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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/4/09)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Arlington Park’s Mid-America Triple – restricted to 3-year-old Thoroughbreds – has been swept three times since its inception more than four decades ago, but none of its previous champions was owned by residents of Chicagoland.

However, Giant Oak, winner the 75th anniversary edition of the Arlington Classic on May 23, is the only horse with a chance to sweep the Chicago Triple this summer and this colt is owned by Rudy and Virginia Tarra of Orland Park.

And that’s not all, folks. Giant Oak is truly a local horse. The son of Giant’s Causeway was bred in Illinois by his owners and is trained by Chris Block, perennially one of Arlington’s leading conditioners and of native of Champaign, Illinois.

The Tarras, who have raced their horses in the name of the Virginia H. Tarra Trust for 22 years, have had good horses before, including Giant Oak’s dam Crafty Oak who won Hawthorne’s Grade III Sixty Sails Handicap. She equaled the track record at Hawthorne with that win.

Despite that impressive tally, Giant Oak is much better than his mother as a racehorse. He finished a fast-closing second in Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Cup Juvenile last fall and the Hawthorne’s Grade II Illinois Derby this spring before being taken off the Triple Crown trail and pointed for the Mid-America Triple over Arlington’s world famous grass course.

After winning the Arlington Classic as first leg of the Triple, the switch to a turf campaign for Giant Oak looks like a wise one, with the Grade II American Derby up next on July 11 as the middle leg of the Triple.

“Having a fresh 3-year-old at this time of year is like being high cotton,” said Rudy Tarra, who got interested in horse racing when he worked for a trucking company located across the street from Hawthorne and watched the races through the fence. “I think the horse is capable of moving forward, especially with a good post and a little bit of racing luck. The way he trains, the seven weeks between the races won’t bother him at all.”

As the local prep for Arlington’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes, final leg of the Mid-America Triple, the American Derby will be run as part of Arlington’s Million Preview Day, which also includes the Grade III Arlington Handicap as a prep for the Grade I Arlington Million and the Grade III Modesty Handicap as a prep for the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes.

“Owning and breeding a horse as good as this one is what you always hope for,” said Virginia Tarra. “If we can win the American Derby and go into the Secretariat Stakes with a chance to sweep the Triple (Aug. 8) on Arlington Million Day – that would be totally awesome, especially because we’ve lived and raced in Chicago all our lives.”

Also worthy of note, Giant Oak’s older half-sister Apple Martini is presently penciled in for the Modesty ‘Cap to prep for the Beverly D. Aug. 8, and on the last day of the Arlington’s season Sept. 27, the final stakes race as the season has been named the Virginia H. Tarra Illinois Owners Stakes.

“That was really an honor,” said Mrs. Tarra of her namesake stakes. “I was totally shocked and pleased by it and I want to thank Arlington Park. Hopefully, we’ll have a horse to run in that race. That would be super.”


The late Raymond Guest of Virginia was serving as America’s ambassador to Ireland in 1965 when Tom Rolfe swept the Triple after winning the Preakness earlier that spring; the late Ogden Phipps was primarily ensconced on Phipps’ family estate in Old Westbury, New York, in 1966 when Buckpasser swept the Triple on his way to Horse of the Year honors; and Robert Schaedle III, who owned Honor Glide, the Triple’s most recent hero 12-years ago, lives in Tennessee.


Veteran Illinois-based jockey Randy Meier, who won Friday’s sixth race aboard Paolo Ceballos’ Esla Mambo for trainer Donna Dupuy, took over sole position of 10th place in Arlington’s all-time leading rider standings with that victory – the 660th of his local career.

Coincidentally, jockey Shane Sellers, who shared the 10th spot with Meier at the local oval prior to Esla Mambo’s win, returned to riding Thursday night at Evangeline Downs following a 4 1/2-year retirement and won with his first mount back at the Opelousas, Louisiana, oval aboard Ide Bell, trained by Mark Guidry.

Guidry is fourth on Arlington’s all-time leading rider list with 1,050 wins at the Northwest suburban facility.

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