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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/1/07)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
One year ago, the maturing gray Come On Jazz, owned by Nancy Vanier and Charles Nuckols Jr., finished fourth, beaten more than three lengths, in a designed prep race for Arlington Park’s 2006 Stars and Stripes Turf Handicap. Following that run, the Kentucky homebred finished second by a head in the Grade III Stars and Stripes, the Midwest’s marathon turf test honoring America’s Birthday.
This season, Come On Jazz finished third in that same Stars and Stripes prep – beaten only a length and a half for all of it. Will that improved run translate into a winner’s circle ceremony following Wednesday’s 75th renewal of Chicago’s traditional midsummer stakes?
“All I can tell you is that he’s been doing real good lately,” said Brian Williamson, trainer of Come On Jazz, when asked about his horse’s upcoming assignment. “Actually, I was a little bit surprised to see him up near the lead in that last race, but I guess that was because of the slow early fractions. Anyway, I thought he ran well.
“I also thought he ran very well in the Stars and Stripes last year,” said Williamson, “but when he was coming off the turf course after the race he hit himself on the rail and cut his chest open. That’s why he didn’t run again the rest of the season at Arlington. Hopefully, we won’t have something like that happen this time.”
Come On Jazz, one of the most consistent campaigners on the grounds, has finished in the money in over half of his career starts, but incredibly, has only won once in his last 10 starts. Nevertheless, he’s finished second four times, third three times and on the board one other time during that same time frame.
“He can be a little bit of a handful around the barn,” said Williamson when asked about the personality of his Stars and Stripes runner. “You have to watch him. But once you get him out on the track for a workout or a race, he’s all business. I think he’ll run well Wednesday.”
Dublin-born jockey James Graham knocked three times to enter Arlington Park’s winner’s circle Saturday – and the luck o’ the Irish answered in the affirmative each time.
Following a relatively quiet week, Graham heated up suddenly with a “hat trick” to close out the month of June, winning the second with Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Celina Slew, the fifth with WinStar Farm LLC’s West Coast Swing and the ninth with Robert Clay and Tracy Farmer’s Milago.
Five weeks ago, Graham made May a merry month when he rode six winners on a single program, becoming the only Arlington Park jockey to accomplish that feat this season.
In recognition of the festive holiday crowd expected for Arlington Park’s Fourth of July racing program Wednesday, the suburban Chicago oval will offer its third “Jockey Challenge Wager” of the season.
The “Jockey Challenge” – a $2 wager – involves selecting the jockey that will accumulate the highest total win payouts during Wednesday’s fourth through ninth races.
Designed for Arlington’s more occasional guests, the inaugural “Jockey Challenge” was offered Memorial Day and repeated in time for the huge crowd on hand for Arlington’s Father’s Day family-friendly program this summer.
Guests will be able to select their favorite jockey from among 13 local riders assigned in Wednesday’s wager, with a 14th wagering possibility designated as “all others.”
Arlington Park’s increasingly popular announcer John G. Dooley achieved a new level of “niche” celebrity in late June when a South Florida Thoroughbred racing fan flew up from the Sunshine State on a one-day trip – just for the chance to meet Dooley while seeing Arlington Park for the first time.
“I always try to give racing fans a little extra by being entertaining as well as accurate when I describe the running of a race,” said Dooley, “but having someone fly to Chicago for one day just for the chance to meet me – I considered that really as an honor.
“Fortunately, when he came up to the announcer’s booth and looked at the view of the racecourse and the Chicago skyline in the background, I think it was the beauty of the Arlington facility that made his trip special, and I think I was more grateful for having been given the chance to introduce him to Arlington Park.”
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