BEVERLY D. STAKES | PURSE: $750,000 | GRADE 1 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | 1 3/16 MILES
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Martin Schwartz says he loves the Beverly D., and no wonder. He won the race in 2005 with Angara and in 2006 with Gorella, forever endearing Arlington Park to his stock-playing heart.
"Dick Duchossois really puts on a wonderful show there in Chicago," said Schwartz, the New York tycoon who wheels and deals in high-dollar horseflesh, too.
Schwartz, a 66-year-old former Marine who made a fortune in trading stocks, futures, and options and wrote a book in 1999 entitled "Pit Bull: Lessons from Wall Street's Champion Day Trader," will return to Chicago on a Saturday morning flight. He is fully hopeful of taking home the Beverly D. hardware for a third time when Stacelita carries his familiar orange-and-blue silks as a major contender in the Grade 1, $750,000 fixture for fillies and mares. Making her second start in the United States, and her first for new trainer Chad Brown, 5-year-old Stacelita brings a wealth of experience against some of the greatest European runners of recent seasons, most notably Sea the Stars, Goldikova, and Midday.
"I have nicknames for some of my better horses," Schwartz said Monday by phone between frantic moments of the stock-market plunge. "I called Gorella 'The Ballet Dancer' because of what an extraordinary athlete she was. Stacelita, I call her 'The Queen.' "
Like Angara and Gorella, Stacelita has her roots in France, where she won her first six races. After her fourth victory, in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp in May 2009, Schwartz -- on the advice of his longtime bloodstock agent, Michel Zerolo -- bought a 50 percent interest in Stacelita to become a partner with the filly's breeder, Jean Pierre Dubois.
The first defeat for Stacelita came late in her 3-year-old year, when she was seventh, beaten less than five lengths, in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe won by the great Sea the Stars in October 2009. Since then, Stacelita has posted a record of 2-2-2 from 8 starts, with two of her defeats coming to Goldikova in her first start at 4 and to Midday in a memorable running of the Group 1 Nassau at Goodwood last summer.
For her first 15 starts, including her two races this year, Stacelita was trained by Jean-Claude Rouget. Schwartz bought out Dubois after the filly returned to France from the Far East, after finishing eighth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup in December. Dubois, said Schwartz, "is a major breeder and doesn't believe in running top mares like her at 5."
In her stateside debut in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth Park on July 2, Stacelita was the 2-1 favorite when facing male rivals for the sixth time in her career. After laying off the early pace, she ranged boldly into contention and took command in midstretch, only to wind up third, beaten a length by the victorious Teaks North.
"The mare has plenty of tactical speed, and I think she's better laying closer and not moving too soon like she did in New Jersey," Schwartz said. "Hopefully, we'll get a better trip Saturday."
New York kingpin Ramon Dominguez has taken over the mount on Stacelita, who was assigned post 1 in a field of 11 when entries were drawn Tuesday. Stacelita has been pegged as the lukewarm morning-line choice (3-1) in a very competitive field that includes River Jetez (4-1), Cheetah (9-2), and Fantasia (6-1) as the other top threats.
The 1 3/16-mile Beverly D., a Win and You're In event toward the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs, is named in honor of the late wife of Duchossois, the longtime Arlington chairman.
Buoyed partly by the joyful memories of prior trips here, Schwartz is bullish on Stacelita.
"I think she'll be the favorite, and I think she should be," he said.
Brown, who also will arrive Saturday morning from upstate New York, said he initially did not know what to make of Stacelita after Schwartz had the mare sent to him following the United Nations.
"She's actually been a pretty easy mare to train, although after the U.N. her energy level wasn't so high," said Brown, the 32-year-old former assistant to the late Bobby Frankel. "They'd told me she could really be a handful, but I just wasn't seeing that."
But following four workouts, including a half-mile blowout Monday in 48.20 seconds over the Oklahoma turf course at Saratoga, Brown was breathing easier.
"She's really come around now," said Brown, who just won the first Grade 1 race of his nascent career when sending out Zagora for Schwartz in the Diana two weekends ago at Saratoga. "She's pretty sharp right now, and I'm happy to see that."
Stacelita was scheduled to arrive here Wednesday on a charter flight carrying other East Coast prospects for the International Festival of Racing.
Brown said he has been to Arlington before, but not for the Festival. One race before the Beverly D. on Saturday, Brown will saddle Casino Host for the Secretariat.
"I was alongside Bobby as he prepared a lot of the horses for these races, and he'd go on to Chicago with them and I'd stay behind," said Brown, referring to 2002 Million winner Beat Hollow and 2003 Beverly D. winner Heat Haze, among others Frankel trained. "I'm basically just trying to follow the same kind of blueprint he'd use."
Angara and Gorella were trained by Patrick Biancone, but when Biancone began serving a lengthy suspension for the a medication violation after cobra venom was found in his Keeneland barn in 2007, Schwartz began doling out his horses to other trainers.
"I feel fortunate that Mr. Schwartz gave me such a great opportunity to train fillies like Zagora and Stacelita," Brown said. "Owners make this game go round, and I consider it an honor to be in this position."
Schwartz said Stacelita is called "The Queen" because of "her magnificent head and her beautiful eye -- she just radiates class. I've looked at all the numbers, and if she's on her game, hopefully we'll have another Beverly D."