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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/13/09)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Apprentice jockey Brandon Meier is listed to ride four mounts on Thursday’s nine-race program at Arlington – the last racing day that the 21-year-old Elk Grove Village native will be allowed the five-pound weight allowance granted to beginning riders.
On Friday’s 10-race program at the local oval, where the younger riding Meier is slated astride three mounts, the five-pound weight allowance no longer appears next to his name.
Winner of Arlington’s “Rising Star” Award last season, Meier enjoyed a fantastic summer at the Northwest suburban oval, finishing sixth in the 2008 standings with 58 trips to the winner’s circle, but often red-hot “bug” riders quickly cool down once they lose the weight allowance as journeyman. Was Meier worried about his immediate future?
“Not really,” said Meier Thursday morning shortly after training hours. “We’ve been doing pretty good here this season, and I figure if we just keep doing what we’re doing we should be all right. I’ve been acting like it’s not going to be too much of a change for me and I don’t think it will be.
“I’ve had a fantastic first year of riding,” said Meier, son of veteran jockey Randy Meier, who joined the list of Arlington’s all-time top 10 leading jockeys earlier this summer, “and I owe it all to Cat (Arlington’s perennial leading trainer Wayne Catalano). I started working for him in his barn before I ever rode a horse in a race. He really helped me out getting me started in my career, and he’s still teaching me today. I still ride a lot of horses for him. In fact, I worked a few for him this morning. As long as I stick with him, I think everything is going to be all right.”
Incidentally, Catalano is operating a public stable this summer but has still managed to forge to the front of Arlington’s trainer standings recently. The Louisiana native is leading his nearest rivals Moises Yanez and Hugh Robertson by three and four wins respectively entering Thursday’s racing day.
Days before the end of Arlington’s 2008 season, Meier left Chicago for the Southern California circuit, an experiment that met with mixed success.
“Things really didn’t work out for me out there,” said Meier, “but I did get cast in the TV series ‘Jockeys’ while it was being filmed, and that was a lot of fun. Also, I was surrounded by some of the best riders in the world while I was out there. In fact, my locker was right next to that of Garrett Gomez (defending Eclipse Award-winning jockey of the last two years).
“When I came back to the Midwest, I rode at Turfway and was doing well, but I got hurt there tearing my MCL in my left knee and missed two and a half months,” Meier said. “Luckily, I didn’t need surgery. I just had to give it time to heal. If it had been my ACL, the doctors told me I would have needed surgery. Now, I’ve ridden winner at eight different racetracks (Arlington, Churchill, Keeneland, Santa Anita, Turfway, Hawthorne, Pinnacle and Columbus.)
“I went out to Columbus, Nebraska, where my Dad is from, along with my Dad when he was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame last summer,” said Meier. “In my first mount out there I came from back in the pack to win a race right on the wire, beating the favorite in the process. That was a really cool experience. We were only there a couple of days.”
Did the father-son jockey duo ever talk during the running of any race when they were right next to each other?
“Sometimes,” Meier said, “but not too often. I remember one time, however, when I was on the lead in a race and he came up along the inside to challenge. I was whipping and driving, trying to win but I might have caught him on his boot a couple of times before he went by. After the race he told me, ‘You might have won the race if you’d been whipping on your horse more than you were whipping on me.’ But to be honest, we’re having a blast riding together.”
Arlington Park conditioner Jim McMullen and the G-Biscuit Stable of Boston-based owner Frank Catapano combined for a trainer-owner double at Arlington Wednesday, winning the opener with Tax and Spend, ridden by Inez Karlsson, and coming back to the winner’s circle after the sixth with Diamond Steal, ridden by Junior Alvarado.
“That’s the first time I’ve won two races on the same day for him,” said McMullen Thursday morning, “but I’ve only been training for him a little over a year, now. I believe Mr. Catapano leads the stable but he has other partners, and they have other horses running at Suffolk Downs.
“I got horses for them through an old (University of Kentucky) college buddy of mine named Barry Roos,” McMullen said. “He used to train for them but gave up training and sent me one of their horses, and then some more later on. As of now we have three horses for them.”
In addition to Alvarado’s win for G-Biscuit Stable and McMullen Wednesday, the Venezuelan native won the fifth race aboard Lamont Nienast’s Skippa Sweep for trainer Percy Scherbenske, assuming a one-race advantage in the local jockey standings entering Thursday’s racing day.
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