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Arlington International
Festival of Racing 2005

Arlington Park Stakes Advance: American Derby

Contact: David Zenner


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (July 21, 2005) -- Arlington Classic winner Purim takes on European invader Merger, Forerunner Stakes victor Gun Salute and five other rivals in Saturday's $250,000 American Derby, presented by Jack Daniel's, at Arlington Park.

The Grade II race, at a mile and three-sixteenths on the turf is the second leg of the Mid-America Triple that began with the Grade III Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve at a mile and a sixteenth on July 3 and concludes with the Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 13. The American Derby is also one of three graded stakes races on turf that comprise Arlington's Million Preview Day that also includes the Grade III $200,000 Arlington Handicap for older runners and the Grade III $150,000 Modesty Handicap for fillies and mares.

Purim, owned by Chicago area businessman E. J. Sukley, brings an unblemished record into the American Derby after easily capturing the Arlington Classic three weeks ago to remain undefeated in three starts. The Classic was the first foray into stakes company for the Tom Proctor-trained son of Dynaformer and he passed the test with flying colors with a 2 -length score under jockey Mark Guidry, who has a return call Saturday.

Trainer Dermot Weld, who has saddled the winner of three of the last five American Derbys, sends Heiligbrodt Racing Stable & Michael Smurfit's Merger for this year's renewal. The son of Mr. Greeley is group stakes-placed in Europe with a second-place finish in the Group II Beresford Stakes at The Curragh as a 2-year-old and a runner-up placing in the Group III Sandown Classic Trial Stakes at that British racecourse. Last time out, Merger was third in the listed Celebration Stakes at The Curragh. Weld has secured the services of four-time Arlington Park riding champion Rene Douglas for the American Derby.

Brant Laue's Gun Salute is another that figures prominently in the mix for the American Derby. The son of Military finished third but was beaten only a half-length as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade III Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs last month. Earlier this year, the Bill Mott-trained colt captured the $110,000 Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland in April. Cornelio Velasquez has the mount.

Eliah & Lisa Kahn's Exceptional Ride returns to Arlington after finishing second to eventual Virginia Derby hero English Channel in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup in Virginia last month. Prior to that, the son of 2000 Arlington Million victor Chester House rallied to win the $42,000 Awad Stakes over this course on June 4. Now trained by Helen Pitts, Exceptional Ride will be ridden by James Graham.

Completing the field for the American Derby (with jockey listed) are: F. Thomas Conway & Jack H. Smith III's General Jumbo (Gary Stevens); Gabe Grossberg's Cosmic Kris (E. T. Baird); Martin H. Grotheer's Earths Vain Shadow (Shane Laviolette); and John C. Oxley's Gold Minister (Eusebio Razo Jr.).

Arlington Park -- the Chicago area's premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. -- is running a 94-day meet in 2005 from Friday, May 13 through Sunday, Sept. 18. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates eight off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities: Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Chicago, Trackside McHenry, Trackside Rockford, Trackside South Beloit, Trackside Waukegan and Lucky's featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin. Information on Arlington Park can be found online at

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