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Arlington Park Barn Notes (9/4/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Veteran conditioner Toby Sheets, an assistant to the nation's leading conditioner Steve Asmussen for the last six months, saddled a 35-1 winner and a 25-1 runner-up to complete a $718.60 exacta in Friday's seventh race.

Sheets, now the trainer of record for Asmussen's Arlington string as that conditioner sits out a 15-day suspension, saddled Hugo Reynolds' Stillwell and Leprechaun Racing's Stray Cat Blues to run one-two in Friday's six-furlong sprint for 2-year-old maidens. The two first-time starters shipped to Chicago from Louisville earlier in the week, where both had recorded half-mile drills at Churchill Downs Tuesday.

Ironically, winner's circle ceremonies honoring Asmussen as Arlington's Trainer of the Month for August were conducted one race after the Sheets-trained exacta.

"Kristin Crawford (Asmussen's Churchill assistant) should get all the credit for these two," said Sheets when offered congratulations Saturday morning on his one-two finish. "We've worked together as a team for a long time. She'd kill me if I didn't mention her name."

Sheets and Crawford, as well as other Asmussen assistants such as Scott Blasi, Darren Fleming, Mike Burgess and Tony Mathiasen, are all members of the very well organized Asmussen team. They will be trainers of record while their leader sits briefly on the sidelines from a slight overage registered about a year ago at San Antonio's Retama Park.

Sheets, 35, a native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, learned under such masters as Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg and Lynn Whiting before going on his own in the '90s. However, he is quick to say he prefers his current role and has no desire to be a head trainer again.

"He (Asmussen) can't get rid of me," Sheets joked while underlining his satisfaction with the status quo. "This is like being on your own. If you know how to do your job, he leaves you alone. But as an assistant, I don't have all those problems (i.e. payroll and workman's compensation) at the end of the month. Basically, what's involved is a lot of hard work by a very good crew. I like this arrangement."


Barr H. Inman's Delicatessa and Estrela Energia Stable's New Dreams, a pair of 5-year-old mares with vastly different backgrounds, may vie for favoritism when they face six other fillies and mares in Sunday's $50,000-added Claire Marine Stakes at a mile and a half over Arlington's world famous turf course.

If the field of eight remains intact, Sunday's Claire Marine will have a gross value of $53,200, with a $31,920 share of that sum going to the owners of the winner.

Delicatessa, a homebred daughter of Dare and Go out of a Czaravich mare, was the heroine of Arlington's $75,000 Estrapade Handicap two years ago over the local lawn but finished sixth in this year's renewal when the race was taken off the grass and run over a main course labeled "fast." However, in her most recent trip to the post in the Grade III Modesty Handicap July 24, the Kentucky-bred chestnut finished fourth going a mile and three-eighths over the Arlington turf, despite being overlooked in the wagering at 75-1. In her start before that, the Charlie Livesay trainee was third in the $41,875 Possibly Perfect Stakes July 5.

New Dreams is one of a host of Brazilian-breds imports trained by Ken McPeek who will be making her first Arlington Park appearance. She comes to Chicago from a recent Kentucky campaign, where she finished sixth in the Grade III Gardenia Handicap Aug. 7 in her last trip to the post. Previously, she had won two straight at Churchill Downs on the main track, and finished third in her other start earlier in the spring on the grass at the Twin Spires oval. However, while still in the midst of her South American campaign in May of 2003, the bay daughter of Blush Rambler captured the Group I Marciano Aguilar Moreira at a mile and a half over a "heavy" turf course in Brazil.

Carlos H. Marquez Jr. is named to handle the reins on New Dreams while Jesse Campbell is slated for the tack astride Delicatessa.

Opposing Delicatessa and New Dreams on Sunday are Seamus Flanagan's Alleged Whisper, James Graham aboard; Karin Thompson's Kissinleaf, Terry Houghton up; WinStar Farm LLC's Kris Star, Rene Douglas in the irons; Mullins, Butler & Selden's Lifting the Veil, Chris Emigh astride; Mr. & Mrs. Larry D. Williams' Tamarack Bay, Greta Kuntzweiler in the stirrups; and Stephen E. Johnson's Recorded Time, Frankie Lovato Jr. named in the saddle.


Arlington Park's Junior Jockey Club has their annual starting gate tour on Sunday, when Junior Jockey Club members get an up-close-and-personal view of the starting gate and visit with members of the starting gate crew.


Friday's Pick 4 payoff of $28,677.70, based on a $1 wager, was the Arlington season's highest Pick 4 payoff to date.

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