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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/31/04)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Monty Roberts, internationally known as "the man who listens to horses" after achieving world-wide fame as the author of a book by the same name, is coming to the Grade I Arlington Million to watch his 6-year-old chestnut horse Sabiango run in the Aug. 14 centerpiece event of Chicago's Thoroughbred racing season.
"That's the plan," said Roberts Saturday morning, speaking over the phone from his California headquarters at Flag Is Up Farm. "I've been to Arlington before, including coming for a book signing right after ('The Man Who Listens to Horses') first came out, and I'm looking forward to my return."
Sabiango is trained by Bob Baffert, who also is the conditioner of Arlington Handicap winner Senor Swinger, owned by Bob & Beverly Lewis and another a projected Million starter.
Sabiango was bred in Germany by Stiftung Gestut Fahrhoff, also the owners and breeders of 2001 Arlington Million winner Silvano. Sabiango, by Acatenango, a leading German leading sire, is out of the mare Spirit of Eagles, who was originally bought by Roberts in the United States before being shipped to Germany. Spirit of Eagles is also the dam of Silvano.
"She was just a cheap mare, but I liked her way of moving," said Roberts, famous for his instinctive rapport with all things equine following a childhood in Salinas, California, where he spent a great deal of time observing herds of wild mustangs.
In the late '80s Roberts' work caught the attention of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. She invited Roberts to do a demonstration at Windsor Castle and was so impressed with his work she urged him to write the book that became an international bestseller.
Among the better known Roberts' inventions is a sheepskin-lined blanket that has a remarkable calming influence on horses that are uncomfortable in the starting gate.
Sabiango immediately becomes one of the leading contenders in the Arlington Million. At last asking he won the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap June 12, and was being considered for the Arlington Handicap before being sidelined by an elevated temperature.
Before that Sabiango had not raced since a poor performance in the Group I Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin last December. The German-bred chestnut was leased to Roberts in January of this year.
"I had an immediate infatuation with him as a 3-year-old," said Roberts, who has spent some months for several years working in Germany at Stiftung Gestut Fahrhoff. "To me, he looked bigger and stronger than Silvano, and I loved him as soon as I laid eyes on him, but I certainly don't want to minimize the work Andreas Wohler and the farm in Germany did with him before I got him.
"He was supposed to run in a prep for the Whittingham, but he came down with another temperature episode," Roberts said. "We had a horse that was ready to run but no place to run him except in the Whittingham, so we went ahead with our plans. Then he was supposed to get a work before a prep race for the Million but he came down with a temperature again and missed the work. But he runs so well when fresh that the time off since that last race should not be a problem."
Bernard G. Schaeffer's Fly Away Angel, impressive as the half-length victress in Friday's $54,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, is being considered for a return in the Grade III Arlington Breeders' Cup Oaks Aug. 21, Arlington's main event for sophomore members of the distaff set.
"I don't know what we're looking for, to be honest," said trainer William R. Connelly in the winner's circle immediately following Friday's one-mile test. "She's been a lot of fun in the short period of time I've had her. It (the Oaks) is certainly a possibility."
Connelly took over the training of Fly Away Angel just before her last start July 10 at Ellis Park, where she was two and a half-lengths best in an allowance race at the Western Kentucky oval. She is a daughter of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away.
"The horse was really sharp," said jockey John McKee, now two-for-two at the meeting going into his Saturday mount astride Wertheimer & Frere's Olmodavor, morning line favorite in the Grade II Washington Park Handicap. "I was just happy to be a part of her today."
Mount Brilliant Stable LLC's Miss Moses, third in the Sweetest Chant, came out of the race well and was doing well Saturday morning, according to trainer Mike Stidham, and will be considered for the Oaks.
"We are absolutely going to take a look at the Oaks as the next possibility for her," said Stidham Saturday of the homebred daughter of 1988 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Gulch.
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