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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/3/09)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
It’s time to sing “Thanks for the Memories” to the most enduring jockey in the history of Arlington Park!
How many Chicagoans cut their teeth as Thoroughbred racing fans watching the inexhaustible talents of Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires as he drove horses to the wire – encouraging each animal’s best effort with his patented furious finish?
Fathers brought their sons out to Arlington to watch Earlie Fires, and in time those sons brought their sons to the Northwest Chicago to see Arlington’s all-time leading rider ply his trade. Also, because it was family-friendly Arlington mothers brought their daughters as well, who in turn brought their daughters.
Sunday has been designated as “Earlie Fires Day” at Arlington, and at least four generations of Chicagoans get one last chance to cheer the local legend who retired from the saddle on closing day of Arlington’s 2008 meeting.
As an added incentive, the first 2,500 fans to purchase tickets online for Sunday’s “Earlie Fires Day” at the races will receive a special Earlie Fires Commemorative Print and the opportunity to meet Earlie and get the print signed by both Earlie and artist Celeste Susany.
Born 62 years ago in Rivervale, Arkansas, the longtime resident of nearby Palatine, Illinois boasts six Arlington riding titles – in 1966, 1969 (in a tie with Craig Perret), 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1984. He also has the distinction of being a meet’s leading rider in four different decades, including titles at Hawthorne, Hialeah, Calder, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream and the old Miles Park in Louisville, Ky.
Also worthy of mention – after riding the first of his 2,886 Arlington winners 42 years ago – Fires kept that unprecedented local win streak alive each Arlington Park meeting until his retirement last fall. Among his numerous career honors, in addition to his induction in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs in 2001, Fires was the recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1991.
Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard is making his first trip to Arlington Park this summer to saddle Augustin Stable’s Informed Decision in Saturday’s Grade III Chicago Handicap, and that daughter of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, coming off of back-to-back wins in Grade I company, may be a bargain at the installed morning line odds of 3-5.
However, as Sheppard said earlier this week, “She is a good filly, and she’s doing very well right now, but I never take any race for granted.”
Vinery Stables and Fog City Stables Authenicat is 10-1 in the $150,000 Chicago Handicap, but Canadian trainer Josie Carroll has shipped that Ontario-bred filly to Arlington to try to upset the favorite despite getting beat more than 17 lengths by Informed Decision when they last met last April in Kentucky. Why try again?
“I just throw that race (Keeneland’s Grade I Vinery Madison Stakes April 9) out,” said Carroll from her Woodbine base Friday morning. “She just wasn’t herself that day. She was dull in the paddock (before the race) that day, and I never really found out why.”
Authenicat comes into Saturday’s Arlington feature off a 1 1/4-length win in Woodbine’s $125,000 Ballade Stakes, and all six of her career wins have come over synthetic surfaces.
Canadian jockey Robert Landry, a 46-year-old Toronto native who won the 2,000th race of his career last Wednesday on Canada Day July 1, will cross the border to ride Authenicat on Chicago Handicap Day.
“He’s done a really good job with her,” said Carroll of Landry. “He seems to be able to get her to relax early, which she needs to do to win.”
Landry was not aboard for Authenicat’s sixth-place finish at Keeneland. In Landry’s rides aboard Authenicat in her last nine starts, the filly’s record consists of three wins, three seconds and two thirds.
Nominations for all three graded stakes on Million Preview Day July 11 were released Thursday, with 28 nominations to the Grade III Arlington Handicap as the final local prep for the Arlington Million, and 21 fillies and mares nominated to the Grade III Modesty Handicap as the prep for the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes as the Million’s sister race.
In addition to the 130 early nominations to Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, there were four late nominations to the Grade II American Derby, middle leg of the Triple and the local preview of the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes.
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