for the Washington Park Handicap are Mad Flatter, a wire-to-wire winner in allowance company in his last start here Aug. 6; Cure for Sale, third in the $100,000 Windward Stakes at Presque Isle last out July 27; and Elusive Beat, third in a Del Mar allowance in his last start Aug. 7.

$150,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. III), 3 & Up, 1 3/16 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Country Flavor (KY), I Karlsson, 117, G Geier
2. Gran Estreno (ARG), M C Baze, 118, M Stidham
3. Elusive Beat (KY), F Geroux, 113, J W Sadler
4. Coolcullen Times (IRE), J L Castanon, 117, H G Motion
5. Mad Flatter (FL), J Graham, 116, J D Thornbury
6. Giant Oak (IL), J Alvarado, 118, C M Block
7. Cure for Sale (ARG), E E Perez, 114, R Malek