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Horse slaughter in Illinois
|Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/12/04)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Art Variety and Prodigus, two Ken McPeek-trained Brazilian-breds who will run as separate betting interests in Sunday's $38,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap, are slated to go to post regardless of weather conditions.
The Mac Diarmida is scheduled for a mile and a half over Arlington's world famous turf course, and could serve as an excellent prep for the 73rd running of the Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup July 4, but inclement weather may force Sunday's race to the main track.
"That doesn't matter," said McPeek of the uncertain surface for the Mac Diarmida. "I'm planning on running both of them even if the race comes off the grass."
Art Variety, owned by Team Victory II, has made all but one of his 21 starts on the grass, turning in a poor performance on his lone main track outing. However, on turf he is generally a solid threat going longer distances, and comes up to the Mac Diarmida off a fourth-place finish in the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs on Memorial Day. Previously, he was third in Keeneland's Grade III Elkhorn run April 23 after winning an allowance race at the Lexington oval earlier that month.
Prodigus, who races in the silks of Late Night Stables LLC, has 20 lifetime starts but seven have come on the main track with the remaining 13 over the lawn. He was fifth in his most recent trip to the post over Churchill's grass course May 8, apparently overmatched in two graded stakes outings this winter in South Florida, but was third in a race taken off the grass and run in the slop last fall in Louisville.
"I think Art Variety's chances will be somewhat compromised on the main track," said McPeek, "but he has worked well on dirt since I've had him."
Brazilian-breds are not all that unusual in American Thoroughbred competition, but they are also a long way from the norm. McPeek is one of the few trainers that regularly visit that lightly tapped South American market.
"I make four or five trips down there a year," said McPeek. "I think Brazil is a great source for horses, but you have to work your tail off to get them. I got these two (Art Variety and Prodigus) on two different trips about a year apart. Usually, my trips involve an overnight flight out of Miami, and a lot of moving around once I get down there. But it's always a lot of fun."
The 2004 Arlington Park summer session will be one quarter complete at the conclusion of Sunday's racing program, and as opposed to other recent seasons, both the jockey and the trainer standings remain tightly bunched at the present time.
Apprentice jockey Cruz Contreras, leading jockey at Hawthorne Race Course this spring, enjoyed a two-win advantage over defending jockey champion Rene Douglas going into Saturday's races.
Douglas, Arlington's leading reinsman the last three seasons, is bidding to become the first rider in Arlington Park history to win four successive titles. The Panama-born Douglas had ridden 21 winners at the conclusion of Friday's races, while Contreras, a native of Mexico riding in his second season here, had visited the winner's circle 23 times.
However, following closely on their heels are the perennially prominent Eddie Razo Jr. and Chris Emigh, with 19 wins apiece through Friday.
In the trainer standings, Frank Kirby is enjoying his best local meeting to date. He has saddled 10 winners going into Saturday, two more than his nearest pursuers Pat Cuccurullo and Hugh Robertson, who each have eight winners thus far.
One behind them with seven visits to the winner's circle is Christine Janks, and the increasingly successful David Hinsley trails her by a single winner.
"Get In The Game" host Joe Kristufek, who will have trainers Christine Janks and Tony Granitz as his guest on Sunday's "Get In The Game" segment at Arlington's Starting Gate Theatre beginning at 11:30 a.m., enjoyed the first part of the weekend by watching his first win as a Thoroughbred owner when Dare To Dream Stable LLC's Secret Command captured Friday's fourth race.
Kristufek, along with his associates at the local television show "Horsin' Around TV," own a percentage of the Dare To Dream color bearer. Arlington based trainer Liane Davis, features producer of that Fox Sports Network's show, is another owner but also the conditioner of Secret Command, and was saddling her first winner of the current season.
"One of our goals on the show is to show people how easy it is to own a horse," said Kristufek, "as well as how much fun it can be."
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