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Karlsson becomes first female jockey to win Arlington Handicap
By John Leusch | Daily Herald Staff

Rahystrada heads for victory with Inez Karlsson up in the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Park Handicap on Saturday.


Doug Clark/Four-Footed Fotos

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Published: 7/17/2010 9:19 PM

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A former boxer delivered the biggest punch in Saturday's Grade III $150,000 Arlington Park Handicap at Arlington Park.

Inez Karlsson, who used to fight in her native Sweden before becoming a jockey, knocked out her 10 foes with an explosive stretch run by 6-year-old Rahystrada.

The 6-1 fourth betting choice won by a half-length over the fast-closing 2-1 favorite and defending champ Just as Well, ridden by Julien Leparoux.

Karlsson, who writes a blog on the Arlington Park Web site, scripted a perfect ride for Rahystrada in the 11/4-mile turf prep for the Aug. 21 Arlington Million.

She settled the gelded son of Rahy in mid-pack on the run down the backstretch before uncorking an eye-popping stretch move in the middle of the track.

Karlsson, the first female to win the Arlington Handicap in its 75-year history, now has plenty to write about in her blog.

With his 10th win in 26 starts, Rahystrada earned an automatic berth with entry and starting fees waived for the Million, as do Just as Well and third-place finisher Tajaaweed.

The only time a female rode in the Million was when Julie Krone was fourth in 1991 with Chenin Blanc.

"It's absolutely a dream," said Karlsson of her opportunity to ride in the Million.

Karlsson, the 2008 Hawthorne fall meet champ, ranks among the top six in the Arlington standings. A ride in the Million would help her feel like she really belongs.

"I never thought about it when I got here five years ago," she said. "But now that it's getting closer, I guess that's my dream."

Trainer Byron Hughes, who operates at the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Ky., said one of the most important factors for Rahystrada is the rider.

"It's very important to have the proper rider," he said. "He needs a quiet rider who will let him do what he wants."

Karlsson knows owner Robert Courtney's horse well.

"I rode him when I was a bug (an apprentice rider)," said Karlsson, who won also won Arlington's Grade III Hashin Cup this summer with Country Flavor. "We won a $35,000 claiming race at Hawthorne. He's kind of quirky. In the post parade, he likes to stop and look around. If you force him to do things, he won't do them."

Modesty Handicap: With West-coast based jockey Rafael Bejarano slowing the fractions to :25 and :51, owner William Deburgh's Tuscan Evening kept her 2010 record perfect at 6-for-6 with a wire-to-wire half-length Grade III $150,000 victory.

Trained by West-coast based Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the Arlington standings in 2001 with 41 wins, the 5-year-old Irish-bred mare earned an automatic berth for the Grade I Beverly D. on Aug 21. She will have her entry and starting fees waived.

"I would love to come back for the Beverly D., if she comes out of this well," Hollendorfer said.

Longshot Éclair de Lune, a German-bred filly owned by Arlington chairman Richard L. Duchossois, chased the winner all the way. By virtue of her runner-up finish, she also earns a berth in the Beverly D., named for Duchossois' late wife.

"(Duchossois) has the best turf course in America," said Eclair de Lune's trainer Ron McAnally. "And European horses come here and run well all the time."

The heavy choice in the wagering, Tuscan Evening returned $3.60 while winning for the 12th time in 27 starts.

American Derby: Trainer Michael Stidham saddled his fifth stakes of the summer when owner Amy Bondon's Workin for Hops came home a convincing 21/4-length winner in the Grade II $200,000 event.

If all goes well, the Arlington Classic champion is slated to try and become the first Mid-America Triple champ since Honor Glide in 1997 when he runs in the Aug. 21 Grade I 11/4-mile Secretariat.

Stidham had to make a late riding change when jockey Robby Albarado encountered travel problems and was unable to make the trip to Chicago.

Francisco Torres, who was scheduled to ride in the Arlington Handicap (eighth on Free Fighter) picked up the mount on Workin for Hops, the 3-2 favorite who won for the fifth time in 7 career starts.

"I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time and I'd like to thank Michael (Stidham, trainer) for letting me ride this horse today," Torres said.

Stidham said the progress made by Workin for Hops, a 3-year-old son of City Zip, has been amazing.

"He does things so easily and he's beaten some really good horses," Stidham said. "At one time, we were worried about his distance limitations. But now it seems he will run all day."