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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/19/04)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Veteran jockey James Lopez, a third generation reinsman and a veteran of eight years in the saddle, has brought his tack to Arlington Park for the first time this summer.
Lopez, 26, born in San Antonio, Texas, and the leading rider at Oaklawn Park in 2002, is gradually approaching the 1,000-win milestone in his career. He has shipped to Arlington to ride specific stakes races in the past, liked what he saw and decided to give the Chicago circuit a try this summer while he was riding at Oaklawn this past winter.
"I was looking for a change after riding at Ellis Park the last couple of summers," said Lopez during training hours Wednesday morning. "My dad has always wanted me to come here, and I've always liked it here, so I'm going to try and make this my circuit now."
Lopez' father Joe, also an accomplished rider, is remembered as the jockey for New York Filly Triple Crown winner Furl Sail early in her career, and also won the 1967 Oaklawn Handicap astride Mike's Red. Grandfather Santos Lopez was also a jockey, and the possibility of a fourth generation rider came into being six months ago when James Lopez' wife Kelli gave birth to James Arron Lopez.
In addition to other leading rider titles at Turfway Park in 2001 and Louisiana Downs in 1998, James Lopez includes Oaklawn's Grade III Essex Handicap with Crafty Shaw and Ellis Park's Grade III Gardenia with Silent Eskimo among his stakes wins.
However, Lopez was also aboard 2004 Grade I Donn Handicap winner Medaglia d'Oro when that horse broke his maiden for Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel at Oaklawn Park.
"I started galloping him when he was a 2-year-old," said Lopez of Medaglia d'Oro, which means "Gold Medal" in Italian. "He was awesome even then. He did everything I asked just like an old pro, even though he was just a baby."
Gary A. Tanaka's Epalo, the five-length winner of Sunday's Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup, second leg of the 2004 World Series Racing Championship run Sunday at Kranji Racecourse in Singapore, is being pointed toward Arlington Million XXII Aug. 14 as his next assignment.
Epalo's trainer, Andreas Schultz, has already eliminated the third leg of this year's World Series -- the Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, sponsored by De Beers, at Ascot July 24 -- from the German-bred Epalo's upcoming itinerary.
The Grade I Arlington Million, centerpiece of Chicago's Thoroughbred racing season, will be the fourth leg of the 2004 World Series Racing Championship.
In 2001, Schultz saddled Tanaka's Caitano to finish fourth in the Arlington Million behind another German-bred: Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof's Silvano. Silvano also beat Caitano in the Singapore International Cup that year.
Owner-trainer Danny Hutt, who saddled Cowboy Dan to win the Grade II Arlington-Washington Futurity in 1997, died suddenly while dining with friends at a Louisville restaurant last weekend. He was 51.
Mr. Hutt, a Louisville native, began his career as a trainer of Standardbreds before making the switch to Thoroughbreds in 1991, and also saddled Celtic Warrior to finish 10th behind Silver Charm in the 1997 Kentucky Derby.
Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, Arlington Park's all-time leading rider, broke another of his own records Sunday at Arlington when he guided James Messineo's Major Rhythm to a rousing win in the eighth race of the afternoon.
Fires guided Major Rhythm, who came from off the pace, to a driving two and three-quarter-length tally for trainer Edward Beam. The win marked the 37th season at Arlington Park where Fires has posed in the winner's circle following a local victory.
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