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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/12/08)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Defending Arlington champion jockey Rene Douglas took his act to the New York stage once again last weekend on Belmont Stakes Day, 12 years after winning the final leg of the 1996 Triple Crown aboard Editor’s Note.
This time, however, Douglas showed his uncanny riding talents by winning the Grade I Manhattan Handicap with a masterful ride aboard Phipps Stable’s Dancing Forever.
The Manhattan, contested at a mile and a quarter over Belmont’s inner turf course, is annually a major stepping stone to the Grade I Arlington Million. In fact, 1994 Arlington Million winner Paradise Creek set a track record in the Manhattan that spring that still stands.
Dancing Forever, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, is an original nominee to this summer’s Arlington Million, to be contested Aug. 9.
“I want to win the Million so bad I can taste it,” said Douglas while accepting belated congratulations Thursday morning at Arlington. “I’ve come close so many times, but I still haven’t got it done. However, at least I got the (Grade I) Beverly D. (initial victory) out of the way last summer.”
Douglas captured last year’s sister race to the Arlington Million astride Royal Highness, a German-bred owned by Monceaux Stable and trained by French-born Christophe Clement. However, the Million remains elusive for the Panama-born Douglas, the only rider in Arlington Park history to win four successive local riding crowns.
“Dancing Forever would be a perfect horse to fit the Arlington Million,” said Douglas, “because he would love the tightness of the turf course here. Being able to ride horses like that makes you appreciate this business.”
Dennis Cooper, who has handled Douglas’s riding engagements throughout his Arlington championship years, was quick to agree.
“You won’t find a better group of turf horses in this country than ran in that (Manhattan) race last Saturday,” said Cooper. “I don’t know what they got in Europe this year, but Dancing Forever has already beaten the best of what’s over here.”
Douglas’s frustratingly close calls in his quest for a triumph in Arlington’s showcase race have continued to expand in recent seasons. Although he did not have a mount in last summer’s silver anniversary Million, the 41-year-old reinsman finished a close third in 2006 aboard Gestut Park Wiedingen’s British-bred Soldier Hollow, a 13-1 shot.
Two years before that, Douglas lost all chance when Team Block’s Mystery Giver suffered what was almost a career-ending injury, and in 2003 Douglas finished in a dead-heat for third under the wire (subsequently placed second) astride Mrs. Susan McCarthy’s Kaieteur. That long shot (37-1) was compromised when Douglas avoided the fallen jockey Gary Stevens.
Also, in the 2002 Million, Douglas rode Gary Tanaka’s French-bred Falcon Flight (17-1) to a fifth-place finish (beaten less than a half-length for the win) despite being forced to take up sharply in the late stages of that blanket finish.
Horse of the Year Curlin’s start in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs may be the nation’s showcase race of the coming weekend, but two significant preps for Arlington’s International Festival of Racing are co-featured on the multi-stakes card at the Twin Spires oval.
In advance of Arlington’s Grade I Beverly D., to be run over the Arlington grass Aug. 9 at 1 3/16-miles, Churchill offers Saturday’s Grade III Early Times Mint Julep Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16-miles over the Louisville lawn.
Frank Calabrese’s Dreaming of Anna, Iron County Farm’s Ciao, Joseph Allen’s Danzon, and Woodford Racing’s Sprung are all slated to go to the post in the Mint Julep, and all four are original nominations to the 19th running of the $750,000 Beverly D.
In advance of Arlington’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes, for turf-favoring 3-year-olds to be run Aug. 9 at a mile and a quarter on the grass, Churchill Downs offers the Grade II Jefferson Cup on the turf at nine furlongs Saturday.
Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu, an original nomination to Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, which concludes with the Secretariat, heads the field for the Jefferson Cup.
That son of Tiznow (also sire of Belmont Stakes hero Da’Tara) won the Grade III Crown Royal American Turf in Louisville on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Also slated for the Jefferson Cup are Mid-America Triple nominees: Halo Najib, who races in the silks of Zayat Stables; Old Man Buck, owned by Lawrence Carroll; and Wicked Style, who races in the silks of Ashbrook Farm.
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