Everybody loves babies. They’re full of promise and unpredictable; little mysteries waiting to be cracked. While their first time out may not always hint at great things to come, that’s the beauty of the little ones—each start is a lesson learned, and we get to be a part of this growing experience, catching a glimpse of what lie in their full potential… and perhaps quietly dreaming of roses in May.
Late last year, I was able to catch the maiden race of a 2-year-old son by Afleet Alex as he bumbled his way to an against-the-odds victory at Aqueduct. Though he never made it into the Kentucky Derby, I was on this colt’s bandwagon all the way through that first start, and was rewarded when he dug down and won the Grade I Travers Stakes by a nose. There is nothing like the feeling of following a horse’s career from the earliest stages into the highest peak of victory; over all of those months watching this horse find his best stride, so to speak, you begin to feel like the horse is in some part yours. If you can’t afford to actually own a race horse, it’s the next best thing to follow one from its maiden race into a bright future. And so while this is a testament why it’s worthwhile to watch every 2-year-old race you can catch, it’s also an incentive to trek to Arlington Park this Saturday to catch their coupling of juvenile stakes races.
Arlington’s two Grade III 2-year-old races will pit some maidens versus babies with more experience, but at this early stage in their careers, it’s really anybody’s race. The $100,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity has drawn a field of eight juvenile males who will contest a mile over the Polytrack. The heavy favorite, Rough Sailing, has only one race to his credit, and that was over a soft turf course at Arlington. It was the way the colt handled a terrible trip and exploded through the lane to win by two lengths that proved him to be a horse with a lot of potential. At least we know by that race he can handle the distance, as his lone start was also run at a mile. Should he not like the main track, one of the other horses who have a win over the Arlington Polytrack may pick up the pieces: Ghetto Cat, Caleb’s Posse, and Impersonator fit that bill. Last time out, Major Gain was heavily favored in his debut race at Arlington on the main track, but finished second; he may appreciate the added distance when he tries to break his maiden in this stakes test. Weekend Wildcat is the only invader among this Arlington fan club; it is worth noting he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in a field with some hot competition, though he has never won over a synthetic surface in two prior tries (Keeneland and Woodbine).
In the 1-mile Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes, thirteen 2-year-old fillies will vie to take home the trophy in a field with no clear favorite. Wonderlandbynight boasts an undefeated record in three starts (two of those from Arlington), though her first win came via disqualification as she physically finished second; her last time out, she won the Ontario Debutante Stakes at Woodbine at 6 ½ furlongs. Jordy Y is undefeated in two starts, with both of those outings at Arlington, as well; however, she has never run farther than 5 ½ furlongs. Crepe Myrtle is the only filly in the field to have won a route race; her lone victory was run at 1 1/16-miles over the Polytrack at Arlington.
You never know what will come out of a juvenile race. Last year, She Be Wild won the Arlington-Lassie on her way to a becoming the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly. Even the horses who don’t necessarily come out on the winning end of the wire could grow up to be tomorrow’s champions. This is just another example of why the sport of horse racing is so great.
Arlington Park is closing in on its final days of the season. Catch the live racing action at this beautiful Illinois track while you still can, and breathe in those precious last days of summer.