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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/23/09)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
The Arlington Racing Club (ARC), a noble experiment designed to attract new fans and families to the sport of Thoroughbred racing, has made such a successful debut at Chicago’s premier Thoroughbred oval this summer that it will be expanded significantly in advance of Arlington’s 2010 racing season.
The club, enthusiastically endorsed by all those who joined this year, offers valuable discounts to its members as well an inside look at the operation of Arlington Park and all aspects of Thoroughbred racing.
Limited to 750 memberships in its inaugural season, ARC has proved so popular that plans are underway to at least double – and possibly triple – its membership in time for the 2010 Arlington racing season.
ARC in its initial season could be described as something of a cross between the advantages of family memberships at the San Diego Zoo and the inside look at Thoroughbred racing life offered by Australia’s tradition-rich Victoria Racing Club. One of the goals of ARC is to ease families into the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
The San Diego Zoo membership package includes special discounts on food, merchandise and programs.
Membership in the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) adds admission to all race meetings, unreserved car park passes, access to a special members-only enclosure, young members’ events and promotions restricted to those 18-25 years of age, and other special events and promotions exclusive to VRC members.
“Thoroughbred racing is embedded in their culture in Australia far more than it is in ours,” said Jen Welding, director of sales at Arlington and one of a small group that designed ARC. “I don’t know if we’ll ever achieve VRC’s status (founded in 1864), but it is something to model ourselves after from a racing perspective.”
Individual memberships in ARC were sold for $99 in 2009, with their total value estimated at $1,184. Family memberships sold for $169, with their total value estimated at $1,883.
A private members-only “Breakfast at Arlington” program was held for ARC members on July 25, and another “tent bash” gathering will be held Sept. 27.
“At our special breakfast July 25, we had nothing but positive feed back from the group in attendance,” said Welding. “It was a very diverse group. We saw fathers and sons attending together, parents with their smaller children attending as a group, as well as some obvious sophisticated horseplayers who were there on their own.
“That’s why we are proceeding with confidence that we can expand this group by the dramatic numbers we have in mind in time for next year,” Welding concluded.
With a riding triple Saturday, Arlington Park leading jockey Junior Alvarado boasts a five-win lead over current runner-up rider James Graham entering Sunday’s races.
Alvarado took the opener on the James Gulick-owned and trained Open and Closed, returned to the winner’s circle after the seventh with Ruman Stable’s Beaufort for conditioner Mike Dini, and concluded his “hat trick” in the finale astride WinStar Farm’s Cosmic King for trainer Shannon Ritter.
Defending trainer champion Wayne Catalano holds a six-win lead in the trainer’s standings entering Sunday’s program, while tied for the runner-up position behind him are Moises Yanez and Hugh Robertson.
Also worthy of note among red-hot trainers lately is the recent record of Jim McMullen, who beginning on Aug. 12 has saddled five winners from his last eight starters, including Barrett Racing Stable’s Iron Vow in Saturday’s ninth race.
Arlington racing guests Jim Feret and his girlfriend Gina Stetka were escorted to the winner’s circle after Saturday’s second race under the guise of being selected as Arlington’s “fans of the day.”
However, once there, in a prearranged “surprise,” Feret dropped to one knee, took the microphone and said to Stetka: “With my parents and your parents and a few thousand of our closest friends on hand, Gina, I love you with all my heart – will you marry me?”
The only one not in on the surprise took a few moments to recover, and then, thankfully, said: “Yes.”
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