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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/10/09)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, runner-up in the Grade II Illinois Derby at last asking April 4 and a troubled fourth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby before that, breezed five furlongs in :59.80 Sunday morning at Arlington Park in preparation for the 75th running of the Arlington Classic May 23.

“It went well,” said Giant Oak’s trainer Chris Block of the morning move by the son of Giant’s Causeway. “We’ll probably breeze him again an easy half-mile Sunday or Monday and that will be it before the Classic.”

The Classic, one of four Arlington stakes races carded that Saturday, is also the first leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, which continues with the Grade II American Derby July 11 and concludes with the Grade I Secretariat Stakes Aug. 8.

Following a neck defeat in last fall’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, Block initially considered a Triple Crown campaign for Giant Oak, but maintained throughout the winter that he wouldn’t pursue that goal unless his horse developed as a standout.

“I had no problem taking the horse off the Triple Crown trail,” said Block. “If I had to do it all over again I’d make the same decision again. I was kind of leaning toward the Mid-America Triple all along, anyway.”


Some senior citizens don’t handle retirement well, and apparently the multiple stakes-winning 9-year-old Coach Jimi Lee is one of them.

Owned by Lee Battaglia and Jimmy DiVito and conditioned by DiVito, Coach Jimi Lee was taken out of training this winter after a pair of dull outings at Gulfstream Park, but soon after that things began to go awry.

“He just didn’t like it,” said DiVito of Coach Jimi Lee’s brief sojourn from sprinting, where he excelled in six-furlong stakes competition over most of the decade. “His coat began to get dull, and he just wasn’t happy. You could see it in his eyes.

“As soon as I put him back in training, he began to perk up again,” said DiVito of the Kentucky-bred gelding, who breezed three furlongs May 8 in :36 and his first recorded move of the spring. “Right now he looks a lot better than he’s looked all year.

“He’s done a lot for us over the years,” said DiVito of Coach Jimi Lee, who ran the fastest six furlongs on dirt ever recorded in Illinois when he set a track record of 1:07.27 in December of 2003. Other notable feats of the chestnut’s career include three straight victories in the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows from 2004 to 2006 and before that a 3 1/2-length victory in Arlington’s Shecky Greene Stakes in 2003. His most recent stakes tally came in the Waterford Park Handicap at Mountaineer in 2007.

“I’m not sure he’ll be able to compete at quite the same level as he used to,” said DiVito, “but right now he has career earnings of $924,293, so we could go ahead and shoot to get him to the million dollar mark. That’s what we’re going for. That’s the plan right now.”


Trainer Larry Rivelli jumped out to a quick lead as the local leading trainer in the initial days of Arlington Park’s 2009 season – and still holds a one-win advantage after saddling six winners through six days of the season – but fellow conditioners Christine Janks and Mike Stidham are hot on his heels with five wins apiece. Close behind them entering Sunday’s races were Hugh Robertson and defending trainer champion Wayne Catalano, both with four wins.

Chicago-born reinsman E. T. Baird has also put together some multi-win days to still enjoy a one-win advantage in the jockey standings with eight victories entering Sunday’s 11-race Mother’s Day program, but the previously unheralded Spanish-born reinsman Diego Sanchez has enjoyed a surprisingly consistent start to boast seven trips to the winner’s circle thus far, including a riding double Saturday that book-ended the race day.

Last season’s leading apprentice jockey Inez Karlsson also posted a winning pair Saturday as did defending jockey champion Rene Douglas. Jockey James Graham, runner up in last season’s Arlington standings, followed up his Friday triple with a riding double Saturday.

Training doubles Saturday were recorded by Jeff Thornbury, who saddled both of Graham’s winners, and Jimmy Gulick, who combined his talents with Karlsson to win the featured $53,900 Chester House Stakes with Al Moorhouse’s Snapphok for a $48.40 win price.

“I expected (Snapphok) to run well,” said Gulick after the Chester House, “but to win – that was quite a shock.”

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