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Arlington Park Barn Notes (9/4/06)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Wrigley Field gets the lead role, but Arlington Park wins best supporting scene in an independent documentary film called “Ballhawks” currently under production in Chicago.

“Ballhawks” is the story of a group of men who have chased Chicago Cubs baseball history by chasing home run balls hit outside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field for almost a century – a practice soon to be threatened by the impending expansion of that historic site.

What do the lead characters of this documentary do during the summer when the Cubs are not at home? Relax by spending their time at Arlington Park – another Chicago sports landmark that serves as the Midwest’s historic arena for Thoroughbred racing.

During Labor Day weekend, “Ballhawks” producer Mike Diedrich brought his film crew to Arlington Park and shot numerous scenes for the upcoming documentary.

Andy Mielke, a former copy editory at the Chicago Tribune, and his father John are the principle characters in “Ballhawks” – both lifelong Cubs fans and survivors of the star-crossed ’69, ’84 and ’03 baseball seasons on Chicago’s North side. The father-son duo, who have caught more than 4,000 balls during their combined tenure, also love to come to Arlington for the races during the summer, and were filmed enjoying themselves Sunday while pursuing their alternate avocation.

Like the main characters, the producer of “Ballhawks” is a lifelong Cubs fan, and to document his love affair with the Cubs and Cubs fans – who have not won a World Series since 1908 – he has worked out of the truck of his car for dozens of weekends, and endured endless heckling from Bleacher Bums.

The acknowledged best of the Bums’ lines – “I don’t know what’s sadder: the guys trying to catch the balls or the guys trying to take their picture.”


Two locally prominent African-American Thoroughbred owners presented Arlington Park with a valued gift in winner’s circle ceremonies following Sunday’s third race – a portrait of the late legendary African-American jockey Isaac Murphy.

Brothers Herb and Precious Luster, who campaigned their 4-year-old Manilaman to win the 1995 Arlington Handicap on his way to Illinois older handicap male honors that season, presented the Murphy portrait to Arlington chairman Richard Duchossois, president Roy Arnold and senior vice president of racing Bill Thayer.

During the Sunday ceremony, the Lusters noted that Arlington Park was the only race course in the United States that has acknowledged Isaac Murphy with a stakes race named in his honor.

Murphy, an original inductee into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs in 1955, was the nation’s first great black athlete. He succumbed to pneumonia in 1896 at 35 years of age. He was the also America’s first great jockey, not specifically its first great black jockey.

It was in Chicago that Murphy made much of his impact on the sport, winning the inaugural American Derby (now run at Arlington) in 1884 aboard the filly Modesty, the same year he won his first Kentucky Derby aboard the colt Buchanan. That year marked the first of four American Derby scores for Murphy, and the first of three Kentucky Derby victories.


Mark Guidry, Arlington’s fourth leading rider of all-time, scored a riding triple Sunday at Arlington, but veteran Arlington reinsman Eddie Razo, seventh on Arlington’s all-time list, matched that feat with a Sunday “hat trick” of his own.

On the same program, the silks of Dare to Dream Stable LLC visited the winner’s circle twice, as did Arlington-based trainers Mike Stidham and Rebecca Maker.

Dare to Dream’s first winner, trained by Maker and ridden by Razo, came in the fourth with the 2-year-old filly Catching, while their second trip to the winner’s circle came in the fifth with the 4-year-old colt Tupper Lake, trained by Larry Rivelli and ridden by E. T. Baird.


Current leading jockey Chris Emigh won Sunday’s second race aboard Frank Calabrese’s Flight Ready, and leads runner-up Francisco Torres by seven wins through the 87th day of Arlington’s 95-day meeting.

- END -



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