|Arlington Park Barn Notes
Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 385-7500 ext. 7319
In today's notes:
Columbine Stable's Sligo Bay, winner of the Grade III Cinema Handicap in his last start and a candidate for the Grade II American Derby July 22, breezed three-quarters of a mile over the Arlington turf course Saturday morning in 1:17 2/5 with the "dogs" up.
World-renowned exercise rider Andy Durnin, who traveled from Southern California to Arlington with a handful of Beau Greely-trained horses earlier this week, was aboard for Sligo Bay's move.
Sligo Bay, like Durnin an Irish-bred, came from well back to capture the Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park in his last trip to the post May 20. It was Sligo Bay's first start of the year and first in the United States.
A bay sophomore colt by Sadler's Wells out of the Halo mare Angelic Song, Sligo Bay had been idle since last fall at Saint-Cloud. There he finished third beaten four lengths in his last European start October 29, going a mile and a half over soft ground at the French oval.
Before that the Beau Greely trainee had been beaten four lengths when second in a start at The Curragh. The ground was "yielding" at the Irish oval in that outing at one mile on October 15.
If all goes well for Sligo Bay in the American Derby, he will stay at Arlington to compete in the Grade I Secretariat on August 18.
The American Derby and the Secretariat are the second and third legs of Arlington's Mid-America Triple, which commenced with the Grade II Arlington Classic June 30.
The Secretariat is one of three Grade I races contested as part of the International Festival of Racing on Arlington Million Day.
Andy Durnin, the exercise rider who became something of a national celebrity a little over a year ago when he served as the training hours pilot for eventual Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, came here at Arlington Million time last year as Greely's traveling assistant.
Last summer Durnin came with Columbine Stable, J. Merrick Jones & Tom Nicholls' Manndar, the Irish-bred colt who was one of the pre-race favorites for the Million. That horse eventually finished second in Arlington's centerpiece after a troubled trip.
"It's just a lot of fun to come back here again," said Durnin Saturday during the break amidst a very busy morning for the Greely contingent. "We're just hoping for a little bit more racing luck this year."
Absent from the Triple Crown campaign in the spring of 2001, Durnin has been free-lancing, primarily as an exercise rider for Alexis Barba, who took over the barn of trainer Eddie Gregson after his untimely death last year.
Before the break during training hours, Durnin had already been aboard several for morning gallops, including two Arlington Million nominees and a Beverly D. nominee.
Tom Nicholls, John Greely and Columbine Stable's Takarian, one of the Million nominees, is first slated for a start in the Grade III Arlington Handicap, to be contested July 28 as part of Million Preview Day. The Arlington Handicap is the final local prep for the Grade I Arlington Million on August 18. In his most recent trip to the post on the Fourth of July, Takarian won the Grade II American Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Also sent Saturday morning for a gallop with Durnin astride was John Stewart's Jig, an Irish-bred mare who won Hollywood's $75,000 La Zanzara Stakes in May.
Jig, Greely's Beverly D. nominee, is first being pointed for the Grade III Modesty, also to be run July 28 as part of Arlington's Million Preview Day program. The Modesty is the final local prep for the Grade I Beverly D. August 18.
Raypour, owned by the same partnership that owned Manndar last year, was also out for a gallop Saturday with Durnin in the irons. Although Raypour is also an Arlington Million nominee, plans are uncertain for the Irish-bred. Raypour was most recently sixth behind his stablemate Takarian in the American Handicap.
Greely is due in Chicago and at Arlington on July 18, according to Durnin.
Jockey Randy Meier, with six wins in the last three racing days, is quickly approaching the 3,500-win milestone, and was three away from that goal going into Saturday's program.
Meier had a three-win day at Arlington Wednesday, a riding double on Thursday, and won the opener on the Friday program aboard Panic Stable LLC's Houston Slue.
The 46-year-old Nebraska native, currently third in the Arlington Park standings behind Mark Guidry and Rene Douglas, has enjoyed an amazing comeback after being sidelined nine and a half months last year.
"I'm not surprised, but I'm still delighted," Meier said of his comeback. "I've always had good people to ride for here, and I came back from long injuries once before in 1997. I was leading rider when I got hurt then.
"But I think one of the main reasons I've gotten off to such a good start is because of my agent Penny Fitch-Heyes," Meier said. "She has been a big plus for me, and brought me in touch with a bunch of new people. Penny is doing an excellent job, and brought a lot of new blood into my list of clients.
"In fact, it was my wife Bonnie who talked me into hiring Penny as my agent. She said: 'Why don't you give Penny a chance? A woman will work harder for you,' and she was right."
Calder Race Course, which hosts their "Summit of Speed" Saturday, will offer a $100,000-guaranteed Pick 4 on their ninth through 12th races, all stakes events. Calder is offered as a full-card simulcast program at Arlington.
The $200,000 Virginia Derby from Colonial Downs, simulcast to Arlington as a "special event" Saturday, will have 13 betting interests. There will not be a mutuel field coupling.
Sunday's NTRA Down The Stretch Sweepstakes at Arlington Park, where some lucky Arlington Park guest could win $1 million, will be offered on races 4-7, and 9-10. The eighth race of the day will not be part of the contest.
Grade II Illinois Derby runner-up Saint Damien breezed five furlongs in 1:01 Saturday at Arlington. The move tied for fourth fastest of the 53 timed at the distance.
Leading rider Mark Guidry had his fourth riding triple on Friday's program, while newcomer Marlon St. Julien scored a riding double.
As a "Fan Friendly" improvement beginning Saturday, Arlington will offer a TV Video explaining "How to Wager" on a continuous loop on a TV monitor outside the Gift Shop. The video will also be available on Channel 26 to fans with private TVs in the Box Seats as well as in the Million Room.
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