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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/20/07)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Almost a half century ago, unheralded Swedish boxer Ingemar Johansson stunned the sports world (as well as the world’s reigning heavyweight champion) by knocking out Floyd Patterson with his legendary right cross – a punch quickly dubbed as the “Hammer of Thor.”
Two years ago, coincidentally from Johansson’s hometown port city of Göteborg, Sweden, another accomplished boxer arrived in North America. However, this 23-year-old athlete has put her pugilistic career on hiatus as she breezes Thoroughbreds at Arlington Park each morning. Her new goal of riding in a race is perhaps just days away.
Inez Karlsson, 23, was born well after Johansson knocked out Patterson in the summer of 1959, but as a student of boxing history as well as the winner of 14 of her 20 fights, she is well aware of the colorful Johansson and the impact he had on that sport. In fact, her trainer in Sweden was a sparring partner for Johansson in his younger years.
Although still rated second in Sweden’s light flyweight division, Karlsson, the daughter of a boxer father and a mother who played on Sweden’s Olympic basketball team, has put boxing on the backburner as she pursues her dream of becoming a jockey.
“I studied Psychology when I was at university in Sweden, so I know a little bit about how the brain works,” Karlsson said. “I love the sport of boxing and I love the competition, but you don’t get smarter doing it.”
As it happened, Karlsson was involved with horses long before she ever stepped into the ring. “I went to riding school when I was 13,” she said, “and eventually I got a job working with Standardbreds.
“In Sweden, we sometimes train Standardbreds by riding them first,” Karlsson said, “and we ride them up and down hills – making them climb hills as part of their conditioning.
“I arrived in Canada on July 4, 2005, because I got a job working with horses in Guelph, Ontario,” said Karlsson, “but for about six months I couldn’t talk to anyone because language was a problem for me at first. Also, in Canada, I was working with pacers as opposed to the trotters I was familiar with, so I ended up taking another job working on a farm that had Thoroughbreds. Eventually, I ended up at Woodbine and began breezing horses there, and went to New Orleans last winter to breeze horses at Fair Grounds.
“I breeze horses regularly for trainers like Tom Amoss, Tony Mitchell, Mike Stidham, Greg Geier, Paul Darjean and Rebecca Maker,” Karlsson said, “and all the trainers I work for have been very helpful. I’m learning all the time, and I want to ride in a race soon, but I don’t want to accept a mount until I know that I’m ready. I think that now I’m almost there.”
Trainer Tony Mitchell, British-born but now American-based, has become one of Karlsson’s biggest boosters.
“She reminds me a lot of myself when I first came to this country,” said Mitchell of Karlsson. “She wants to be successful, but she doesn’t want anything given to her. She wants to earn it, and she wants to learn new things all the time. As long as she keeps up with that attitude, she’s going to do very well.”
St. Croix-born jockey Kerwin John, a staple of Southern California’s riding colony in recent seasons, arrived at Arlington Park well after the current session began but is being quickly recognized for his ability despite limited opportunities.
John most recently visited the local winner’s circle Wednesday astride the Mary Zimmerman-trained Mary’s Secret, owned by Robert Nylen. That homebred 4-year-old filly returned a liberal $24.40 with John doing the piloting.
John’s Southern California momentum was interrupted when his older daughter Kwanisha, 7, suffered seizures last fall, and again this spring when his younger daughter Keyshawna, 2, needed emergency surgery. On both occasions, John had to return to his Virgin Islands home, but John thankfully reports that both daughters are now doing well.
“I needed a change of scene,” said John this week, “so I came to Chicago and I’m enjoying myself at Arlington. I’m meeting more people from more different places now, and that’s good for my career. After Arlington is over, I’ll probably go to Hawthorne for awhile and then on to New Orleans for the Fair Grounds meeting.”
Trainer Hector Magana saddled Richard and Karen Papiese’s Boots Are Walking to win Wednesday’s sixth race and returned to the winner’s circle with that same ownership’s Nan Ann Rocks in the finale. He joins Wayne Catalano and Todd Pletcher as the only three of Arlington’s leading trainers currently boasting a 30 percent-or-better win ratio.
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