|Arlington Park Barn Notes
Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 385-7500 ext. 7319
In today's notes:
Last year, trainer Ken McPeek saddled the winner of the inaugural running of the Top Flight Stakes with an impressive filly named She's a Devil Due. In that six-furlong sprint for 2-year-old fillies, the daughter of Devil His Due was so impressive, McPeek took her to Keeneland for the Grade II Alcibiades where she appeared in the winner's circle once again and stamped herself as one of the leaders of her division.
"Now, I'm coming back to try and win the Top Flight again," said McPeek over the phone from Saratoga Sunday, when speaking of Saturday's second renewal of the dash. "I'm going to start Don't Ruffle Me in there, and she's doing just super right now."
Don't Ruffle Me, owned by Dr. & Mrs. Smiser West & Mr. & Mrs. Mackenzie Miller, made her racing debut at Chicago's premier Thoroughbred oval on August 4. The bay daughter of 1992 Preakness winner Pine Bluff pressed the early pace, gained the advantage entering the lane and drew off steadily to win by 12½ lengths. Was McPeek surprised at her facile score?
"She did surprise us," McPeek said. "I knew she was a nice filly, but I really didn't think she'd win by more than 12 lengths. I thought she was very impressive that day, and she's been training well since then, so we're hoping she can win the Top Flight again for us on Saturday. She worked in a minute the other day, and we'll probably work her one more time, but she's coming up to the race very well.
"You know who owns this horse don't you?" McPeek asked, speaking first of the now-retired Hall of Fame trainer Mack Miller, who saddled Rokeby Stable's Sea Hero to win the Kentucky Derby in 1993.
"I can't tell you what a thrill it is for me to train a horse for a man like that," McPeek said. "Mr. Miller and Mr. West have owned horses together for a few years now, and they are two of the classiest gentlemen I have ever met. I'm thrilled to have a horse for both of them."
Whatever happened to She's a Devil Due, who got hurt around the time of Keeneland's Grade I Ashland last spring?
"She's in foal to Seattle Slew," McPeek said. "I'm glad you asked, because no one has really reported on that yet. When she got hurt, the injury wasn't all that serious and she could have raced again, but the owners were given the chance to breed her to Seattle Slew, and decided not to pass on the opportunity."
Assuming Don't Ruffle Me keeps her date in Saturday's $75,000 Top Flight Stakes, she is scheduled to be ridden by jockey Marlon St. Julien, a 29-year-old African-American native of Lafayette, Louisiana who is quickly becoming one of the hotter riders on the local circuit.
"She's a nice filly," said St. Julien of Don't Ruffle Me. "She's got a little talent and I expect she'll show it on Saturday."
Should he win the Top Flight on Don't Ruffle Me, St. Julien will have posted back-to-back wins on the Arlington stakes schedule, after having guided David P. Holloway Racing Stable, Inc.'s Bet On Sunshine to the winner's circle following the $100,000 Arlington Sprint.
St. Julien was a late replacement aboard Bet On Sunshine, after regular rider Calvin Borel was unable to make plane connections from Louisville to Chicago earlier in the day last Saturday.
"I was very fortunate to pick up the mount," St. Julien said of Bet On Sunshine, "and I appreciate being given the opportunity to ride such a nice horse. However, I've had that sort of thing happen to me before. I've picked up mounts before, although they were in smaller stakes than the Arlington Sprint, and I've lost mounts when I was unable to make connections.
"In fact, not to long ago in New Orleans, I almost picked up the mount on Silverbulletday (the champion filly owned by Mike Pegram) when Gary Stevens was late getting into the Fair Grounds. I had actually started to get dressed in her silks, when Gary finally showed up and was able to ride the horse. Those kinds of things are just part of the game."
St. Julien, whose uncles had horses in Louisiana when he was a child, began his formal riding career a little more than 10 years ago, riding his first winner in 1989. Although his summer at Arlington began slowly, his local career has accelerated during the last month, when he has ridden more than half of his total winners for the season.
"I just hung in there and kept my head up," said St. Julien of his slow start, "and I just want to thank the trainers for sticking with me, like Gene Cilio. I've been knowing him ever since I started riding, and he's given me a big chance over here at Arlington."
St. Julien is scheduled to ride James Tafel LLC's Scoop for trainer Cilio in Sunday's featured attraction at Arlington.
Jockey Shane Sellers, who brought his tack to Arlington Park as of Sunday after returning to competition Saturday night at Prairie Meadows, is expected to ride at Chicago's premier Thoroughbred oval for about the next five weeks as he makes a comeback following a career-threatening knee injury eight months ago.
Sellers, who was the leading rider at Arlington in 1991, visited the winner's circle 219 times during that summer and established a record for number of wins during an Arlington session that still stands. The Louisiana-born reinsman used that summer in Chicago as a springboard to national stardom and had become one of the top riders in the United States until suffering his severe setback in December at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
In his return to competition Saturday night in Iowa, Sellers rode odds-on favorite Momentous to a second-place finish in the $76,312 Prairie Meadows Oaks. In that test for sophomore distaffers, Sellers and Momentous got clear command at the furlong marker but could not withstand the late surge of Curious Conundrum, ridden by jockey Zoe Cadman, a regular at Arlington Park this summer who won the Hawthorne riding title last spring.
Cadman, who lost her apprentice allowance earlier this month, piloted Curious Conundrum to a half-length tally in the final strides of the Iowa stakes. Curious Conundrum went to the post as the longest shot on the board.
Sellers, who won a second Arlington riding title in 1993, was scheduled for five mounts on Sunday's local program, including the assignment on Robert E. Sangster's La Vida Loca in the featured $60,000 Flawlessly Stakes.
Because Sunday's third race is the $25,000 Windy City Dash for 3-year-old Quarter Horses, the afternoon's Pick 6 will be conducted on Race 4 through Race 9.
Keith Kleine, senior manager of race marketing for the AQHA, will present the trophy following Sunday's Windy City Dash.
On August 27, 1982, Randy Romero broke Ray Sibille's single season record of 137 wins, and went on to win 181 races during the meeting.
On August 27, 1989, Jorge Velasquez became the fourth winningest rider of all time when he rode his 6,033rd lifetime winner while conducting a summer campaign at Arlington for the first time in his career.
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