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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/9/07)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Recent and frequent rains in greater Chicagoland have left the connections of Arlington Million morning line favorite Martin and Pam Wygod’s After Market concerned that the turf course may not be to their horse’s liking.
“It’s obviously a concern,” said After Market’s trainer John Shirreffs on Thursday morning, shortly after sending his charge out for a one and one-eighth mile gallop on the main, Polytrack course and a walk through the starting gate. “His one attempt over soft ground was at Delaware Park in the Kent [Breeders’ Cup Stakes] last year, and it was not a good experience for him. I’ve been told, though, that this turf course dries out very quickly. If we don’t get any more rain today or tomorrow, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
If there is additional rain, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that After Market could scratch. “Any decision like that would be Mr. Wygod’s decision,” said Shirreffs.
Other than the weather, After Market’s trip to Chicago has been without incident. “He shipped fine, and everything has been very smooth so far—no bumps,” said Shirreffs.
Shirreffs has deep admiration for defending Arlington Million champ The Tin Man. “I saw him back in May when he won the Shoemaker, and I couldn’t believe how good he looked—especially for a horse of that age.”
Shirreffs confesses far less knowledge of the foreign invaders that After Market will face. “I don’t know how to read their form, and I don’t know their races,” he said. “Making sense out of it is very difficult for me.”
H. H. the Aga Khan’s Stud Ltd.’s Danak (IRE), considered by many to be the most accomplished among the three foriegn horses entered in Saturday’s Arlington Million, breezed three furlongs this morning in :40 4/5 around the dogs over an Arlington Park turf course labeled soft. His quarter-mile split time was :26.
“It was a useful move,” said Illinois State Clocker Bobby Belpedio. “I liked the way he finished the last part of the work, and he seemed to handle the course fine.”
The 4-year-old son of Pivotal won the first five starts of his career—all in Ireland—before suffering the first setback of his career finishing fourth last time out in the Group I Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh in Ireland on May 27. In that race, however, Danak was facing several of Europe’s very best grass runners, including winner Notnowcato and runner up Dylan Thomas.
“It was a very good run,” said Jimmy O’Neill, assistant to trainer John Oxx, who conditions Danak. “We were stepping him up to a mile and a quarter for the first time and against top company, and he just didn’t get home. We’re still on a bit of a learning curve with this horse, but we feel we’re definitely entitled to take a chance with him in a race of this caliber. He’s made the trip over perfectly.”
O’Neill was nonplussed after Danak drew the outside post in the field of eight. “I don’t know that it’s a disadvantage or not,” he said. “It’s a small field so it shouldn’t make a difference.”
The international star taking part in this year’s Beverly D. Stakes is Team Valor Stable LLC & Green Lantern Stable’s Irridescence, a South African-bred coming to Arlington after a bang up second-place finish in the Group I Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in England. That effort was the latest in a career that has taken her to prestigious races in South Africa, Hong Kong, France and Dubai. Going along with her prowess on the racetrack, however, is a reputation for carrying on mightily in the paddock prior to her races.
“She’s quite a handful,” chuckled her trainer Mike de Kock.
Barry Irwin, President of Team Valor International which is the majority owner of Irridescence, had expressed concern earlier in the week when Irridescence’s regular rider, Weichong Marwing, elected not to make the trip to Chicago. But de Kock did not share Irwin’s concern that new rider John Murtagh would find the filly difficult to handle.
“Not at all,” said de Kock. “We are very confident in Johnny Murtagh. It’s the paddock setting that tends to bother her the most. She gets a bad case of raceday nerves. But we’ve been keeping a pony with her lately and I think we may try that for the first time during the post parade on Saturday. She seems to really like that.”
Despite her status as a world traveler, Irridescence may find one thing about her trip to Arlington completely new. “She’s not been on turf that is really soft,” said de Kock. “I hope she likes it.”
The post position draw that saw Irridescence land post three suited de Kock just fine. “With seven runners, there shouldn’t be much difference, but Citronnade is probably the horse to beat and she drew post one, so we’ll be able to keep an eye on her. I’d imagine we’ll be in the top three during the early stages of the race.”
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