William L. Clifton Jr.'s Pleasant Breeze, the 7-year-old multiple graded stakes winner who may be returning to his best form, arrived at Arlington Park Thursday after vanning from New York to compete in Sunday's Washington Park Handicap (gr. II).
This year, the Washington Park 'Cap will serve as the final local prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) when the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship come to Arlington Park for the first time in its 19-year history on Oct. 26.
Sunday's Washington Park 'Cap, to be contested at a 1 3/16 mile, offers a purse of $400,000. Macho Uno is heavy favorite that Pleasant Breeze must overcome.
Pleasant Breeze, with 31 trips to the post during his extensive career, seems to have benefited from a single outing on turf last summer at Saratoga. As is often the case, the change of surface, used as an experiment, did not result in a winning race that day but may have improved the mental outlook of the veteran campaigner.
In his lone trip to the post since that turf outing, Pleasant Breeze drew off in the lane for a 3 1/2-length tally in a nine-furlong test Aug. 30.
"We were able to take advantage of a condition," said trainer Jim Bond over the phone from his Saratoga headquarters when talking about Pleasant Breeze's grass debut. "The race came up for us, and even though he didn't win that day, it seemed brighten his whole outlook. He won his next start impressively and he worked very well at Belmont Park the other day.
"The old guy has been training super," Bond said. "He's always been a nice horse - an honest horse - and he's doing a lot better lately."
In his younger years, Pleasant Breeze posed in the winner's circle in 1999 after the Meadowlands Cup (gr. II) and won the Saratoga Breeders' Cup (gr. II) the following season.
The son of Pleasant Tap out of a Turkoman mare was also second in the Pimlico Special (gr. I) in 2000, second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. I) in 2001, and second in the Grade Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in 1999.
"I haven't decided yet if I'm coming in for the race," said Bond, "I have several others running in New York this weekend. However, I can tell you he's always tough and he always gives you everything he's got."