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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/30/04)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Veteran reinsman Ramon Dominguez, leading rider in the nation last year with 453 trips to the winner's circle, has been named as the jockey aboard Caiman in Saturday's 135th running of the Belmont Stakes.
Caiman's trainer Angel Medina, speaking from Arlington Park Sunday morning, confirmed the riding assignment as he finalized plans for Caiman's van ride from Chicago to New York later Sunday afternoon.
"I have had good luck with Ramon Dominguez since his arrival in the United States," said Medina. "The first American win of his career came at Hialeah in 1996 aboard a horse I trained named Solo Moondance."
Dominguez has been the nation's leading jockey in number of wins twice in the last three years and was the leading rider in Maryland last year with 185 trips to the winner's circle despite not finishing first in any of the five meets. He also had a record breaking year at Delaware Park, winning 254 races.
Dominguez, 27, and Medina, 62, were both born in Caracas, Venezuela, and began their careers in their native country at La Rinconada Racecourse. Medina started training in 1966 and came to the United States two decades later, but Dominguez came to America after riding about one year in Venezuela.
Caiman, who began his racing career as a 2-year-old in Mexico, was brought to the United States for his 3-year-old season. Although somewhat of a surprise as a Belmont probable, Caiman, based at Arlington Park, is coming off two straight wins at Hawthorne. He finished eighth in the Grade III Holy Bull at Gulfstream Jan. 17, in his first American start, third in an allowance race there Feb. 14, and fifth in the Grade III Swale Stakes on March 13.
"The horse leaves for New York at about noon, today," said Medina Sunday morning. "I have two horses entered here at Arlington Monday, so I will probably leave for Belmont Tuesday morning. I am looking forward to the week. My horse is doing well right now. He worked well yesterday and he is eating well. He is a very happy horse."
Boosted by the victories of two first time starters during last Thursday's racing card, veteran Illinois conditioner Christine Janks is perched atop the Arlington Park trainer standings after saddling six winners through Saturday's program, one more than her closest pursuers: Frank Kirby and Hugh Robertson.
"That's the thing I'm most proud of," said Janks Sunday morning when congratulated on her two Thursday winners. "I like my horses to be able to win their first time out. It means I've done my job preparing them for their careers. I've had some success doing that."
Janks saddled Letto, Henry and Carson Springs Farm's Caped Crusade to win Thursday's opener, with Chris Emigh aboard, and came back to win the fifth event with Arbaway Farm's Bin to War, with current leading rider Cruz Contreras up.
"As for being leading trainer, things have just kind of fallen into place for me so far," Janks said, "and I'm fortunate enough to have horses that have put me in that position.
"It's fun being leading trainer," Janks said, "but unfortunately, it's not going to last. I don't claim a lot of horses, so I don't have the turnover in my barn that you need to be the leading trainer here at Arlington."
In Saturday's fifth race at Arlington, trainer Jimmy Zook saddled William Stiritz's Wildwood Sam I Am to light up the board with an $88.40 straight payoff, with jockey E. T. Baird aboard.
The lightly regarded sophomore, who lost the rider in his previous trip to the post, also began the highest daily double payoff of the season: a generous $961.20. That midday double was completed when John Castro's Samantha B., trained by Hugh Robertson and ridden by Cruz Contreras, won the sixth race of the day while paying a $14.80 win mutuel.
Wildwood Sam I Am's win also initiated the highest Pick 3 payoff of the season -- a whopping $9,109.50 -- when Mark J. Tripp's Akana, with Tommy Molina up, won the seventh race Saturday for trainer Carmelo Mendoza. Akana returned $7.80 for her win.
However, Wildwood Sam I Am's win price was not the highest of the season. That was posted following Friday's finale when Biszantz Stable's Perspicacious returned $89.20. Apprentice jockey Contreras was also aboard that winner trained by Ralph Biszantz.
Contreras is currently the meeting's leading rider with 16 trips to the winner's circle. Defending jockey champion Rene Douglas is presently second in the standings after riding 12 winners.
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