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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/29/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Saturday's Grade II Washington Park Handicap is the second oldest stakes race now hosted by Arlington Park, and two horses have won it twice. However, in 72 renewals, no horse has ever won Arlington's premier race on the main track twice without accomplishing those tallies in successive seasons.
Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift, who won the 2003 Washington Park Handicap by an impressive five lengths while less than fully extended, could change all that. The Dynaformer gelding is back for Saturday's 73rd running, and appears perfectly positioned to make history.
"We're hoping for a repeat," said trainer Murray Johnson, born in Melbourne, Australia, but a resident of Louisville, Kentucky, since 1991, "and we're hoping for a little bit different (better) racing luck this time."
In his most recent trip to the post in Churchill's Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap on June 18, Perfect Drift finished third to Saint Liam and Eurosilver, two veteran campaigners at the top of their game after respective wins in the Grade I Donn and Grade III Skip Away handicaps this winter at Gulfstream. However, Perfect Drift was bumped hard at the start of the Stephen Foster and then forced four-wide into the stretch.
"You can't worry about that," said Johnson of Perfect Drift's recent bad luck, which also includes a missed opportunity in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup after Perfect Drift came down with a slight eye infection. "The eye infection was no big thing, it was just enough of a problem to cancel a trip across the country. The important thing is that the horse is doing well now, he's been training well and we're looking forward to having him run well Saturday."
Two years ago, in the days prior to the 2003 Washington Park Handicap, Johnson admitted he was using the race as a prep for the Grade I Arlington Million on the grass course, but after an eighth-place finish in Arlington's signature race in 2003, there are no such ambitions for another try in this season's Arlington Million on Aug. 13.
"There are a few other opportunities on the dirt coming up," said Johnson Friday during training hours, "and that's where we plan to keep him running for the time being."
Astute Thoroughbred horseplayers in the Midwest must always be wary of Bobby Barnett, and the affable horseman from Pampa, Texas, brings R Bar S Thoroughbreds LLP's Fantasticat to Arlington Park for Saturday's Grade II Washington Park Handicap, the premier event of the season for older horses over Arlington's main track.
"He shipped up yesterday (Thursday), and we stood him in the gate this morning," said Barnett Friday toward the end of training hours. "He stood in the gate like a perfect gentleman today. Sometimes he gets a little fractious like he did last time, but that was coming off a layoff. Hopefully, he's over that now."
Barnett was referring to Fantasticat's most recent start July 4 at Churchill Downs, where the son of Storm Cat was unruly at the start, subsequently raced six-wide and still only lost by a half-length in a mile and a sixteenth test.
"Mike Smith rode him that day," said Barnett of Fantasticat's 2005 debut, "and he told me he would have won if he hadn't broke so far behind the winner."
Last season, Fantasticat finished ninth in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Classic, powered by Dodge, and subsequently ran indifferently in two stakes in New Orleans at the end of the year.
"He needed a freshening," said Barnett. "He popped a quarter crack at the end of the year, so we gave him as much time as he needed. But he should benefit from that Churchill race and we expect him to give a good performance Saturday."
It should also be noted that Barnett tends to win races in bunches, and Fantasticat's Saturday run comes two days after the trainer saddled Mark Stanley's Quick Temper to win Thursday's Arlington feature. Quick Temper is a daughter of A. P. Indy and is out of Halo America, the daughter of Waquoit that Barnett trained to win 1997's Grade I Apple Blossom.
Less than a week ago, veteran jockey Mark Guidry ranked 10th in the 2005 Arlington standings after switching his tack here following the close of Churchill Downs July 10.
However, by the end of Wednesday's program this week, Guidry had vaulted into the seventh spot, and following a riding triple Thursday, the Louisiana-born reinsman currently holds down the sixth position among the leaders in the local colony.
Guidry, who won Arlington jockey championships in 1992 and 2000, had bookend winners on the Thursday card, taking the opener on Richard Trebat's Silent Majority for trainer Frank Kirby and the finale aboard Clyde Peterson's Dylan for conditioner Richie Scherer. Guidry also captured Thursday's seventh race astride Tim Johnson's Buba's Caper for trainer Steve Manley.
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