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Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/21/05)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Trainer Laura de Seroux has recently had a way with Irish-breds at Arlington Park, winning the Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf in 2003 and 2004 with Ballingarry, owned by Port Trust, Naify & San Gabriel Investments.

This week, she has brought Artiste Royal -- Irish-bred but French-campaigned -- to Chicago for Saturday's Grade III Arlington Handicap.

Artiste Royal, now owned primarily by Chicago native Sidney Port, won the Group III La Coupe Stakes at Longchamp June 16, and Mrs. de Seroux was in France to witness that victory.

"I watched him win that race, and I watched him train on the Aigle, which is a left-handed gallop near the course," de Seroux said at Arlington's Barn One Thursday morning, with a very friendly Artiste Royal looking over her shoulder with affirmative nods. "Longchamp and Deauville are right-handed courses, but this horse had no problem adjusting.

"As you can see, he's a very easy horse to be around," de Seroux said. "Nothing has seemed to bother him since he cleared quarantine at Hollywood Park on July 10. He shipped well (from de Seroux's Southern California headquarters) and we breezed him here yesterday (three furlongs in :40.80 with the "dogs" well out from the rail) and I thought he handled this course very well."

Prior to the La Coupe, Artiste Royal was fourth, beaten a length and a quarter, in the Group III Prix d'Hedouville at Longchamp May 9.

"He's only raced three times this year, so he's a fresh horse," said de Seroux. "I expect him to run well Saturday, but even if he wins, I don't think I'd bring him back for the Million. I think he'll need a little more time. Three weeks is a little too soon for him. There's a race at Del Mar Aug. 28 (GII Del Mar Handicap at 11 furlongs on the grass) that will give him a little more time to bounce back."


Dermot Weld, Ireland's all-time leading trainer, had won the last two renewals of the middle leg of the Arlington's Mid-America Triple -- and three of the last five -- with Irish-breds.

On Saturday, he sends his fourth straight starter to the Grade II American Derby, presented by Jack Daniel's, to challenge E. J. Sukley's Purim, morning-line American Derby favorite, who won the Grade III Arlington Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve, as the first leg of the Triple.

However, Weld's 2005 American Derby representative is a Kentucky-bred, a return of the native of sorts for a 3-year-old son Mr. Greeley who has made six of his seven career starts in Ireland, with the seventh coming on Great Britain's Sandown course.

Dr. Michael Smurfit's Merger comes to Arlington from a fourth-place effort in the Budweiser Celebration Stakes at The Curragh on June 26, and was second by a head in Leopardstown's Jockey Club of Turkey Silver Stakes June 8.

"He (Merger) couldn't be doing better," said Weld's assistant Tom Daly Thursday morning at Arlington's International Barn. "He shipped well and he had no problems with the course when we breezed him (seven furlongs Wednesday in 1:34.80 with the "dogs" well out from the rail.)

"Your course here is a little firmer than he's used to at home," Daly said, "but he seemed to handle it well."

Daly, who has been with Weld for five years, was asked how Merger compared with 2004 American Derby hero Simple Exchange, 2003 victor Evolving Tactics, and 2000 winner Pine Dance, all of whom were trained by Ireland's master conditioner.

"Merger doesn't have the number of winner's record in front of him that they did," said Daly, "but he's run some very nice races against some very good horses."

Weld will not be at Arlington Saturday because he is saddling 2004 Irish Derby winner Grey Swallow in Newbury's Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in the third leg of the 2005 World Racing Championships.

The Grade I Arlington Million, centerpiece of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season and headline event of Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing Aug. 13, follows three weeks later as the fourth leg of this year's World Championships.

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