HOT SPRINGS, AR - Living up to a lofty family name hasn’t been easy for Arienza, but Robert and Lawana Low’s regally bred daughter of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri will get a chance to end a losing streak by sprinting in Sunday’s $50,000 American Beauty at Oaklawn.
The six-furlong sprint will mark the 4-year-old debut for Arienza as she attempts to get back to the form that saw her start her career in Hot Springs with two straight wins last winter including a win going a mile. She was no match for Joyful Victory in the Fantasy Stakes (G2) last April attempting to stretch out to 1 1/16th miles. Trainer Danny Peitz thinks and hopes she has top-level talent in longer races, but next weekend will be about changing the momentum.
“I’d like to just get going toward something positive,” said Peitz Monday morning. “Her last two races have been so bad and we know she can sprint. We want to start her off and get her confidence back and then maybe look to stretching back out after a positive race.”
Arienza’s troubles began when she emerged from the Eight Belles Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs last May with a suspensory problem in a hind leg that sidelined her for four months. She got back to the races in an allowance race sprint at Churchill in November during Breeders’ Cup week and caught a dreary, rainy day and wet track.
“I really wish I hadn’t run,” said Peitz of the Nov. 3 fifth-place result. “It must have rained all day, but because of the training schedule (for the Breeders’ Cup) they didn’t get to seal it the all the way and it ended up being this deep, deep mud. And she was down inside and just was not happy at all and really struggled.”
Peitz quickly decided to point Arienza toward the Oaklawn meet rather than chase good form in Louisville.
“I thought ‘let’s get her back to Hot Springs on a track I know she likes,’” he said. “She’s been training really well here, so hopefully we can get her back going in the right direction, get her confidence back and hopefully get into the winner’s circle with her.”
Peitz’s first trip to the winner’s circle this meet came Saturday with Najjaar, a 3-year-old owned by Shadwell Farm who could land in the Southwest Stakes (G3) on Feb. 20. Peitz notes the colt remains green and may get a set of blinkers after his slightly erratic run through the stretch, but with talented 3-year-olds Peitz refers back to Steppenwolfer, the Low’s colt who was second in the 2006 Arkansas Derby (G1) prior to finishing third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“With Steppenwolfer, I took him a couple places and he just kept disappointing us,” he said. “But then with him, there was the one race where the light just came on and we said ‘there’s the improvement. There’s the horse we thought he was.’ He had a wake up race. This horse exploded late, but hopefully he still has that wake-up race ahead of him.”
Like his sire, 2006 Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, Najjaar has been lagging well behind early in his races so far and like his sire showed in the 2006 Wood Memorial, Najjaar proved an ability to make up a ton of ground late in a race. The win Saturday prompted a call from Jazil’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
“Kiaran texted me after the race and joked that it looks like he needs some more ground,” said Peitz, who is friends with McLaughlin as both train for Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell Farm. “He texted me back that the Belmont is in four months.”
Bryan’s Jewel Set to Shine in Pippin
With clear signs of talent and plenty of potential, trainer Mac Robertson is ready to unleash Barry and Joni Butzow’s Bryan’s Jewel into the $75,000 Pippin Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn.
The 4-year-old filly spent most of 2011 getting her game together in maiden and allowance races in the Mid-Atlantic region, winning four times including two performances that earned high speed figures. That prompted Robertson to test the daughter of Rockport Harbor in the Gazelle (G1) at Aqueduct in November, where she ran into undefeated champion filly Awesome Feather and finished eighth.
Robertson is willing to disregard the Gazelle and is banking on the continued development entering the new season.
“She’s a nice filly for sure,” he said Monday morning. “She was running (speed figures) last fall that if she gets just a little better, it means she’s capable of running with the toughest kind of fillies. She’s supposed to get better and she was running well with older fillies and mares last year. It’s there on paper if she’s able to make that development.”
The only question in Robertson’s mind will be translating those performances from last summer to her winter quarters.
“All her good races came at Delaware Park and you never know until they do it at Oaklawn Park,” he said.
Robertson added that Joe Novogratz’s Mindy Sue could start in the American Beauty Stakes at six furlongs on Sunday pending a workout this week. The 6-year-old mare has never been out of the money at Oaklawn and is a three-time stakes winner, though she only raced twice last year. The Butzow’s Sarah’s Song was nominated to both the Pippin and the American Beauty but Robertson says she still needs more time on the comeback trail. She was last seen finishing sixth in an allowance on turf in July at Delaware.