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Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/24/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Trainers Greg Geier and Andy Hansen have hardly missed a beat since taking up the banner of the late conditioner Gene Cilio's stable, so not surprisingly, they have entered a quintet of representatives for Saturday's fourth renewal of Arlington Park's Prairie State Festival.

Despite the untimely death of the revered Mr. Cilio last fall, his equine operation lives on, and R N R Breeders II's Act of War, who captured last year's $86,150 Cardinal Handicap, leads the parade of five horses formerly trained by Cilio who are entered in the Prairie State Festival. The 6-year-old son of Lord At War will attempt a defense of his Cardinal championship, and as added insurance, Geier and Hansen will also saddle George Johnson & Crown's Way Farm's Garesche in that mile and a sixteenth turf test.

"Act of War's last race (the $42,750 Mister Gus Stakes May 31) came off the grass," said Geier by way of explanation for the gelding's fifth-place finish. "Also, going over Arlington's one-turn mile on the main track, he wasn't going to catch anybody. He's a two-turn horse.

"Act of War and Garesche (fourth over yielding going at Arlington May 16) are both training excellent, and we get the benefit of Rene Douglas riding Garesche, which doesn't hurt his chances at all," Geier said. "Garesche usually runs great over this turf course."

However, there are six races that make up the Prairie State Festival, begun in 2000 at Arlington Park as a celebration of Illinois heritage, and Geier has also entered Peter Stamas & Crown's Way Farm's Expendable in the $75,000-added Lincoln Heritage Handicap for fillies and mares at a mile and a sixteenth on the grass.

"She had the outside post and the turf was a little wet that day," said Geier, speaking of Expendable's last outing where she finished sixth in an allowance race over a yielding course here May 29. "She couldn't quite get a hold of the ground that day (her first start on the lawn) but normally she acts like she likes it."

Also starting in the Prairie State Festival is the coupling of Crown's Way Farm's Gracility and Peter Stamas, Crown's Way Farm & Founders Group's Invader in the $75,000-added Isaac Murphy Handicap at six furlongs on the main track Saturday.

"We decided to take a shot in there with those two, mostly because Summer Mis (Illinois Horse of the Year last year) isn't going," said Geier, "but everything is going fine with them, too.

"Naturally, we're grateful because everybody stuck with us," said Geier, referring to continued success of the horses formerly trained by Cilio. "This (Prairie State Festival) was Gene's favorite day. He always had success showcasing our outfit on this day, and hopefully, we can keep it going."


R N R Breeders II's Act of War may be the defending champion in Saturday's $75,000 Cardinal Handicap following his two-length tally in the 2003 renewal, but he's not the only Cardinal champion in entered in this year's renewal.

Team Block's Mystery Giver, Illinois Horse of the Year in 2002 and also the Cardinal winner that year, is the highweight at 127 pounds for Saturday's Cardinal 'Cap.

Gene Hoffman & Team Block's Reno Rumble, hero of the 2001 Cardinal Handicap, is entered once again this year as a 10-year-old, and Carolyn Friedberg's Minor Wisdom, who took down winning honors in 2000, is entered with a chance to return to the winner's circle four years later.


Defending Arlington Park jockey champion Rene Douglas, currently making a bid to become Arlington's first four-time champion in successive seasons, rode four winners on Wednesday afternoon, becoming the second rider this year to visit the winner's circle four times in a single racing program.

Douglas won Wednesday's second race aboard Dan Bearden & Steve Knight's Streets of Fire, came right back after the third astride Bob Zollars, Mike Moore & James Cassels' Trifecta, visited the winner's circle again following the fifth on George Frey Jr. & Hector Magana's Lucky M, and completed his quartet of winner's with Bluestem Farm Inc.'s Sue's Trauma in the finale of the afternoon.

"Finally, I had a really good day," said Douglas immediately after completing his four-win afternoon. Douglas had trailed apprentice Cruz Contreras for much of the current meeting but now enjoys a four-win advantage over Contreras, as well as the veteran Eddie Razo Jr., last year's runner-up behind Douglas in the standings.

"I love to win, I love Chicago, and I love this crowd," said Douglas. "Especially all the kids. Now I've got to keep it going."

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