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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/5/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
The 2005 renewal of "Arlington Million Week" and its related special events officially begins Monday with a charity softball game matching Arlington Park jockeys and staff squaring off against members of the Arlington Heights Police Department in a 4:30 p.m. game at Melas Park in Mount Prospect, Ill.
Arlington bugler Bonny Brown will start the festivities with her rendition of the National Anthem while Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and there will be an opportunity for fans to win great prizes during the game.
This year' 23rd running of the Grade I Arlington Million Aug. 13 once again serves as the signature event of Chicago's Thoroughbred racing season, and along with the Beverly D. and the Secretariat Stakes on that same day -- Illinois' only three annually-scheduled Grade I races -- the trio of classic races comprises the International Festival of Racing to highlight Arlington Park's showcase afternoon on the second Saturday in August.
However, the days leading up to Arlington Million Day are also filled with special events. In addition to Monday's charity softball game, other highlighted activities include the ceremonial draw for post positions in all three races Wednesday, a fashion hat contest for ladies on Thursday, and a special "Breakfast at Arlington" program Friday featuring interviews with the connections of horses competing in the Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat.
When Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day -- the second-leading rider in Arlington Park history -- retired this week, it brought back memories of his brother-in-law Ray Sibille's retirement one year earlier as Arlington's fourth leading rider of all-time.
Ironically, both jockeys, who are married to sisters, had their historic careers end in response to hip injuries, and both are former Arlington jockey champions, but Day's announcement came in a press conference at Churchill Downs, while Sibille's came in ceremonies held at Arlington in late July last summer.
Day retires as the all-time leading Breeders' Cup jockey by purses won with $23,033,360, but Sibille retired with the best Breeders' Cup race win-ratio of 100 percent.
Day retires with 8,804 career wins, while Sibille retired following 4,264 trips to the winner's circle.
"His riding career came naturally to him," said Sibille Thursday afternoon, speaking over the phone from his home in Sunset, Louisiana. "I had to work at mine.
"He rode for 32 years, and I rode for 35," said Sibille, "so we both started out about the same time, but it all went by so fast. Thankfully, we both went out healthy.
"The difference between our retirements is that he knows exactly what he is going to do, and I still haven't found my calling," Sibille said. "We all knew that Pat was very active in the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, and when Pat and I talked the other night, he explained his reasoning a little further.
"When we talked, Pat told me, 'Ray, the fire is gone,'" Sibille said. "He said, 'A hundred years from now, no one is going to know how many races I won, but in doing what I'm going to do now, I might touch many, many souls and cause them to be happy in heaven.'
"When I retired, Mark Guidry told me: 'I don't know whether to be happy or sad,' and that's the same thing I told Pat the other night," Sibille said. "I never thought I'd get emotional when I retired, but I did, and I warned Pat about that. It hits you all of the sudden, and I saw that the same thing happened to him.
"I really miss the game of horseracing," Sibille said. "Not a day goes by that I don't miss it. I'm thinking about getting back into it as a trainer. Every time I mention that to a trainer -- the trainer says, 'You're crazy,' but then I say -- 'Then why are you doing it?'
'Where I live down here, it's exactly six miles one way to where the old Evangeline Downs used to be," said Sibille, "and the new Evangeline Downs is exactly six miles the other way. Horseracing has a tremendous future in Louisiana right now, and I'm still only 52 years old. That's old for a jockey, but not for a trainer. If I were to work as hard at training as I did at riding, I think I could turn out to be a pretty good trainer."
Keith Myers' Land Mine, a 3-year-old maiden trained by Tony Mitchell and ridden by Mark Guidry, established a seven and a half-furlong Arlington Park track record of 1:28.45 in Thursday's first race.
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