Miss Pickums on Top of Her Game for Arlington Matron

(From track report)
Jay Em Ess Stable's Miss Pickums, enjoying a mid-summer turnaround at Arlington Park, is getting good just in time for Monday's Arlington Matron (gr. III).

The Matron, traditionally the main event of the Arlington summer season for fillies and mares at nine furlongs, highlights the Labor Day program.

Miss Pickums' last two starts, both winning efforts at Arlington, were a welcome form reversal from her previous pair of outings in Louisville where she lacked a late response. What caused her turnaround?

"I just think she really likes that track," said trainer Paul McGee by phone from Louisville Friday. McGee had returned to Kentucky after saddling Bet On Sunshine to finish third in Thursday's feature here.

"Miss Pickums always showed some talent," he said, "and I think her 'back class' began to show up."

In her last trip to the post Aug. 11 in the $50,000 Mariah's Storm Handicap at 1 1/8 miles, Miss Pickums settled just behind the early leaders. She took command in upper stretch, drew off quickly and won by 4 1/2 lengths while less than fully extended.

Before that, in a conditioned allowance race July 19 at a mile, she had won by 3 1/2 lengths using the same off-the-pace strategy.

"She has speed when she needs it," said McGee, "but she's not a speed horse. The fact that she can adjust is to her advantage."

At Churchill Downs in June, Miss Pickums had finished ninth when asked to negotiate the turf course.

"She's bred to be a turf horse," said McGee, "but she didn't seem to care for it so I don't think we'll try that again for awhile. In her race before that (when Miss Pickums finished third beaten about five lengths in late May) she just hooked some good horses early and got caught in a speed duel.

"But she's doing good now," McGee said, "and I expect her to give a good account of herself in the Matron on Monday."

Edward P. Evans' With Ability, who disappointed last month in the Go For Wand Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga, was vanned from upstate New York Friday afternoon for her upcoming engagement in Monday's Matron.

"She was just a little overmatched in that race," said trainer Mark Hennig, speaking from Saratoga Friday. "There was just too much quality in the Go For Wand. With Ability is just not ready for Grade I horses right now. I thought I'd send her to the Matron and see how she matched up with that group."

Prior to the Go For Wand, With Ability had been a good second in the Fleur De Lis Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs June 15. In that outing, she made the pace, could not match the winner when challenged, but gamely held the place. Before that, the daughter of 1992 Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic winner A. P. Indy had won the Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Sportsman's Park by almost six lengths last April.

"She's doing real well right now," said Hennig, who will not personally be coming to Chicago for the Matron. "She'll work Saturday morning at Arlington, and hopefully, she'll run well Monday. She'll be stabled in Neil Howard's barn."