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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/28/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
It may not be common knowledge, but some European Thoroughbreds race over dirt courses instead of grass, and the current champion of those events has come to Chicago in an attempt to add Saturday's Grade II Washington Park Handicap to his list of laurels.
The Washington Park 'Cap, with its $350,000 purse, is Arlington Park's premier event for older horses on the main course, and American-based-and-bred champions Spectacular Bid, Dr. Fager and Swaps are among the greats who have annexed past renewals. Heading Saturday's contestants, in fact, will be the strongly favored Perfect Drift, a Kentucky-bred owned by Stonecrest Farm, a 6-year-old who won this mile and three-sixteenths test two years ago.
Nevertheless, here comes Billy Allen, a 4-year-old bay who crossed the Atlantic last weekend at the urging of Gary Tanaka, an international sportsman and longtime supporter of Arlington Park's grassy International Festival of Racing. Tanaka has owned this Irish-bred colt since March, buying Billy Allen in the midst of his successful campaign for European All-Weather Championship honors.
Billy Allen captured four of the five races in that series, conducted at tracks in Germany, Italy, Sweden, France and Great Britain. The son of Night Shift won the legs in those first four nations, failing only in England's Bet Direct Winter Derby at Lingfield March 19.
"It (the European All-Weather Championship) is a very difficult series," said Billy Allen's trainer Fabrice Chappet at Arlington's International Barn Thursday morning during training hours. "Some of the races in the series are over right-handed tracks, and sometimes they are over left-handed courses. The tracks involved are all very different: some are deep, and some are not.
"Also, traveling from track to track in Europe is not such an easy thing," Chappet said. "We don't fly the horses as frequently as you do over here, and sometimes you can spend two days traveling from one course to another. Shipping the horse from France to Chicago was a lot easier. It only took 13 hours to get from his home box at Chantilly to his stall here at Arlington. That's fantastically good time. The trip was very easy on him and he traveled very well.
"When he won that race at Jagersro in Sweden, it was a very good race for him," said Chappet, speaking of the Pramms Memorial, which Billy Allen won by a nose May 12. "He lost some position early in the race and he had to fight very hard to win it. It's one of the biggest races they have in that country.
"Of course, we know this race Saturday will be a completely different story," said Chappet, a 41-year-old native of Chantilly who has been training on his own for eight years. "We are now asking him to come to the United States and face some of the best horses you have over here, but this horse tries hard every time, and Mr. Tanaka loves challenges.
"When Mr. Tanaka told me were coming here for this race, I was very excited about it," said Chappet, a former assistant to top French horseman Robert Collet, who saddled Last Tycoon to win the Grade I Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita in 1986. "I think the whole idea of us coming here is very good for international racing.
"I've been to America many times, but this is my first trip to Arlington," said Chappet. "This is a very good track here and there are good people running it. They make us feel very welcome. The French tracks could learn a lot from the people at Arlington. I wish I could say that they'd treat you the same way in France if you took one of your horses over there, but I don't think they would. You'd probably have to build your own box (stall) when you got there."
John C. Oxley's Miss Matched, heroine of Churchill's Grade III Dogwood Breeders' Cup June 11 after annexing the Ribbon Handicap here May 14, should rule the choice when she heads a field of seven 3-year-old fillies, including an entry in Friday's feature, the $47,100 Sweetest Chant Stakes at one mile.
However, William Lydon, Arbaway Farm & Carson Springs Farm's Pretty Jenny, undefeated in four starts, including a five and a half-length tally in the Purple Violet Stakes on Prairie State Festival Day June 25, looms a strong threat, although she steps into open company for the first time in her career.
Miss Matched will be ridden by Arlington's leading rider Shaun Bridgmohan, aboard for her last two wins, while Pretty Jenny has Chris Emigh listed in the irons. Emigh is currently second in the local standings. Both fillies share the top impost of 121 pounds.
Completing the field is William Lydon, Arbaway Farm & Carson Springs Farm's Modjadji, coupled in the wagering with Pretty Jenny, as well as K. K. & Vilasini Jayaraman's Proud Brush, Craig Bernick's Stormy Venus, Orange Blossom Stable's Taylor Tot, and Ralls & Foster's Eyes On Eddy.
Other riding assignments are as follows: Emigh with a second call on Modjadji, Eddie Razo Jr. astride Proud Brush, Mark Guidry on Stormy Venus, James Graham up on Eyes On Eddy, and Brice Blanc in the tack on Taylor Tot.
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