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Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/21/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Deerbrook Racing Inc.'s Moonlight Sonata won for the second time in her career Friday, two years after she broke her maiden in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie.

"It feels so good to have her back," said trainer Bill Helmbrecht Saturday morning, still basking in the glow of Friday's victory. "Yesterday was a wonderful feeling. Finally, when she got down inside the eighth pole, I knew she was back. I just can't tell you how much fun it was."

Imagine the frustration of saddling a promising 2-year-old filly to win her first race in a Grade III stakes affair and then not have her win again until her 15th race two years later.

Following the 2002 Lassie, the daughter of Carson City tried the grass later that fall in Keeneland's $100,000 Green River Stakes to run an indifferent third and then came back as a 3-year-old in the spring to run a dull fifth in an allowance race at Churchill. Then came a teasing runner-up finish in the $50,000 Panther Stakes at Prairie Meadows in June, but a not-so-promising fifth in the $125,000 Iowa Oaks in July followed. Then, in the most discouraging development, she finished well back in a "non-winners of two" start at Keeneland that fall.

"I knew she was better than that," said Helmbrecht. "I knew something had to be wrong with her, but we couldn't figure out what it was. We'd scoped her several times, but nothing showed up."

With three starts in Tampa this winter, two of them on grass, Moonlight Sonata still failed to visit the winner's circle, and then this spring at Hawthorne, she was badly outrun when seventh beaten more than 10 lengths in Hawthorne's $40,000 Nicole Stakes.

"But we scoped her again after that Hawthorne race, and found out what had not been recognized," said Helmbrecht. "The veterinarian found her air passage wasn't large enough, and sent her to a friend of his at Ohio State who performed tie-back surgery on her epiglottis. Once you know the whole works things get easier.

"As she began her recovery after her surgery we started walking her at first, and then put her on a treadmill and it was like a green light went on inside her. She can be a cantankerous little heifer, but she started looking forward to her training and began to get her enthusiasm back.

"She's always liked Arlington Park," said Helmbrecht, hopeful going into Friday's race, her first since the Nicole. "And she sure likes Shane Laviolette (jockey aboard for Friday's win as well as the Lassie two years ago.) He shows such patience with her. He fits her so well.

"Now that we know she's back, we'll look for an allowance race for her going long here at Arlington. Maybe we can put her back in a stakes race after that.

"I knew she was a better horse than she'd shown in the last couple of years," concluded Helmbrecht. "I never lost faith in her as a good horse, and now I've got a yearling (half) sister to her by Deputy Minister. That one is not even named yet, but I'm already looking forward to bringing her to the Lassie next year."


Dan Leary, director of communications at Arlington Park since 2000, has been named one of three Arlington Park employees to win Arlington's Aspire Star award for July.

Also recognized for their efforts during July were Rene Arreola, backstretch foreman, and Eric Scheufler, Arlington's sales coordinator.

All three were recognized for separate instances this season in performances above and beyond the normal parameters of their duties.


Twenty juvenile fillies, 13 of them winners in their last starts, have been nominated to Friday's $50,000 Top Flight Stakes, final major local prep for this year's Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes on Arlington Park closing day Sept. 19.

Helen T. Andrews Racing LLC's Panorama Valley, undefeated in three career outings and best by a neck last time in Arlington's $54,600 Silver Maiden Stakes July 31, heads the list.

The 70th running of the $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie, contested out of Arlington's one-turn one-mile chute, is Chicago's main event for 2-year-old fillies.

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