Favored Workin for Hops captured the second leg of the Mid-America Triple and became a likely contender for the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) next month when he dominated the field in the $200,000 American Derby (gr. IIT) July 17 on the grass at Arlington Park (VIDEO).
In the second of three turf stakes on Arlington's "Million Preview" program, Workin for Hops pressed pacesetter Marcello through soft fractions, taking command late on the final turn and opening a five-length lead in the stretch. With jockey Francisco Torres replacing Robby Albarado, he went on to win under a hand ride by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:55.47 for the 1 3/16-mile distance over firm turf.
Estrorace’s Workin for Hops won the Arlington Classic in May. Michael Stidham trains the 3-year-old gelding by City Zip --Citi Pearl, by Citidancer.
In spite of what would appear to be distance limitations in his pedigree, Workin for Hops continues to excel at route distances. With a win in the Aug. 21 Secretariat at 10 furlongs, Workin for Hops would become just the fourth to sweep Arlington's turf series for 3-year-olds and the first since Honor Glide in 1997.
Torres got the call on Workin for Hops when Albarado had problems making his flight connection to Chicago.
“It’s one of those opportunities where you have to be in the right place at the right time and I’d like to thank Michael (Stidham) for letting me ride this horse today,” said Torres.
Marcello led through fractions of :24.98, :50.27, and 1:14.07. Working for Hops, just to the pacesetter's outside, edged to the lead entering the far turn and proved to be much the best.
“The turf has been speed-favoring so I kind of let him fall out of there,” Torres said. “We found ourselves close to the front end and slow fractions developed. When I called on him, he prevailed.”
In addition to the $115,200 winner’s share, Workin for Hops earns an automatic berth into the Secretariat with entry and starting fees waived.
“He’s really amazing,” Stidham said. “He does things so easily and he’s beaten some really good horses. We couldn’t be happier. I would say that’s pretty likely (that he’ll run back in the Secretariat). If he’s doing good, that’s where we’re planning on going.”
Mister Marti Gras, sent off at 19-1, ran second in the nine-horse field, a half-length clear of Dean's Kitten, who was third through the finish line but disqualified and placed fourth behind Gleam of Hope for interference in the stretch.
Mint Chip, Asphalt, Dream Nettie, Marcello, and Formulaforsuccess completed the order.
Workin for Hops was coming off a runner-up finish to Paddy O'Prado in the Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT), also at 1 3/16 miles, June 19 at Colonial Downs. He improved his career mark to 5-2-0 in eight races with earnings of $356,176.
Amy Bondon and Tom McNally bred the winning chestnut in Kentucky.
Sent off as the 3-2 betting favorite, Workin for Hops carried 121 pounds and paid $5, $3.80, and $3. Mister Marti Gras, under 126, overcame a late brush with Gleam of Hope to return $11.80 and $6.40. Gleam of Hope paid $4.