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Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/2/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Arlington-based Caiman, winner of his last two starts, both in the Windy City, was assigned morning line odds of 50-1, as well as the number three post position, when a field of nine was entered Wednesday morning in New York for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, who will attempt to become Thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown winner in 26 years in Saturday's Belmont, drew the number nine post at Wednesday's draw, and was subsequently made the 2-5 morning line choice.

"I have never seen any of my horses win a race when they stayed in their stall," said Caiman's trainer Angel Medina when interviewed by NYRA and Breeders' Cup announcer Tom Durkin at the podium following Wednesday's draw. "I'm going to take a chance."

Smarty Jones' quest -- to become racing's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 -- has captured the imagination of the nation. The colt has already become a cult hero and magazine cover boy, and his popularity would mushroom further were he to make history in New York this weekend.

Chicago Thoroughbred racing fans can watch and wager on Saturday's Belmont Stakes at Arlington Park, where a simulcast of the race will be offered at 5:38 p.m. (CDT) in addition to 10 live races from Arlington. Actual post time odds on Smarty Jones are likely to be less than the morning line due to his popularity, and post time odds on Caiman are likely to be higher than the 50-1 morning line.

But longshots do win occasionally. Two years ago, the Ken McPeek-trained Sarava, at odds of 70-1, became the longest shot in the 134-year history of the Belmont to win New York's final leg of the three Triple Crown races. However, should Caiman, which means alligator in Spanish, take a bite out of the Big Apple on Saturday, Sarava is likely (time-wise at least), to become the shortest, longest-price winner of the Belmont following its 136th running.


Arlington's defending jockey champion Rene Douglas, currently trying to become the first jockey in Arlington history to win four straight riding titles at the Chicago oval, made history in New York eight years ago this Saturday by winning the Belmont Stakes aboard Overbrook Farm's Editor's Note for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

"Skip Away was the big horse that year," said Douglas Wednesday morning in the Arlington jockeys' quarters. "He was the horse I knew I had to beat. It was my first ride in the Belmont Stakes, and I wasn't about to waste the opportunity, especially given the opportunity of riding a horse for Lukas.

"Editor's Note was a horse with a lot of talent," said Douglas, "but he didn't know how to use it at the end. He would wait on horses once he got to the lead. I knew that was his weakness, and I rode him accordingly. I was last during the first part of the race, but little by little, I began to pick up horses. At the three-eighths pole, I saw the big gray horse (Skip Away).

"I didn't want to play cute, because I knew what my horse was going to do," said Douglas, "so when I went by Skip Away, I kept riding my horse like I wanted to win the race by 10 lengths. Sure enough, he waited on Skip Away, but I was ready. I went to left-handed whipping, and my horse began to drift out a little, but I kept after him and we won the race by a length. It was an unbelievable moment for me to know I was going to win the race, but what pleased me the most was when Lukas praised me after the race. He said I rode his horse like I had ice water in my veins, so I knew I had done my job.

"I'm rooting for Smarty Jones and his jockey (Stewart Elliott) on Saturday," said Douglas. "I know the pressure he's under right now, and I'm wishing him all the best."


While Smarty Jones' bid for the Triple Crown in Saturday's Belmont Stakes is the main event in Thoroughbred racing this weekend, Arlington's feature attraction is the $38,000 Awad Handicap, scheduled at one mile over the local grass course.

Arthur I. Appleton's Wild Eventure, third in Hawthorne's $100,000 Lost Code Breeders' Cup at last asking April 3, will be among the Awad contestants.

"I was pleased with that effort," said trainer Mickey Goldfine of Wild Eventure's last start. "He's not a sprinter, so I thought he ran well.

"Saturday will be Wild Eventure's first race on the grass," said Goldfine, "but he's bred for it and I'm expecting a big effort from him."


Apprentice Cruz Contreras, who suffered minor shoulder injuries during a spill on Memorial Day at Arlington, will return to riding Thursday, according to agent Tom Morgan.

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