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Horse slaughter in Illinois
Hawthorne Race Course
|Hawthorne Racecourse (4/2/07)
Contact: Mitch Demick (708) 222-4542
O’Neill Derby Contenders In Town and Ready to Go
The Illinois Derby (G2) is just days away and while most of the participants scheduled to race are making final preparations away from Hawthorne, California’s leading trainer, Doug O’Neill has his two entrants, Cobalt Blue, and Family Talk, getting well acquainted with the venerable Chicago oval. Courtesy of veteran Illinois trainer Chris Block, the two Santa Anita invaders are in town before most of the other contenders are likely to arrive, and O’Neill is quick to express his gratitude.
“I really want to thank Chris for allowing us the use of his facility and equipment,” O’Neill said via telephone.
The trainer of California superstar, Lava Man, and last year’s Sprint champion, Thor’s Echo, O’Neill expects to be in Chicago by Friday, and thinks he has a legitimate contender with the Merv Griffin-owned Cobalt Blue. “He’s very versatile, an impressive trainer and advanced mentally for his age.” When asked if he expected the Golden Missile colt to be on the lead again following a gate to wire victory in the graded San Felipe Stakes in his last start, O’Neill responded, “I’ll leave it in Victor’s (jockey Victor Espinoza) hands. We were allowed an easy lead in the San Felipe, but this horse is pretty much push button. I think he can run from anywhere.”
Family Talk is O’Neill’s other charge for the Illinois Derby and while he clearly lacks the credentials of his stable mate, O’Neill thinks the son of Talk is Money can be competitive. “I think the distance will suit him. He’s more lanky and rangy than Cobalt Blue and needs more ground to get rolling, but even if he’s not yet on Cobalt Blue’s level I think he can get a piece of a pretty good purse.” O’Neill is “99% sure” Oaklawn’s Terry Thompson will get the riding assignment.
Whatever happens on Saturday, the O’Neill family hopes to enjoy a few days in the Windy City, maybe even attend a White Sox game. “I like all sports,” O’Neill offered. “I think going to a ball game will be fun for the family.”
If Cobalt Blue runs to the level of a confident-sounding trainer, the coming weekend could result in a win/win for Doug O’Neill, horse trainer ... and family man.
Hawthorne Race Course races five days a week, Thursday through Monday through April 29, except Easter Sunday and Monday, April 9. Located at Cicero or Laramie Avenues at 35th Street, gates open daily at 7 am. Call (708) 780-3700 or visit the Web site at www.hawthorneracecourse.com.
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