Up With the Birds Could Soar in Arlington Handicap


Up With the Birds, pictured winning the Jamaica Handicap (right), could return to top form with trainer Graham Motion in Saturday's Arlington Handicap. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

The Grade 3, $100,000 Arlington Handicap is the second of four successive turf stakes on Saturday at Arlington Park and brings together a field of 10 mostly accomplished turf runners. Leading the field, at least insofar as career success, is Up With the Birds, who has earned more than $1.4 million in his career including a win in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap in the fall of 2013. Most recently third in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes, Up With the Birds drops one grade in class in the hopes of winning for the eighth time in his 17th career start.

Triple Threat and Middleburg, recently first and second, respectively, in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes are two strong rivals, as is local favorite The Pizza Man, who has won eight times in 11 tries on the Arlington Park turf course. Dramedy is another contender in a deep field, last seen winning the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in the spring.

Up With the Birds has won nearly half of his 16 career starts, four of those on turf for a field-high $914,030 in turf earnings. His best year came as a 3-year-old in 2013 when he finished second in the $1-million Queen's Plate in Canada before a victory in the Jamaica Handicap in New York. In his third start as a 4-year-old last year, Up With the Birds got back on track with a win in the Nijinsky Stakes with a career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure, then two races later finished second in the Knickerbocker Stakes before traveling halfway across the world to compete in the Japan Cup. Like most horses who make that kind of trip, Up With the Birds required a long time off but in his first race since last fall and his first with trainer Graham Motion, he finished well from 10th to third in the Dixie Stakes in mid-May in spite of having lost position at the start when in tight quarters and then running eight paths wide on the far turn. Up With the Birds should improve considerably in his second start off the layoff and could be tough to beat in this year's Arlington Handicap.

Middleburg has been pretty consistent throughout his career, with four wins and another nine second- or third-place finishes in 14 races, all on grass. Trying stakes company for the first time in May, he finished third in the Fort Marcy Stakes (102 figure) then last month he rallied very well from eighth of nine early to miss by a nose on the wire in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes. The horse that beat him in the Monmouth, Triple Threat, adds four pounds from that race while Middleburg stays at 116 and although that may not be significant most of the time, at this 1 3/16-mile distance it could help Middleburg make up the nose he lost by in his last race. Considering he earned 110 to 111 figures in three of his races last year and is only making his fourth start of 2015, Middleburg could have what it takes to post the mild upset.

Triple Threat won the Monmouth Stakes in his U.S. debut last month as well as in his first race since last September. Rallying from eighth with a quarter of a mile to go, Triple Treat got up by a nose on the wire and earned a 102 figure. Jockey Jose Lezcano rides him again and logically the horse should improve in his second start off the long time off, so Triple Treat would be no surprise if he wins his second graded stakes in a row.


The Pizza Man is also entered in the Stars and Stripes Stakes (which he won last year) on the same card, but could be competitive if he runs in this race as well. The Pizza Man won five straight races from September of 2013 through August of last year, including the Stars and Stripes and American St. Leger Stakes, both at much longer distances and both with 113 figures. The Pizza Man returned from six months off at the end of May and won a non-graded stakes (then was flattered when the third-place finisher came back to win) and he too should improve in his second start off a layoff.

Dramedy is also entered in the Stars and Stripes as well as this race and he too must be considered a contender if his trainer chooses this one. Winner of the Elkhorn Stakes with a 104 figure when last seen in April, Dramedy has won at distances ranging from a mile to 1 ½ miles so would have no issue with the 1 3/16-mile distance of the Arlington Handicap.

The rest of the Arlington Handicap field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is Coco Mon (110), Looks to Spare (105), Quiet Force (110), R. Great Adventure (118) and Yankee Dealer (112).

My Selections:
Up With the Birds
Triple Threat

$100,00 Arlington Handicap

Saturday, Race 6, Arlington International Racecourse, 4:50 p.m. ET

1 3/16 miles, turf, 3-year-olds and up 









Rosemary Homeister Jr.

Gerald Russel Aschinger


John James Revocable Trust


Up With the Birds

Drayden Van Dyke

Graham Motion


Sam-Son Farm


Looks to Spare

E. T. Baird

Otabek Umarov


O'zbekiston Racing


The Pizza Man

Florent Geroux

Roger Brueggemann


Midwest Thoroughbreds


Yankee Dealer

Samantha Colvin

Michael Reavis


Michael Reavis


Coco Mon

Emmanuel Esquivel

Frank Kirby


Gary and Beth Leverton


R. Great Adventure

Edgar Perez

Brian Williamson


Nancy Vanier and Mike Schmitt


Triple Threat

Jose Lezcano

Bill Mott


Team Valor and Gary Barber



James Graham

Christophe Clement


Mr and Mrs. Bertram Firestone


Quiet Force

Julien Leparoux

Mike Maker


Warner Thoroughbreds

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