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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/3/09)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man,” and Ron Herrell is living proof of that.

Herrell, 61, born in Rochester, Indiana, is a former fireman – now retired after more than 27 years of service – and a current Democratic member of the Indiana House of Representatives.

However, for the next few days, he and his wife Jan are living in an Arlington Park dorm room as he trains his sophomore colt Hoosier Kingdom for Saturday’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes as one of three Grade I events on Saturday’s Arlington Million Day.

Hoosier Kingdom, owned by Herrell in partnership with Dr. Keith Wexler and Brian Reed, stretched his legs over Arlington’s world-famous turf course Monday morning in advance of the Secretariat after winning the $74,000 Governor’s Stakes at Indiana Downs by 4 1/2 lengths July 14 in his first start on grass. Previously, the Indiana-bred son of Repent won the $73,000 Snack Stakes over the main track at that same facility by eight lengths.

“I think he went really, really well this morning,” said Herrell shortly after Monday’s move. “The exercise rider (Robert Martinez) told me, ‘This is nothing but a class horse, you have here,’ and I have to agree with him about that.

“It’s been fun, having a horse good enough to get a chance to run in a race like (the Secretariat),” Herrell said, “and we’ve all had a good time. It’s been a family thing for all of us. Hoosier Kingdom has always trained well and always had good numbers, but even I’ve been surprised by some of his margins of victory.

“Although (Hoosier Kingdom) was foaled in Indiana eight miles away from where I live, I had to go to Florida to get him,” said Herrell. “Someone back home told me about the horse and I agreed to drive down to Ocala to take a look at him (in the June 2008 OBS 2-year-olds in training sale). I figured he’d cost about $50,000 and we weren’t about to go that high, but we got him for $22,000. I went down there with the intention to buy him for all three of us, but if my partners had not wanted to stay in with me like they did, I’d have bought him myself. No matter what happens Saturday, I feel like we’re all walking away winners from this whole experience.

“Also, I’ve learned to keep everything in perspective now because I had a heart attack last year.” Herrell concluded. “My wife Jan is a cardiac nurse, and even though I drove myself to the hospital almost immediately, the doctors found out I was suffering from a complete blockage in the right side of my heart. They put a stent in right away. It was on a Saturday and on Sunday morning they released me from the hospital and I was able to go right to church. Now, I feel like I’m good as new.”


Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, winner of the 75th running of the Arlington Classic May 23 as the first leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, completed a five-furlong maintenance breeze in 1:06.80 Monday morning over Arlington’s firm turf course while the “dogs” were well out from the rail.

Giant Oak, trained by Chris Block, is completing preparations for Saturday’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes as the third leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple. Regular rider Eddie Razo was aboard for Monday’s move. The sophomore son of Giant’s Causeway galloped out six furlongs in 1:20, with owners Virginia and Rudy Tarra looking on from the Arlington apron.

“I thought (the work) went good,” said Block later Monday morning. “It was just what we were looking for. I’m very pleased with it.”

In the Grade II American Derby July 11 as the middle leg of the Triple, Giant Oak was steadied in the stretch run and bumped repeatedly, finishing fifth under the wire beaten two lengths for the win but was subsequently placed fourth.

“It was all over after he got knocked around like that,” said Block shortly after the American Derby. “Once that all happened, he was just spinning his wheels out there.”

Ashbrook Farm’s Reb, winner of the American Derby, breezed a bullet five-eighths in 1:01 over Keeneland’s Polytrack Aug. 1 in advance of Saturday’s Secretariat.

Saturday’s 33rd running of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes has also once again attracted a 3-year-old of international turf caliber, with Ron Hubbard, Robert Masterson and Edward Allred’s Black Bear Island coming from Europe for the event.

Along with the 27th running of the Arlington Million, which has attracted nine of the world’s best turf horses, and the 20th anniversary edition of the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes for eight of the world’s best grass-favoring fillies and mares, the only three Grade I races contested in Illinois on an annual basis make up Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing Saturday. This weekend’s Arlington Million gets added international prestige because the winner will receive an automatic invitation to the Group I Japan Cup when it is run in Tokyo later in the year.

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