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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/25/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
New Farm's Wildcat Heir must shoulder the top impost of 121 pounds in Saturday's Arlington Sprint, but as a Grade I winner in Pimlico's Frank DeFrancis Memorial Dash last fall, he should be able to justify his role as the strong choice in the wagering.
After digging in to score by a neck in that hard-fought victory in Baltimore last November, Wildcat Heir was given more than eight months off, returning to the races Aug. 7 with a facile win by five and three-quarter lengths in Monmouth's Teddy Drone Stakes.
"We were very happy with the way he won that Monmouth race," said trainer Bennie Perkins Jr. in Arlington's racing office Thursday morning. "Being off that long, he ran a really strong race, and we would like to think he'll be even better this time. We can only hope he doesn't regress."
Although Perkins has been training on his own for more than 25 years -- as the son of Ben Perkins Sr., who began his own career in the late '40s around the New Jersey circuit -- the younger Perkins at 49 years of age is continuing a hands-on family tradition.
Fittingly, Bennie Jr. hauled Wildcat Heir to Chicago a couple of days ago from Monmouth. "We have our own van," said Perkins, "and he's already galloped over the track here and seems to have handled it real well. Dad is semi-retired now, but he likes to help out around the barn. He likes to call himself my unpaid assistant. He would have come with me on this trip, but my mother broke her leg recently so he stayed home to help her."
The senior Perkins is remembered in the early '60s around the New Jersey circuit training almost exclusively for a New Jersey businessman named Roland Aristone. That owner's son Menotti, since retired, rode almost all of the Perkins horses in a similar family affair.
New Farm, the nom-de-course of owner Philadelphia businessman Everett Novak, is the owner of Wildcat Heir and also bred the 5-year-old son of Forest Wildcat. New Farm raced Forest Wildcat in partnership with Fred Seitz.
"Actually, my dad trained both his father and his mother," said Perkins, referring also to Wildcat Heir's dam Penniless Heiress, a daughter of the Florida stud Pentelicus. "You could say it's almost like another family affair, because New Farm and my family started in business together when Mr. Novak bought the farm in New Jersey where my dad was boarding most of his horses.
"Brave Raj (1986 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner) was also there at that time, so you could say being around a Breeders' Cup winner perked Mr. Novak's interest in racing his own horses with my dad," Perkins said.
Forest Wildcat, currently one of the hottest sires in Florida, earned almost a half-million dollars in his own career, winning 45 percent of his lifetime starts while finishing in the money 60 percent of the time.
New Farm and the senior Perkins came to Chicago to win the 1996 Arlington Sprint with a horse named Ft. Stockton, and the younger Perkins was asked how Wildcat Heir compared to Ft. Stockton.
"Ft. Stockton was a nice honest horse who won a lot of races for us," said Perkins, "but this horse (Wildcat Heir) is a Grade I winner. I think Wildcat Heir is a cut above Ft. Stockton."
Would carrying top weight in Saturday's Arlington feature present a problem for Wildcat Heir?
"I wouldn't think so," said Perkins. "It's not that big a spread to the others he's running against."
Stan Fulton's Unbridled Danz, three-for-three in her short career including a tally in Ellis Park's Audubon Oaks Aug. 6, faces 10 rivals in Saturday's co-featured event, the $42,750 Hatoof Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and a sixteenth on the grass.
The Hatoof, named after the 1994 Grade I Beverly D. winner, serves as the final major local prep for the Grade III Pucker Up Stakes at nine furlongs over the local lawn Sept. 17, also restricted to sophomore members of the distaff set.
Among those facing Unbridled Danz Saturday for the $25,650 winner's share of the Hatoof is Steve Holland & Crown's Way Farm's You Dancing Devil, also a winner of her last three straight and three out of four this year while advancing through her conditions.
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