|Arlington Park Barn Notes
Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 385-7500 ext. 7319
In today's notes:
Jockey Shane Sellers, one of the most prominent jockeys in the nation until sidelined with a career-threatening injury just before Christmas, returned to the winner's circle Sunday at Arlington Park for the first time in almost eight months.
Christine Gabriel, Arlington's television personality with microphone in hand, was on the track on horseback to interview Sellers as he pulled up aboard Bet On Joe, owned by John Castro.
"It felt great," said Sellers to Gabriel and the fans listening on Arlington's public address system as he eased up Bet On Joe following his win in the fourth race. "There are so many people I want to thank for sticking by me and giving me this opportunity. I'm still a couple of weeks away from being a hundred percent, but if I can get back to riding the kind of horses I was riding, I'll be okay. The horses are the ones who make the riders look good."
It was just a stroke of luck that Christine Gabriel was on horseback on the day that Sellers rode his first winner on the comeback trail. The concept of putting Gabriel, an accomplished horsewoman as well as a television personality, on a pony to do interviews during the races had developed recently, and Sunday was the first day that the plan had been put in operation.
"It was just an idea that we came up with to spice things up this fall," said Gabriel, speaking on behalf of Arlington's television department. "It's not something we're going to do every day, but we'll try it some days just to give our guests a different view of the whole race track experience."
Arlington's television department, headed by the talented Kevin Clarke, has long been known for its creativity and use of cutting edge technology. Their skills were most recently showcased on the worldwide stage during the International Festival of Racing post-position draw, but those watching Arlington's signal appreciate them with race-day regularity.
Sellers, whose return to a riding career was initially considered unlikely due to the severity of his injuries, had remained part of the national conscience with a hit country and western song called "Matthew, Mark, Luke and Earnhardt." The exclusivity of Gabriel's immediate interview was a major scoop in the popular rider's inspiring comeback story.
Incidentally, the Sellers saga continued successfully later Sunday when he rode his second winner in the seventh race on Gus Goldsmith's Summerhill Gal.
Thomas R. Durant's Lunar Bounty, winner of the Grade II Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs July 8, is set to return to action at Arlington Park Saturday in the $75,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for 2-year-olds.
The six-furlong sprint, observing its second renewal this season, is designed to serve as the final local prep for the Grade II Arlington-Washington Futurity, the main event of the fall season at the local oval.
"He's here at Arlington, now," said Carol Roller, an assistant to trainer Ronny Werner, conditioner of Lunar Bounty. "He worked the other day." The colt by Migrating Moon broke his maiden at first asking here June 21, journeyed to Churchill for the Bashford Manor, and then moved on to Saratoga for a third start in the Grade II Saratoga Special, where he finished fifth.
"He worked really, really well," said Liz Call, another Werner assistant who also gallops for the Texas-born trainer.
Steeplechasing, an integral part of Thoroughbred racing that adds the thrill of jumping to the speed of flat racing, returns to Arlington Park on Sunday. The sport had been renewed at the local oval for one day last season after a 16-year absence.
In conjunction with the first four runnings of the Arlington Million, Chicago's premier oval had hosted one steeplechase a year from 1981 to 1984 as part of the showcase event festivities. Steeplechasing had also been conducted at the local oval 22 years before the inaugural Arlington Million.
Two hurdle races will be part of Sunday's Thoroughbred racing program at Arlington. The Grade III St. James Cup for the Sport of Kings is the featured event and will be contested at about two miles and an eighth over National Fences.
Earlier in the afternoon, there will be a $25,000 maiden hurdle race. That race will also be at 17 furlongs.
Barn of the Month Award for August at Arlington Park has been awarded to trainer Dave Kassen's barn, and will be presented in winner's circle ceremonies between the races on Wednesday at the local oval.
Jockey of the Month for August, sponsored by Bob Chinn's Crab House, went to Robby Albarado and was presented Sunday to the Louisiana-born reinsman following the ninth race of the afternoon.
Albarado, the 1996 riding champion here who used that meeting as a stepping stone to national stardom, won two races on the Sunday program.
"Bob Chinn's was one of my favorite places to eat during my years in Chicago," said Albarado after receiving the award. "I was very fortunate to have had all those opportunities to ride good horses over the month of August here this year."
Tom Durant, who is expected to be represented by Lunar Bounty in Saturday's $75,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes here, was honored as Owner of the Month for August at Arlington, and assistant Thad Keller accepted on behalf of conditioner Don Von Hemel during Trainer of the Month ceremonies.
Two "fastest times of the meeting" were established at Arlington Sunday. John Castro's Bet On Joe, saddled by Hugh Robertson, toured six and a half furlongs in 1:15.91 when jockey Shane Sellers rode his first winner since a career-threatening injury eight months ago. Richard F. Rudolph's San Pedro, saddled by Spanky Broussard and ridden by Ray Sibille, accomplished the one-mile distance in 1:35.60 later in the day.
Ray Sibille also rode Virginia Tarra Trust's Sky Link to victory in the 10th race, joining jockeys Shane Sellers and Robby Albarado with riding doubles for the day.
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