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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/13/04)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally can add another line to his gaudy resume should Sweet Return get home first in tomorrow's Arlington Million. McAnally and the legendary Charlie Whittingham are the only trainers to win the race three times. McAnally won the Million in 1981 and 1984 with John Henry, and again in 1991 with Tight Spot.
"I'd hate to break Charlie's record because he was such a great friend, but I guess records were made to be broken," said McAnally. "Charlie was one of the most devoted people I've ever known. He'd get to the barn at 3:00 a.m. and stay until 7:00 p.m. This was his whole life. I learned a lot from him over the years."
Were it not for some unfortunate circumstances in 1983, it's possible that McAnally would already have four Million victories by now. "With a little luck, John Henry could have won the Arlington Million three times himself," said McAnally. "Tolomeo caught him on the outside where John couldn't see him coming. John was so competitive. In fact, if you watch the tape of that race, you see that John saw him just after the finish and went back after him."
So what of Sweet Return's chances Saturday?
"I've looked over the past performances and think it's a very open race," said McAnally. "Many have a good chance. My horse has shown he can run over any type of ground. He's had firm ground in California, and he ran very well over soft ground in Kentucky on Derby Day. So I think we'll be in good shape tomorrow."
McAnally also has a great deal of confidence in Sweet Return's rider, Jerry Bailey, who will be riding the son of Elmaamul for just the second time. "Sweet Return has had a number of riders," said McAnally. "But we had one rider get hurt in Julie Krone, another rider go to France in Gary Stevens, and another rider, Victor Espinoza, who's on another horse in the race. Sweet Return had a little trouble in his last race, the Eddie Read. If not, he would have been closer. After the race, Jerry Bailey said that had he ridden him before, he thinks he would have won. Other riders have said similar things the first time they rode him. The most important thing is getting him to relax."
Trainer Neville Callaghan has shipped a pair of horses to Arlington from England: Magistretti for the Million and Hazyview for the Secretariat Stakes. European champion jockey Lanfranco Dettori will have the riding assignment aboard Hazyview and Callaghan hopes the lines of communication between he and the English-fluent Dettori are better than what he encountered before Hazyview's last race-the Group II Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte-with rider Ioritz Mendizabal.
"We had a French rider in that last race, and he didn't seem to have much of an idea of what we were trying to do," said Callaghan. "He got caught in a tangle with a pacesetter to his outside. He should have been second. I'm hoping that, with a better trip tomorrow, he'll be able to make his run. He's the type of horse that will stay close to the pace, and if no one else wants the lead early, he can go on with it."
Callaghan is hopeful that his charge in the Million, Magistretti, can recapture his outstanding 2003 form. "He had an infection earlier this year that he's had to overcome," said Callaghan. "He put in a fine effort behind Falbav in a race at York last year [second beaten two lengths in the August 19 Juddmonte International Stakes], and a run of that caliber would make him tough tomorrow."
The Arlington Million represents a rather severe step up in class for Mobil, relative to the son of Langfuhr's previous grass starts. However, his connections feel that the mile and a quarter distance will be absolutely perfect.
"He ran really big in his last race [the July 25 Chinese Cultural Centre at Woodbine], but a mile and three-eighths was a little too far and he just got nailed," said assistant trainer Paul O'Sullivan who will deputize at Arlington for his boss, Michael Keogh. " A mile and a quarter should be a perfect trip for him. There was a race for Ontario breds at Woodbine [the Seagram Stakes] that he would have been a cinch in, but we thought we'd come down here as long as he made it into the field."
Mobil will start from the extreme outside 13th post position, but O'Sullivan is undeterred by the draw. In fact, he thinks it may be a blessing. "Now we can drop him in-it could turn out to be a bonus. It will help him relax. He was a little rank last time."
Mobil's pilot in the Arlington Million will be Jono Jones, a name not familiar to most U.S. racing fans. The native of Barbados has been riding in Canada for eight years, however, and is currently second in the Woodbine jockey standings. "He's a really good rider," said O'Sullivan. "He's a very quiet person who has been around horses all his life. His father is a trainer, and he spent part of his childhood in Newmarket in England."
Mobil arrived at Arlington yesterday morning at 4:30. He jogged a mile and schooled in the paddock yesterday and galloped a mile and a half this morning.
California-based trainer Paulo Lobo is on the grounds at Arlington to supervise the preparation of Million hopeful Hatif and Beverly D. contender Quero Quero. Each drew post 11 for their respective races on Saturday.
"They are bad posts," Lobo admitted. "I'm concerned about losing ground, especially with Hatif in the Million."
Hatif galloped a mile and a quarter yesterday morning and a mile and a half this morning. Though Hatif has run mainly against allowance company in California thus far, Lobo feels the Million's mile and a quarter distance will suit his horse perfectly. "He took a Group I at a mile and a quarter in Brazil and was second in the Brazilian Derby down there as well," he said. "He took a while to get acclimated once he came to California, but now he is rounding into form."
Quero Quero galloped a mile and an eighth yesterday and a mile and a quarter this morning. The Kentucky bred 4-year-old is a daughter of Royal Academy out of the Great Above mare Big Dreams, which makes Quero Quero a half sister to two-time Eclipse Award Sprint Champion Housebuster (1990-91). That breeding, coupled with the fact that Quero Quero has never been beyond a mile and an eighth, gives Lobo a bit of pause regarding the Beverly D.'s mile and three-sixteenths distance. "It is a big concern," said Lobo. "That is why tomorrow I will keep her back off the pace. I want her to relax and have her save something for the last part of the race."
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