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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/2/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will be making one of his rare visits to Arlington Park Sunday to saddle Augustin Stable's Rochester in the Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf, and both horse and trainer will be a treat for Arlington guests to watch: each always known for giving every race their best efforts.
Sheppard, elected to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1990, like trainer Sidney Watters Jr., who will be inducted next month, are honored primarily for their prowess with Steeplechase horses, but both men have also trained champions on the flat.
Watters trained Hoist the Flag throughout his brief but brilliant Thoroughbred career, and Sheppard did the same with Storm Cat, but Sheppard has also trained the 9-year-old Rochester throughout his extensive career.
"He always shows up," said Sheppard of Rochester while speaking over the phone from the East Coast Saturday, the day before he would catch an early flight to Chicago to saddle Rochester in the Stars and Stripes. "He's pretty smart and still very enthusiastic about his training, but like most of us, as he's gotten older he needs a little extra time to warm up."
Sheppard, 64, was born in England, but is now a resident of Unionville, Pa., and admits to briefly considering Rochester for a conversion to Steeplechase racing this spring, but the son of Green Dancer, bred by Augustin owner George Strawbridge Jr., came around in time to finish third in Keeneland's Grade III Elkhorn April 29 and then came back in Churchill's Grade III Louisville Handicap to finish second by less than a length.
"I'm going to let him tell me when he wants to retire," said Sheppard of Rochester's advancing career. "As long as he keeps enjoying it, we're going to let him run. He's made us very proud throughout his career."
Arlington Park's traditional America's Birthday weekend offering -- the Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf -- serves as Sunday's centerpiece event at the Northwest Chicago oval because it often becomes a prep race for the Grade I Arlington Million, but the $40,000 added Better Bee Stakes is Sunday's co-feature and offers numerous noteworthy local angles.
The Bob Baffert-trained Apalachian Thunder, owned by Donald Dizney, was less than fully extended when winning here June 9 with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons, and Arlington's leading rider returns Sunday. If the seven-horse field remains intact for the six-furlong Better Bee, the winner's share of the $41,750 gross purse will be $25,050.
Second choice in the Better Bee morning line is Ken Meeker & Carson Springs Farm's Fifteen Rounds, undefeated in two Arlington starts this spring while being conditioned by Christine Janks, Arlington's trainer of the month for June. Janks, currently runner-up in Arlington's trainer standings, saddled the winners of two of the six stakes races last weekend.
Fifteen Rounds will be ridden by Chris Emigh, Arlington's jockey of the month for June and runner-up in Arlington's 2005 standings behind Bridgmohan. Emigh had three wins Friday.
The third choice in Sunday's sprint stakes -- Dapple Stable LLC's Two Down Automatic -- is trained by Steve Asmussen, second in last year's local standings while setting a record for saddling the most winners throughout the nation in 2004. Local rider Larry Sterling Jr. is up.
CresRan LLC's Chindi, fourth choice in the Better Bee morning line is the ancient member of the field. The almost white roan gelding, now 11-years-old, needs a fast pace in front of him Sunday to unleash his late kick, but is still capable of that under jockey Calvin Borel.
Chindi, trained by Steve Hobby, currently sixth in the Arlington standings, has not started since finishing third April 9 at Oaklawn Park, but with that finish Chindi became a millionaire, boosting his career earnings to $1,000,838. In his nine-season career, the son of El Prado out of an Alydar mare who was bred by Haywood Hale Broun has won 18 of 80 starts, and there are no present plans to retire him.
"There has been no discussion about retiring Chindi," Hobby said. "We will keep racing him as long as he can compete at a high level. I may someday train another millionaire, but never another Chindi. He is hickory."
Finally, with an excellent chance to upset Sunday's Better Bee is Without a Doubt, owned by Richard L. Duchossois, Arlington Park chairman.
Although dismissed at 8-1 in the morning line, Without a Doubt is worthy of consideration as the defending champion in this event after leading every step of the way in last year's renewal. The 6-year-old son of Pentilicus benefits from a tightening race in his seasonal bow in a grass sprint June 18, and is conditioned by Chris Block, third in last year's trainer standings and one member of Team Block, winner of June's owner of the month award. Jockey Eddie Razo Jr., aboard for Without a Doubt's winning effort in last year's Better Bee, and the runner-up the last two years in Arlington's jockey standings, has been named.
Completing Sunday's Better Bee is Cherrywood Racing Stables II's Salty Sailor, from the locally based barn of Michele Boyce with Carlos Marquez Jr named; and Hamco Group LLC's Above the Wind, an invader trained by Ronnie Allen Sr. and ridden by Federico Mata.
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