Arklow, Nessy and Slim Shadey represent the class of Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Stars and Stripes, a 1 1/2-mile turf event for 3-year-olds and upwards at Arlington International Racecourse. Twelve assemble for the grassy marathon, one of four graded stakes offered in the Ride to the Million, presented by Miller Lite on July 7.
Donegal Racing's Arklow, a 4-year-old Arch colt trained by Brad Cox, enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign winning two of six starts including a rallying victory in the Grade II American Turf over 1 1/16-miles of Churchill Downs turf rated as 'good' last May. All three of the bay's wins have come on the turf including a narrow nose score in his 2018 debut over next-out allowance winner Dot Matrix. Arklow has since finished second in the Grade II Muniz Memorial, a 1 1/8-miles turf route at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, and fourth, defeated just 4½-lengths in the Grade I Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs. Florent Geroux, who piloted The Pizza Man to back-to-back Stars and Stripes scores in 2014-15, will guide Arklow from post four.
Nessy put in a monster effort on April 22 while making the grade in the Grade III San Juan Capistrano Stakes, a 1 3/4-mile turf marathon at Santa Anita Park when considered a lock as the 4/5 mutuel favorite for trainer Ian Wilkes. A veteran of 22 starts with three wins, six seconds and six thirds for owners Edmond and Sharon Hudon, Nessy will turn back significantly in distance for Saturday's test after landing sixth in the two-mile Grade II Belmont Gold Cup on June 8. The 5-year-old son of Flower Alley has shown marked improvement in 2018, finishing second to Oscar Nominated in the Grade III W. L. McKnight Handicap in his seasonal debut and a rallying third in the Grade II Mac Diarmida, won by Sadler's Joy, at Gulfstream Park. Carlos Marquez, Jr. will ride from post five.
Classy 10-year-old gelding Slim Shadey, with wins in 14 of his 74 career starts and purse earnings of $1,265,955, shows no signs of slowing down with a pair of victories already this season while routing on the Belmont Park turf. The dark bay son of Val Royal (FR), trained by Mike Maker and to be ridden by Corey Nakatani from post three, will seek his third win in-a-row while joining the barn of owner Michael Hui, who claimed Slim Shadey out of his most recent start on June 9. It will be his first time starting at the level since a nose loss to Conquest Sandman in the Old Man Eloquent Stakes on Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park. A three-time Grade II stakes winner at Santa Anita Park, Slim Shadey broke through in 2012 with scores in the San Marcos and John Henry Turf Championship Stakes, however he has not won at the level since successfully defending his San Marcos title in 2013.
Maker will also saddle Soglio and Bronson in the Saturday's 1½-mile test, one of five added-money events on the lucrative card. Soglio (Jose Lezcano, post one) arrives at Arlington from an eye-opening 10¼-length score in a grassy Churchill Downs allowance event for owners Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey, who won this race last year with Keystoneforvictory in an upset over Chicagoland's popular 2015 Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man.
Bronson (Joe Bravo, post six) will try and make Maker's day a winning one off a rallying effort last time out when third while earning graded stakes placed status in the Grade III Louisville Handicap, over 12 furlongs on turf at Churchill Downs. The Medaglia d'Oro grey captured the 1 1/16-mile English Channel Stakes last year on firm Gulfstream Park turf. Winless in three starts in 2018, Bronson will be piloted by Bravo for the first time.
Roger Brueggemann, who trained the aforementioned The Pizza Man to consecutive Stars and Stripes scores, is represented by the improving Twenty Four Seven. The five-year-old City Zip chestnut is undefeated in 2018 with three wins, all on turf, including the last two at Arlington Park. Last time out, Twenty Four Seven rallied to win a one-mile optional claiming event. Jermaine Bridgmohan retains the mount and will guide the gelding from post 11.
Catcho En Die (Jose Valdivia, Jr., post two), Harlan Strong (ARG) (Brian Hernandez, Jr., post seven), Memory Bank (Chris Emigh, post eight), Canessar (FR) (Feargal Lynch, post nine), High on Sugar (Edgar Perez, post ten) and Cartoon (Mitchell Murrill, post 12) complete the field.
The Grade III Stars and Stripes is slated as Race 8 (5:23 p.m.) on Saturday's 10-race card.
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