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Horse slaughter in Illinois
|Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/13/09)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Oscar the Goat, a longtime Chicago media darling, occasional television star of Arlington Park’s barn area and always the lucky charm of the Ernie Poulos Racing Stable, died peacefully in the arms of his owner Dee Poulos Thursday morning – but only after completing his long, happy life by launching the Poulos barn on a sustained winning streak.
Poulos, who took over as the trainer of her husband’s stable after his death in 1997, was winless this season at Arlington until last Sunday, when she saddled Hit ‘N Run Stable and Jim Miller’s Halo and Goodbye to win the second race and then returned to the winner’s circle three races later with Ernie Poulos Racing Stable’s Moonlit Road, owned in partnership with her sister Dianna Caramico.
“On Wednesday, Oscar took a tour of the barn and walked around stopping at each horse’s stall,” Poulos said during training hours Saturday. “He’d never done anything like that before, but he visited with each one of them for some length of time and then he would deliberately move on to the next stall and stay there for awhile. He must have known it was getting to be his time. We figured out later that he was just making his farewell tour of the barn to say ‘See you later, guys.’
“On Thursday morning when we got to the barn, Oscar wasn’t doing well at all, so we called in our veterinarian to take a look at him,” Poulos continued. “We sedated Oscar so the vet could examine him, and after he was finished I just held him in my arms waiting for him to come out of it, but he never woke up. He died peacefully in his sleep, and he didn’t die alone.”
After joining the Poulos barn 11 years ago, the 15-year-old Oscar became quite a celebrity at Arlington. Michael Sneed of the Chicago Sun-Times mentioned him in her column shortly after Arlington opened this season, and local television crews doing stories on the barn area would often capture him and film him doing his various antics.
“Oscar was a very personable goat,” said Poulos. “He was a loving companion to all my horses, he loved kids and kids loved him. But most of all he loved to eat Tostitos. Whenever kids came to the barn, we’d let them feed him Tostitos. I’d hate to think how many of those chips he ate over the years.
“Oscar was also very instrumental in keeping me in this business,” Poulos said. “I had a filly named Barney’s Mistress who was so nervous she would just run in her stall constantly – and I mean run in it. Obviously, as long as she did that she wasn’t going to develop into anything, so we got her Oscar to be her companion. She settled right down after that and eventually became a stakes-placed mare.
“Those two fell in love with each other,” Poulos said. “When her racing career was over and she was sent away to become a broodmare, they both took it very hard. Both of them were miserable for a long, long time.
“After that, we never let Oscar get too close to any one horse.” Poulos said. “We always made sure he had a lot of women around him.
“This week has turned out to be a real emotional rollercoaster for all of us at the barn,” concluded Poulos. “We won those two races Sunday, but Oscar died on Thursday. Then, on Friday morning, we found out that our longtime groom Remedios Herrera – who we all call Al Capone – was to be honored as ‘Groom of the Week.’
“And then Partly Sunny (owned in partnership with Homer Schafer) won that last race on (Friday) night,” said Poulos. “A large group of Mr. Schafer’s friends were on hand that day and they all got to go down to the winner’s circle and celebrate the victory with us.
“That race was for Oscar,” concluded Poulos. “The timing couldn’t have been better.”
One week ago, on a day set aside to honor injured jockey Rene Douglas, members of Arlington’s jockey colony signed autographs in the paddock while accepting donations for the Rene Douglas fundraiser.
Those who gave donations were generous with a total of $5,888.65 recorded, matched by another $5,000 from Arlington to bring the total raised for the Douglas family to $10,888.65.
But where did the 65 cents come from?
“We had one lady who came to us and donated all her winnings every time she won a race,” said Allyson Campbell, Arlington’s event manager at the Suite Level as well as the primary organizer of the fundraiser. “I think she won at least three races – maybe more – and each time she did she came over to us and put her money in the basket. She never gave us her name, and I don’t think she ever even asked a jockey for an autograph.”
Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, winner of the 75th running of the Arlington Classic May 23, breezed five furlongs in 1:03.80 Saturday morning – with Eddie Razo up – in preparation for the Grade II American Derby here July 11. Giant Oak recorded splits of :26, :38.60 and :51.60 before galloping out three-quarters in 1:16.60.
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