California-based Toasted, owned by Chicago businessman Sidney L. Port, lived up to his advance billing as the horse to beat in Saturday's $200,000 Arlington Classic (gr. IIT) with a 3 1/4-length victory at Arlington Park.
The 3-year-old son of Hennessy rallied from sixth at the top of the stretch to win the 1 1/16-mile turf race going away, timed in 1:50.91 over a course softened by heavy afternoon showers.
The Laura de Seroux-trained colt was ridden by Arlington's leading jockey, Rene Douglas, who captured his third straight Arlington Classic. Douglas' Classic streak began in 2002 with Mr. Mellon and continued last year with Lismore Knight.
Toasted raced a couple of lengths off the early pace of :24 3/5, 51.02, and 1:17 4/5 set by Cool Conductor before he launched his rally turning for home.
"I was concerned about the slow pace," said Douglas. "I was right behind them and I waited patiently. I knew they would back up. I found room. I moved sooner than I wanted to but I knew they were going slow and I didn't want to take any chances because (Cool Conductor) is a nice horse, too. I stayed on the inside as long as I could."
De Seroux shipped Toasted to Chicago to avoid the harder turf courses in Southern California but was not expecting the storm that led to the extremely soft going Saturday. She briefly debated scratching from the race.
"I went down to the jock's room while I tried to make a frantic last-minute decision (whether to stay in the race)," she admitted, "but Rene assured me that the turf here is good when it is soft and it doesn't become a bog. He's won on soft turf, so I knew he had experience so we stayed in.
The Arlington Classic was Toasted's second win of the year and fourth in eight starts overall. The $120,000 winner's share nearly doubled his bankroll to $248,671. Sent off as the 7-5 favorite, Toasted paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.40.
Street Theatre, another California invader, rallied from far back to finish second but proved no threat to the winner. He paid $5.20 and $3.20.
"This colt is still pretty green," noted his rider, C. H. Marquez Jr. "It's only his fourth start. I got beat to a hole because he's a little slow footed and I had to sit back a little farther than I would have liked. I had to come around a couple of tired horses and he finished strong. The other horse was just a little better today."
Cool Conductor faded to third after making the pace for more than a mile, paying $2.80. Up Anchor, Old Deuteronomy, Count On the Tuna, Caiman and Exploited Storm completed the order of finish.