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Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/5/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Ryehill Farm's Awad did it in 1993 and 1995, and Michael Tabor's Marlin did it in 1996 and 1997. Can Brushwood Stable's Kicken Kris become the third horse in Chicago history to win the Grade I Secretariat as a 3-year-old and come back capture the Grade I Arlington Million as an older horse?

"What I do know is that he loved the Arlington turf course last year," said trainer Michael Matz, when asked about his chance to complete the rare double during the upcoming Million Aug. 14. "He's doing good now. I don't know what the situation was with those two races (a sixth in Churchill's Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic May 1 and a ninth in Belmont's Grade I Manhattan Handicap June 5) but he won that last race (a length and a half-tally in Belmont's Grade II Bowling Green Handicap July 17) looking like the horse he was last year. We'll work him Friday morning, and assuming that goes well he'll ship to Chicago on Aug. 11."

As a sophomore Kicken Kris was switched to the grass after five straight losses on the main track, and won four of his remaining eight starts topped by his three and a half-length tally in the Secretariat. He began his 4-year-old season with a banner effort in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap Feb. 22, finishing third a half-length behind the winner despite lacking room on the turn. The unexplainable losses on Kentucky Derby Day and Belmont Stakes Day followed, but the son of Kris S. rebounded with his convincing score in the Bowling Green 'Cap in his most recent start.


Trainer Michael Matz, who saddled Brushwood Stable's Kicken Kris to win Arlington's Grade I Secretariat Stakes last year, will attempt to complete a rare double by capturing the upcoming Grade I Arlington Million Aug. 14 with that same horse.

Matz, 51, of Collegeville, Pa., has been training Thoroughbred racehorses for more than five years, but is an Olympic show jumping veteran who earned a silver team medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta aboard Rhum IV.

"That was a career highlight, winning in your own country," said Matz, who also won eight Pan American Games medals and the 1981 Volvo World Cup, and was named American Grandprix Association (AGA) Rider of the Year in 1981 and 1984.

"Horsemanship is horsemanship," said Matz. "The difference between show jumping and flat racing is that with the jumpers I'd do all the training and go into competition myself. Now I have to do everything to get the horse prepared and then throw somebody else up and leave it to him. But the two are similar in terms of understanding the horse."

Matz, who now has about 50 horses in his stable, has trained such stakes-winning Thoroughbreds as Saint Marden, Bowman's Band and Salty You during his brief career.

He is also a gentleman of a bygone era, with impeccable manners, an erect bearing, and the unassuming, understated personality of one who walks softly. That makes difficult any discussion of his nationally acclaimed heroics 15 years ago as one of the survivors of a flight en route from Denver to Chicago that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa.

In that crash of United Airlines flight #232 on July 19, 1989, a DC-10 with 285 passengers and eight crew aboard, Matz walked away unharmed, but then rescued two young children from the plane, a feat which saw him named ABC-TVs "Person of the Week."

"That happened a long time ago," said Matz, obviously uncomfortable with the subject. "We just have to say thanks that both my wife and I got out safely, and that we were able to save those kids. You just have to thank God it wasn't your day."

Despite the high-speed break up and explosion into a huge fireball of Flight 232 on impact, 185 people survived the accident, including all four crewmembers in the cockpit.

"I remember us rolling over and over," said Matz. "In a situations like that you don't really know where you're at while it's happening, but you don't want to go through something like that too many times.

"You have to give all the credit to the pilot and the crew (headed by Captain Al Haynes, First Officer William Records, and Flight Engineer Dudley Dvorak)," Matz said. "Studies done with simulators since the crash show that not too many people could have got the plane down the way he did (considering the loss of the controls). He told us to assume brace positions as best we could, and then he started counting down: 'Four, three, two, one.' Then we hit the ground."

Subsequent simulator tests showed that other DC-10 crews were unable to repeat the effort of the crew of #232. Investigators concluded that, in its damaged condition (loss of the number two engine began a series of loss of controls) it was not possible to land the aircraft on a runway. As a result, the crew was given extensive praise for managing to put the aircraft down just off the runway centerline and saving as many lives as they did.

Three months after the accident, two pieces of the engine fan disk were found in the fields near where some of the first pieces of wreckage had been spotted, and investigators concluded that human error was responsible in improperly identifying a fatigued area during routine maintenance inspections of the fan disk prior to the accident.

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