ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois -- Trainer Michele Boyce this week can look back with pride and forward with hope.
The Boyce-trained pair of Devileye and Puntsville swept the two Illinois-bred stakes races on June 2 at Arlington, and on Saturday, Boyce has the grand old mare Lovely Loyree for the $75,000 Mike Spellman Memorial.
Seven-year-old Lovely Loyree hasn’t raced since March, but that’s not a deal-breaker in the Spellman, named for the former Daily Herald sports reporter and columnist who passed away far too young in 2015. Lovely Loyree won last year’s edition of the race while making her first start in 11 months.
Boyce talked a year ago about how Lovely Loyree had gotten quite heavy over the winter and was difficult to get back into race shape. It didn’t matter then, and it might not matter now. Lovely Loyree raced against some of the very best turf females in North America during two starts earlier this year at Tampa Bay Downs, and she’s likely to give a good a good account of herself Saturday in a race where Prado’s Sweet Ride should be favored over One Liz.
“She’s 7 but she looks good, she’s training all right,” said Boyce. “She’s not the world’s greatest work horse. I think she’ll give it her best try.”
Lovely Loyree, owned by a partnership, Lovely Loyree is by Cactus Ridge and out of the capable race-mare Lil Cora Tee, by Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee.
That’s the near-term anticipation in the Boyce barn; farther down the road, it will be very interesting to see what happens with 4-year-old Devileye. Devileye not only defeated the classy favorite Goneghost last weekend in the Addison Cammack Memorial Handicap, he ripped through six furlongs on Polytrack in 1:09.23, a raw time that produced a graded-stakes-class Beyer Speed Figure of 101. For comparison’s sake, the Illinois-bred Work All Week got a 105 Beyer figure when he won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“He kind of blew me away with how he ran,” said Boyce. “He came back, ate his dinner that night, yawned and that was it.”
Devileye has seven wins and two seconds from nine career starts. Only twice has he raced over a route of ground and his trainer wonders if that might ultimately be his next game. Devileye appears capable on a range of racing surfaces, giving his connections a range of options for his next start. They should aim high.
Puntsville didn’t run nearly as fast as Devileye, but she did win the Isaac Murphy Handicap – while conceding a lot of weight to her rivals – for the second time in three years. Six-year-old Puntsville has been a successful mare on this circuit for years, and now she has the added distinction of being known as Devileye’s big sister. Both horses were produced by the mare Deville, and were bred – and now owned – by Steve and Diane Holland’s S D Brilie Limited Partnership.
Jesse Campbell resumes jockey career, returns to Arlington
Jesse Campbell, once a mainstay on the Chicago circuit but based at Woodbine since 2011, is named to ride Saturday at Arlington and on Friday confirmed he's resuming his career as a jockey this weekend.
Campbell, 40, hasn't ridden a race since closing day at Woodbine in December. He said he didn't return to Canada this year because he had spent the last three years in Toronto while his wife and young daughter remained in the Chicago area.
"My daughter's 4 now and it was just getting old," said Campbell.
Campbell has been working this year at a private stable in Barrington Hills as a barn manager, and that he had been ready for a break from race riding.
“I’ve never really wanted to ride till I was 50, and we felt like this was a unique opportunity to try something else, walk away on your own terms. The last year year-and-a-half I thought I was getting burned out riding and reducing and this and that, but I was burned out on being away from home, away from my family," Campbell said.
Campbell, who won the Queen's Plate in 2013 and had 93 winners last season at Woodbine, hasn't ridden at Arlington since 2014 and has had only four rides there since 2009. Campbell said he's been working horses for about a week in preparation for his comeback.
“I got on four this morning,” Campbell said Friday. “I’m not going to say I’m going to be 100-percent, but fitness-wise I’m a little better than I expected. I’ve been getting on five, six, seven a day at the farm.”
Campbell, the son of trainer Mike Campbell, first rode at Arlington in 1995 and had his most wins, 70, in 2008.
Crafty’s Way ends long drought
It took her 22 races over the better part of three years, but Crafty’s Way finally won.
The 5-year-old mare, who debuted in September 2015, rallied from fourth in an off-turf maiden-special weight race and was home by 1 ½ lengths under Sophie Doyle.
Illinois-bred Crafty’s Way was not just any old professional maiden. She’s by Giant’s Causeway out of Crafty Oak, making her a full sister to the Grade 1 winner Giant Oak, who sadly passed away prematurely after becoming a stallion.
Crafty Oak also produced stakes winners Apple Martini and Oak Brook, the latter the winner of the 2017 Black Tie Affair at Arlington at the expense of Grade 1 winner The Pizza Man.
Brian Williamson trains Crafty’s Way for her breeder, the Virginia H. Tarra Trust. And there was relief all around after the mare finally got her elusive first victory.
“She had a lot of hard luck, really,” said Williamson. “It was tough because she could have broken her maiden before that – a lot of bad timing and bad luck.”
Now that Crafty’s Way has discovered the way to the winner’s circle, perhaps she’ll go right back again. She’s back in action in Sunday’s fourth race, a first-level Illinois-bred allowance, and is the 6-5 favorite on the morning line.
“We’ve seen it like that before, where they’ll rattle off two or three wins after finally getting that first one,” Williamson said.
Williamson also reports that he considered running the graded-stakes-class Illinois-bred mare Streamline this weekend in the Mike Spellman Memorial but ultimately decided to enter the Fleur de Lis Stakes next weekend at Churchill Downs.