STARS AND STRIPES S. | PURSE: 150,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD & UP | GRADE 3 | 1 1/2-MILES (TURF)
Team Block's homebred Ioya Bigtime had at times run creditably in graded stakes without threatening to win, but the dramatic step up to 1 1/2 miles brought out the best in the son of Dynaformer, resulting in a 41-1 upset of Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Stars and Stripes Stakes at Arlington Park. Always prominent beneath Jeffrey Sanchez, the Chris Block trainee took sole command about a half-mile from home and stayed on relentlessly to spark mutuels of $84, $25.60 and $12.40.
Musketier, the 2-1 favorite, rallied from far back to grab second and reduce the winner's margin to 1 1/2 lengths at the wire. Ioya Bigtime's stablemate and fellow Illinois-bred, Suntracer, also loomed boldly down the stretch for third and gave Team Block a one-three finish.
"Both of (my) horses trained well up to the race," said Block, who had been mulling whether to enter Ioya Bigtime in the Stars and Stripes or in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap one race earlier. "I knew Suntracer could get the mile and a half but I didn't know about Ioya Bigtime.
"I have to give Jeffrey Sanchez a lot of credit. He can be a tough horse to ride, but Jeffrey seems to have his number. He got him to relax nicely."
"I let him be," Sanchez added. "He relaxed into the bit. Everything was perfect today."
In the early going of the turf marathon, Ioya Bigtime prompted the pace established by Workin for Hops through fractions of :25 1/5 and :49 2/5. The eventual winner drew alongside through six furlongs in 1:14 2/5, and was already putting Workin for Hops away when reaching the mile mark in 1:38 4/5. Although Ioya Bigtime was committed a long way out, he maintained his momentum and established a six-length break in midstretch. That evaporated late as Musketier charged into the picture, but Ioya Bigtime proved dogged to stop the teletimer in 2:28 2/5 on the good turf.
Musketier got up to edge Suntracer by a neck for runner-up honors.
"He ran good," jockey Joel Rosario of his trip aboard Musketier. "I wanted to be a little bit closer, but I didn't want to force him too much out of his game. My horse came running at the end, but I think the winner was probably the best horse in the race today."
Joinem checked in another 3 1/4 lengths back in fourth. Next came Eagle Poise, Harrods Creek, Mystic, Free Fighter, Final Count and Workin for Hops. Vertiformer was scratched in favor of the Arlington 'Cap, where he finished fourth.
Ioya Bigtime's resume now reads 15-5-1-3, $245,625, compiled while racing only on turf or synthetic. A late-running, if distant, runner-up to Wise Dan in his stakes debut in last October's Grade 2 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland, he was a decent fourth in two Grade 3 turf events -- the John B. Connally Turf Cup and Grade 3 Fair Grounds Handicap -- earlier this year. He showed little when reverting to Polytrack for the Grade 3 Ben Ali and Grade 3 Hanshin Cup, but turned in a better performance back on grass when a troubled fifth in the June 16 Black Tie Affair for state-breds.
Ioya Bigtime is a three-quarter brother to a former Team Block stand-out, Grade 2-winning millionaire Mystery Giver, also by Dynaformer. Ioya Bigtime's dam, Ioya Two, scored her signature win in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap, which was renewed on Saturday at Arlington. A daughter of Lord at War, Ioya Two has also produced Grade 3 hero Amazing Results and stakes-placed Mavericking.
The Stars and Stripes, the final graded race on Saturday's Arlington Million Preview Day, was positioned to serve as a prep for the inaugural running of the 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger on August 18.