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Horse slaughter in Illinois
|Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/20/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Veteran Illinois conditioner Frank Kirby performed an unprecedented feat last year at Arlington when he won his second training title at Chicago's Northwest oval.
The uniqueness of the accomplishment was not in winning his second local title; it was in the fact that his first Arlington trainer championship came 30 years earlier.
That was 1974. How long ago was 1974? Think about it. President Nixon resigned in 1974. Cannonade won the 100th Kentucky Derby in 1974, and Little Current won the Preakness and Belmont. Secretariat was in his first season at stud, Seattle Slew was a weanling, and Frank Kirby's Arlington training title featured Sixty Sails' win in Arlington's Patricia A. Handicap.
In 2004 Kirby won the Arlington training title by a one-win margin over Steve Asmussen, posing in the winner's circle with The Last Spy, owned appropriately by Wild Ride Stable, on closing day of the season. Kirby's top mare last year was Bare Necessities, third in Monmouth's Molly Pitcher, second in Churchill's Fleur de Lis, and, ironically, also the runner-up in Hawthorne's Sixty Sails Handicap.
How did Kirby react to winning two Arlington training titles three decades apart?
"It was a nice accomplishment," said the always-understated Kirby. "I had to beat a lot of good horsemen and a lot of good horses to do it. I can't tell you if anyone has ever done that anywhere else before. Maybe they have, but I've never heard of it."
Kirby, 68, grew up in the area around Roswell, New Mexico, after being born in Colorado. He began his career at age 17, racing around his home and neighboring states such as Nebraska and Arkansas.
"I was racing up here in Illinois one year and met and fell in love with my lovely wife Sharon," Kirby said about settling down in The Prairie State.
(The kisses Kirby blows to the television camera when he wins a race are for his wife. "Winners have more fun," Kirby has said of that tradition.)
Speaking of winners, how did Kirby assess his chances of being leading trainer at Arlington at the conclusion of the 2005 season on Sept. 18?
"Probably slim," said Kirby. "Maybe I shouldn't say that, but it's pretty tough to win these titles, and I'm not coming into this season with as many conditions as I had last year. Most of those horses from last year went through their conditions and are 'out in the world' now, and we're always in transition a little bit when we first get over here (to Arlington).
"But," the trainer added as a tempting caveat, "I still have a few bullets left."
Who might be Kirby's headline attraction this summer, now that Bare Necessities is retired and has been pronounced in foal to Giant's Causeway?
"I have a colt named Apache Point, who is by Royal Academy," Kirby said. "He's only started once, but I'm looking forward to watching him and seeing how he develops this summer."
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