Arlington’s Friday card had something of an Irish tinge to it. James Graham rode Grazie, the second-longest shot on the board, to a nearly 6-length victory in the second race, a claiming mile on the main track. The win mutuel came back $25.80.
Two races later, it was John Haran’s turn to unleash a winner at double-digit odds. His Henry’s Time used the old turf-to-dirt angle to capture the fourth race, a claiming sprint at the $16,000 tier for non-winners of three career races, by almost a length. A.L Contreras rode Henry’s Time, which had to withstand an objection from the trainer of the second finisher, before punters could collect their $22.40 win payoffs.
As if the win prices hadn’t been high enough, along came Irish-bred Freedom Reigns from the barn of Doug Matthews to win the seventh race. The 3-year-old filly, a product of the Irish National Stud, is owned by John Wade in partnership with Ben McElroy and Darrell and Lendy Brown. Freedom Reigns, previously winless in five starts for Kevin Prendergast in Ireland and one start for Matthews, rallied under Florent Geroux to get up by a nose in this maiden special weight grass race and post a $47.40 win mutuel.
Earlier in the week, Graham was in Erie, Pa. to kick off the season at Presque Isle Downs, where he had the honor of winning the first race on the card. He aired by five lengths on Angel Terrace for trainer Jonathan Sheppard in a maiden special weight sprint. Angel Terrace returned $3.20 to win.
Cathal Lynch got wins out of two of his barn’s erstwhile stalwarts. The Derryman kicked off Preakness weekend at Pimlico by sending out his Universal Language to win Friday’s first race. By winning this starter handicap, the 5-year-old mare made it seven victories from her last 11 races. Kendrick Carmouche rode Universal Language, which returned $3.40 to win as the heavy chalk.
Then, on Sunday, Ko-Ko-Mo Stable and Smith’s Lil Kiara rallied under Angel Arroyo to score by almost two lengths in an allowance/optional claiming race around two turns at Parx. The winner, a 5-year-old homebred mare, has won stakes races for New Jersey-bred stock and can be expected to line up in similar races at Monmouth Park this spring and summer. She paid $4.60 in winning at Parx.
Derek Ryan had a winning weekend at Monmouth Park, although he bid adieu to one of his runners via the claim box. He sent out Metro Thoroughbreds’ I’m Not Myself to a neck victory in Saturday’s first race, a claiming sprint restricted to those having only broken their maidens. After Carmouche (back from Pimlico), disembarked in the winner’s circle, Ryan was informed that rival trainer Juan Serey had ponied up the $12,500 for I’m Not Myself. The win mutuel came back $7.60.
Sunday’s sixth race at Monmouth went to Liam Benson’s Choral Society, which Ryan trains. This 3-year-old gelding has suddenly gotten into a winning habit since hitting New Jersey. He broke his maiden at the Meadowlands two weeks prior after going winless in six races in Florida. Most recently, the Benson homebred prospered as the favorite under Joe Bravo, rallying to reach the wire in front by just over a length against rival claiming stock racing on the grass. Choral Society paid $5.40 to win.
Eddie Kenneally also won a pair of races, only in New York at Belmont Park. He sent Douglas Arnold’s Powhatan Princess out to a 3-length tally in Wednesday’s fifth race, a claiming sprint. The win mutuel came back $11.20 in the filly’s second race since Kenneally took over her training.
Kenneally then won Thursday’s fourth race, another claiming sprint, with Wallace Fluhr’s A Boy Named Em. Javier Castellano got him to the wire almost five lengths in front for a $9.40 win mutuel. But the 3-year-old gelding will do his racing next time out for Gary Gullo, who put up the $14,000 required to claim A Boy Named Em.