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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/10/06)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
The mass murder terrorist plot – hopefully thwarted in its entirety at London’s Heathrow airport Thursday morning – has caused numerous travel changes in the plans of some major European players for Arlington Park’s International Festival of Racing Saturday.
Among them – the cancellation of English jockey Martin Dwyer’s Thursday flight from England for his scheduled mount on Winterbeck Manor Stud’s Phoenix Reach in Saturday’s 24th running of the Arlington Million.
Dwyer, 31, born in Liverpool, is tentatively scheduled on an alternate flight leaving England at 7:55 a.m. London time Friday morning, but with the nature of international airline traffic under present circumstances, that flight would be far from a certainty. In June, Dwyer won the Group I Epsom Derby aboard Sir Percy, but Phoenix Reach owner Andrew Christou is a great believer in fate – as well as positive thinking.
“Whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” said Christou Thursday morning, moments after Phoenix Reach was clocked in a half-mile grass breeze in :54 while the “dogs” were well out from the rail. “Yesterday, I thought we wanted to draw post position three, but now that we’ve got post six, I’ve been told that the middle of the field is a better place to be, so maybe that worked out in our favor.
“Phoenix Reach is not an easy horse to ride,” Christou said. “You can’t just set any American jockey on him and expect him to know all the horse’s little habits, but these things are outside our control. All we can do is assume that everything will work out for the best. That way, it usually does.”
Phoenix Reach accomplished his breeze with splits of :16, and :43, and then finished up in 1:06 3/5. “The last eighth was very impressive,” said Illinois State clocker Bobby Belpedio. “He looks very fit and racy.”
“I thought he went very well,” said Phoenix Reach’s trainer Andrew Balding on the way back to the barn after the move. “The only concern I have is that he was a little bit on the fresh side. He runs best when fresh – but I just hope he’s not too fresh.”
“He was nice and relaxed the first part of it,” said Belpedio, concerning that possible scenario. “I don’t know the horse, but he wasn’t rank. He wasn’t too much ‘on the bit’ even though he was dropped in along the rail. He knew he was going to work.”
Arlington Park’s legendary rider Rene Douglas, the only jockey in history to win four straight Arlington riding championships, gets another chance to win his first Grade I Arlington Million this Saturday with the mount aboard Gestut Park Wiedingen’s Soldier Hollow.
Twice, Douglas has been extremely close in past renewals of Arlington’s centerpiece event, and in one of those times, his evasive actions might have cost him the race while saving Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens’ life.
“I had to put myself in his (Stevens’) position,” Douglas said of that sacrifice in the 2003 Arlington Million. “That could have been me on the ground. As it turned out, Gary got hurt badly anyway, but it would have been a lot worse if I’d allowed my horse to stay straight. There is no horse race in the world that is that important.
“Soldier Hollow’s trainer (German-born Peter Schiergen) is giving me a DVD today (Thursday) of all his horse’s races, as well as those of some of the other European horses,” said Douglas. “So I’ve got my homework cut out for me to do later today.”
British-bred Soldier Hollow finished second by a neck in his last start in Germany’s Group II Pferdewetten.de Trophy Stakes at the Cologne course June 18, and before that was second by a length in Italy’s Group I Premio Presidente della Repubblica at the Capannelle course on May 14.
Soldier Hollow breezed five furlongs on the main track Thursday morning in 1:06.80, with exercise rider Renata Poloprutska astride. During morning training hours, trainer Schiergen walked the turf course and pronounced it as “good ground,” and that any additional rain would make it “even better.”
“I’m excited to have another chance in the Million,” Douglas said, “and I also get to ride Royal Copenhagen – Mr. ‘D.’s horse – in the (Grade I) Beverly D., so this is going to be a great day for me. I think she’s going to give a very good account of herself in the Beverly D.”
Longshot lovers can consider James Messineo’s Major Rhythm, winner of Arlington’s Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders’ Cup Turf July 2, as worthy of a long look at 30-1 in the morning line.
“He worked good (breezed a half on the turf in :52 Wednesday with the “dogs” out),” said Major Rhythm’s trainer Ed Beam Thursday, “and he came back good. I’ll tell you one thing – he will not embarrass himself Saturday.”
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