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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/8/08)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


When he was a kid, Arlington Heights-born James Messineo used to ride his bike to Arlington Park to watch the horses run.

Now, as a 43-year-old attorney and Thoroughbred owner who is a resident of Palatine, Messineo’s childhood dreams continue to be a reality. That’s because a bargain basement horse he owns keeps on winning for the home team.

Messineo’s Major Rhythm won Saturday’s $54,200 Rossi Gold Stakes by a half-length as a 9-year-old gelding – cementing his latest triumph in a long string of successes at Arlington.

“I’m still smiling,” said Messineo, speaking over the phone on the morning after Major Rhythm’s latest win. “He is something else. He’s pretty tired this morning, but he’s a 9-year-old. I have to give credit to his trainers, Ed Beam and Doug Matthews, for keeping this horse going the way they have.”

Major Rhythm’s string of successes actually began six years ago when Messineo claimed Major Rhythm for $30,000 early in his sophomore season. The horse went on to finish fourth in Arlington’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes later that summer.

Two years after that, Major Rhythm was good enough to finish third in Arlington’s $150,000 Sea o’ Erin Stakes, also over the local lawn, and the next year, good enough to finish third in the Grade III Arlington Handicap in the local prep for the Grade I Arlington Million.

“It was always my dream to have one of my horses run in the Arlington Million,” said Messineo, “but he’s been so good to us, we always let him tell us when he’s ready to run.”

Obviously, in that 2005 season, Major Rhythm didn’t bounce back soon enough for the Million, but Messineo kept the dream alive the next summer when the gelding surprised with a long shot ($71.40) triumph in Arlington’s Grade III Stars and Stripes. That gave the horse enough of a breather to run in the 2006 Arlington Million, where he was competitive in the early going before tiring to finish ninth.

Perhaps that defeat in the 2006 Million allowed Major Rhythm to reward his backers Saturday with a $21 win price in the Rossi Gold, but the ageless wonder still had a large contingent of admirers show up for Saturday’s winner’s circle ceremonies.

“I think the reason so many of my local horsemen friends come down to the winner’s circle for Major Rhythm’s win pictures is because they appreciate as much as I do how hard it is to come up with a horse like this,” said Messineo. “During the time I’ve had him, this horse has brought a whole bunch of people together. In fact, Earlie Fires, who has ridden the horse a lot of times, has become one of my best friends, and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have a horse like this.”

Naturally, because Saturday’ Rossi Gold at 1 3/16 miles over the grass is a designed prep for the 12-furlong Stars and Stripes on the Fourth of July, Messineo was asked if Major Rhythm would be making an encore appearance in that local marathon this summer.

“We won’t know that until he tells us that he wants to run again,” said Messineo while reaffirming his own patience as well as that of his trainer. “Obviously, I’d love to run in it again if he tells us he’s ready.”

With that in mind, it’s surely way too early to ask about a run in the 2008 Arlington Million on Aug. 9, right?

“Between you and me, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed,” admitted Messineo.


Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, Arlington’s all-time leading rider, moved into ninth position on the list of North America’s all-time leading riders Saturday – passing fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Hawley – but then added another winner to his totals later in the afternoon to accomplish his third riding “hat trick” of the young Arlington season.

Fires, 61, a longtime resident of nearby Palatine, Illinois, took Saturday’s third race with John and Shana Schiemann and Suzanne Rogalski’s Sixty Deelites to tie Hawley; took sole possession of ninth place throughout North America with a win aboard Frank Calabrese’s Luga in the fifth; and completed his riding triple with a win aboard the aptly named It’s Never To Late, also owned by Calabrese in Saturday’s eighth race.

The latter two wins gave conditioner Wayne Catalano a training double.

“Frank (Calabrese) has been good to me, and Wayne has helped out a lot, too, by putting me on so many good horses this season,” said Fires. “Because of them, I got here (to the latest mark) a lot quicker than I thought I would.”

Conditioner Dale Bennett also saddled a training double Saturday, and jockey Jesse Campbell had a riding double.

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