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Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/14/05)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


A year ago, Arlington's television department introduced a new television shot looking down from above as the horses were loaded into the starting gate for each race.

Where's the new shot for this year? Mounted on the finish pole, giving fans an inside-out view of the horses crossing under the wire, and the new angle drew rave reviews throughout the afternoon during Friday's opening day of the 2005 Arlington Park season. Once again, Chicago's Northwest oval has set the bar higher bringing video coverage to Thoroughbred racing fans throughout the nation.

"We wanted to see how it worked," said Kevin Clarke, director of television at Arlington Saturday on the morning after the finish pole camera made its debut. "I'm happy to hear that it has been well received. The credit should really go to Ed Spindler of our staff. It's his engineering designs that make these things happen."

Like the top-of-the-starting-gate camera introduced by Arlington in 2004, the finish-pole shot is part of a series of remote cameras controlled by Spindler that also includes a tunnel shot when the horses first come on the track as well as a pan shot of the Park Area.

"Keeneland used an inside-out shot from the finish line this spring," said Clarke, "but theirs was from a stationary camera. We tried to take that shot to the next level as a pan shot. The one thing I'm not happy about is that eventually our shot gets partially blocked by the back of the finish-line mirror, but we're going to see if we can get the word 'Finish' painted on the back of the mirror vertically - the same way it appears on the pole to those in the stands."


Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, Arlington Park's all-time leading rider, broke another of his own records on Friday's opening-day program when he rode Peacock Stable's Power Soldier to a length and a half-win in the fourth race of the afternoon.

The win marked the 38th season at Arlington Park where Fires has posed in the winner's circle following a local victory, and the win was Fires' 2,780th at the Northwest oval.


Debbie Laviolette, wife of veteran Arlington jockey Shane Laviolette, turned out to be a behind-the-scenes heroine on Friday's Steve Dahl Show even though she was never heard on-air.

Chicago icon Dahl, who has been dabbling in Thoroughbred racing as an owner for the past year, broadcast his Friday show from Arlington Park during the opening day of its 2005 season, and the Chicago Tribune's Terry Armour, a Friday regular on Dahl's show, was lamenting his lack of handicapping prowess.

Mrs. Laviolette, sitting on the sidelines as her husband waited his turn as a featured guest on Dahl's show, presented Armour with a mutuel ticket that proved a winner moments later. Happily surprised, Armour asked her to make another selection for him in the next race, and fortunately, that also eventually turned out to be a winning investment.

Among the horses Dahl owns in partnership is Stevebiscuit, twice a winner this year and a horse that is slated to go the post at Arlington within the next week.


Arlington Park president Cliff Goodrich reported numerous positive beginnings the morning after the 94-day racing season in Northwest Chicago got underway Friday afternoon.

"On very comparable opening days this year and last season -- with a hard rain in the morning, a cloudy afternoon and no turf racing -- we were up 18 percent in attendance yesterday as opposed to a year ago, and we were up a little more than eight percent in total handle and up 15 percent in on-track handle," Goodrich said Saturday.

"The feedback I got was that the horsemen, employees and our guests seemed to be very happy to be back at Arlington Park."

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