Jockey Inez Karlsson earned her first graded stakes victory when she guided Jim Tafel's Country Flavor to a Â¾-length win in the Grade III $100,000 Hanshin Cup on Saturday at Arlington Park. The son of Empire Maker covered the mile over Polytrack in 1:38.16.
It was the second Hanshin Cup win in three years for Tafel and Geier who won the 2008 edition of the race with Coragil Cat.
"I know he likes the Polytrack," said Karlsson. "Greg told me to sit off the pace a little bit because there was a lot of speed in the race but when I broke out of the gate there was no speed and I was sitting where I was. I had him in hand and I had a lot of horse on the turn that I thought I could steal it and that's what I did."
Country Flavor sat just off easy fractions of 24.32 seconds and 48.26 seconds before taking the lead at the three-quarters in 1:12.84. From there he held off the late charge of Tybalt and favored Gran Estreno, both trained by Mike Stidham.
"Tybalt was back a little farther than I was hoping on such slow fractions," Stidham said. "That hurt him a little bit but he came running and that's the main thing. Both riders (Michael Baze on Tybalt and E. T. Baird on Gran Estreno) thought the track was (playing) a little slower today so it was hard to close on those fractions. Both horses ran well."
Victory Notion, Recapturetheglory, Mad Flatter, Wildeydsouthernboy, Brothers Nicholas and McLard completed the order of finish in the nine-horse field.
The Hanshin was the fourth win in 14 starts for Country Flavor, who earned $57,600 to boost his bankroll to $139,390.
A 21-1 outsider, Country Flavor paid $44.40, $20.20 and $9. Tybalt returned $5.20 and $3.80. Gran Estreno paid $3.20.
A little more than a half an hour later, the Stidham-trained Tizaqueena, owned by Darley Stable, would find the winner's circle following a wire-to-wire, two-length score in the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Matron. Ridden by E. T. Baird, the daughter of Tiznow went the mile and an eighth over Polytrack in 1:53.57.
Tizaqueena, who started from the 11-post, quickly cut over to grab the lead heading into the first turn and slowed the field down through pedestrian fractions of 25.44 second, 51.53 seconds and 1:16.62.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing but I was happy to see it," Stidham said of the fractions. "It was a classy, tough field and when she turned for home after setting that kind of fractions, I had strong hopes for her. She really kicked it in and held them off nicely."
The Matron was the eighth win in 15 starts for the 5-year-old mare, who now boasts stakes victories on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces. The winner's share of $84,600 pushed her earnings to $630,118.
Floating Heart rallied from mid-pack to get up for second and it was a neck back to defending champion Euphony, who finished third in the 12-horse field.
Celtic Princess, Askbut I Won'ttell, Sweet and Flawless, Home's the Best, Haka, Magical Theater, Peach Brew and Souper Miss completed the order of finish.
Sent off as the 3-1 favorite, Tizaqueena paid $8.20, $4.40 and $3.40. Floating Heart paid $4.40 and $3.20. Euphony returned $4.