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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/9/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
When Arlington's leading jockey Shaun Bridgmohan came out for the post parade in Wednesday's first race -- the first of nine mounts he would ride during the afternoon -- alert direction by the track's television department offered a close-up of Bridgmohan's riding pants, newly adorned with the increasingly familiar "Riding For A Cure" patch.
"To me, looking at that picture is better than winning a $20 bet," said Arlington television personality Christine Gabriel, a note of pride in her voice as she watched Bridgmohan's close-up on the television set in her office. "That shot sends chills up my spine."
As the founder of "Riding For A Cure" -- a horsemen-oriented trail ride fundraiser on behalf of cancer research -- Gabriel has been the driving force behind the project since its inception in 2002, and has watched the program she initiated grow by gigantic strides each year.
During that inaugural ride, conceived and put together by Gabriel and a small but dedicated team on three weeks notice, more than $30,000 was raised for the benefit of cancer research.
"Horsemen work seven days a week," said Gabriel of her original idea that so quickly came to fruition. "We wanted to give them a way to do something they love to do and contribute to a charitable foundation at the same time."
What resulted was a 20 mile-trail ride on a gorgeous September afternoon through the rolling countryside of Barrington Hills near Arlington Park. About 120 riders, mostly horsemen and Arlington employees, contributed liberally to cancer research for the privilege of participating in that trail ride, and approximately 200 attended a dinner-dance following the ride.
In 2003, the "Riding For A Cure" trail ride and the dinner-dance that followed increased its totals to raise $50,000 for cancer research, and last year, the project expanded its total donations again to more than $60,000. Last year's trail ride was supplemented by an offshoot "Putting For A Cure" tournament held on the putting green outside Arlington's jockeys quarters. Also last summer, additional "Riding For A Cure" exposure came when Arlington's leading rider Rene Douglas, who was on his way to setting an Arlington Park record by winning four straight Arlington jockey championships, began wearing a patch with the "Riding For A Cure" logo patch on his jockey pants.
Each time Douglas won a race, whether it was at Arlington or on one of his journeys to New York, Kentucky, California or any other top circuit in the country, the "Riding For A Cure" logo gained more national exposure with each slow motion replay of Douglas's winning rides.
Last fall and this year, Douglas remains a leading rider on the Southern California circuit, but the "Riding for a Cure" logo can still be seen on the Panamanian reinsman's riding pants.
And as of Wednesday, the logo appears at Arlington once again on Bridgmohan's pants. Arlington's new leading rider, well in front in the standings, is riding at a 30 percent win clip.
As "Riding For A Cure's" founder, Gabriel -- a cancer survivor herself -- is largely responsible for "Riding For A Cure's" total contributions of more than $140,000 to cancer research, for without her, the entire concept would not have happened. However, her focus now is on this year's fundraiser.
"We would like the public to get more involved," said Gabriel, "so we're going to allow people to make pledges toward any jockey who will be involved in this year's ride."
The fourth annual "Riding For A Cure" has been scheduled for Sept. 12, with the ride starting at noon in Barrington Hills. Arlington's Lindsay Heil is serving as chairperson this year, and Lisa Dent, US 99's afternoon on-air personality, is this year's honorary chairperson and will be taking pledges on the air during her afternoon show.
Lisa Dent, like Christine Gabriel and countless others, is a cancer survivor.
While Arlington Park will offer its fans an opportunity to watch and wager on Saturday's 137th running of the Belmont Stakes, it will also offer an "Alex's Lemonade Stand" on the West side of the paddock from the time the gates open Saturday until the end of the day.
"Alex's Lemonade Stand" at Arlington will be one of many such stands across the country raising money for cancer research in conjunction with Saturday's Belmont Stakes, third and final leg of this year's Triple Crown. All will be operated in memory of Alexandra Scott, a young girl who died last summer at the age of 8 of neuroblastoma -- a cancer that causes malignant cells to form in nerve tissue -- usually in young children.
Afleet Alex, the heroic winner of this year's Preakness following a nearly tragic stumble -- as well as the morning line favorite for Saturday's Belmont Stakes -- has a portion of his earnings donated to cancer research by his connections.
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