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Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/23/05)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Arlington's late omnipresent trainer Gene Cilio -- Illinois-born and raised -- celebrated his final Prairie State Festival in 2003 by saddling the winners in the last two of the six stakes in that year's state-bred series.

For Cilio, that double was not a unique achievement. The Chicago native had also saddled two winners during the Prairie State Festival races two years earlier, and although the revered conditioner died in the fall of 2003, his spirit will live on with R N R Breeders II's Act of War during Saturday's fifth Prairie State renewal.

"This is my favorite day," said Cilio in post-Festival comments after Act of War won the 2001 Springfield Stakes as part of his first Prairie State double.

"When you have a lot of Illinois-breds, this is the kind of day you look for," echoed Cilio two years later, when Act of War won the 2003 Cardinal Handicap (renamed the Black Tie Affair Handicap this year) as one of his two Festival winners.

Last year in the first Prairie State renewal without Cilio, Act of War tried to defend his Cardinal championship as a trainee of longtime Cilio assistant Greg Geier. He finished fifth after never launching a serious bid, but his prep race in last year's Mister Gus Stakes came off the grass and was run over a muddy main track.

This year, Act of War comes into the Black Tie Affair again off a single prep, but this one stayed on the grass, and the 7-year-old horse rallied strongly in the late stages to finish fifth over a course rated "good."

It was a much more encouraging seasonal bow, but Act of War is dismissed at 10-1 in the morning line Saturday.

For Geier, one of two former Cilio assistants now enjoying success on his own, the long odds should be insignificant. The 48-year-old conditioner, who was born in the shadows of Rockingham Park in Methuen, Mass., saddled Steve Holland & Crown's Way Farm's You Dancing Devil to win Wednesday's seventh race at 60-1, returning a win mutuel of $124.60.

That was the highest win price recorded thus far through the first 29 days of the meeting. You Dancing Devil's place price of $43, and his show price of $20, were also season highs.

Cilio's other longtime assistant, trainer Andy Hansen, will also be active during this weekend's Prairie State Festival.

Hansen, who saddled Virginia Tarra Trust's Harbor Craft to capture his last start June 5 and give Hansen the first Arlington Park winner of his own career, will bring that 4-year-old gelding back in Saturday's White Oak Handicap.

The 40-year-old Nebraska native will also start Peter Stamas & Crown's Way Farm's Stefie's Brite in Saturday's Springfield Stakes.


Owner Frank Calabrese, trainer Wayne Catalano and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan -- each far in front of the Arlington standings in their respective divisions -- extended their advantages when teaming up for three wins in a row Wednesday afternoon.

The trio started their streak when Hurricane Cheryl, a 2-year-old filly making the first start of her career, came from just off the pace to tally by three-quarters of a length in the third race of the day; used the same tactics to annex the fourth by a neck with Prospect Gold; and completed their "hat trick" with the same running style in the fifth with Ship Alert, who drew off for a two and a quarter-length tally. All three horses were post time favorites.

The three horsemen had a chance for an added trip to the winner's circle in the featured eighth race, but fell short of that goal when the 5-year-old gelding Johnathan lugged in repeatedly during the stretch run and finished fourth as the even-money choice of the fans.

Through Wednesday, Calabrese had 18 winners this season as an owner, while his nearest competitor, Dare To Dream Stable LLC, was credited with five wins.

Catalano had saddled 21 winners through Wednesday, with Christine Janks next in the trainer standings with 12.

Bridgmohan had ridden 45 winners at Arlington through Wednesday, with jockey Chris Emigh taking the runner-up spot with 32.

The Catalano/Bridgmohan-trainer/jockey combination had recorded 17 wins from 28 starts together for a win rate of 61 percent.

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