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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/26/09)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Life has come full circle for an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding named Buster Bailey, owned and trained by the husband-wife tandem of Bill and Margaret Lazuka for almost his entire racing career.
However, before Buster Bailey ever became a member of the Lazuka “family” at the end of 2001 to race almost exclusively on the Illinois circuit, a young lady named Jen Roytz remembered Buster Bailey as one from the first group of babies she ever galloped while the horse was still a 2-year-old.
“He was a sweet horse,” said Roytz. “He did everything nice. Most of those babies – especially the Storm Cats – couldn’t wait to get you off their backs, but he was never like that. He just did whatever you wanted him to do.
“I also remembered him because he had such a cute name,” said Roytz, who for the last year and a half has served as marketing and communications director for Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. “While I was researching the progeny of Midway stallions this summer I came across his name and gave the Lazukas a call to see how he was doing.
“I had no idea what their plans were for him whenever they decided to retire him,” Roytz added, “so I assured them I would find a happy home for him when they did.”
Fortunately, the Lazukas, headquartered at Arlington Park during the summer months, were exactly the sort of horse people Roytz would have wished for during Buster Bailey’s long racing career.
“We’ve been giving personal care to each one of our horses for the more than 40 years we’ve been in the business,” said Maggie Lazuka this week. “They are a lot more than names and numbers to us – and that’s they way it’s always been.
“My husband began his career working under (Hall of Fame trainer) Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons at the old Washington Park, so he’s old school,” said Lazuka, “and I’ve worked alongside of my husband most of that time. When someone makes a mistake, including me, he lets them know it in no uncertain terms, although I have to admit it’s hard to fire your wife.
“We got Buster Bailey from a horsemen stabled next to us in December of 2001 because that outfit was going on to Oaklawn and didn’t want to take him along,” said Lazuka. “We paid $1,500 for him. He was a sound horse, but he was not a happy horse until we went to work on him by giving him our ‘Lazuka’ personal attention treatments. I was the only one who ever groomed him in all the years we had him, and it wasn’t long after we got him that he started wanting to train.
“Once we started running him on grass he just came around for us,” said Lazuka. “He ran three straight seconds and then had back-to-back wins, so we ran him in the 2002 Explosive Darling Handicap here and he finished third beaten a neck for all of it.
“He’s been a wonderful horse the whole time we’ve had him,” said Lazuka of Buster Bailey, who amassed career earnings of $152,492, “not only because of what he’s done for us but because he’s also always had such a lovable personality. He’s a people’s horse. Everybody loves him and he loves everybody. Because of his personality, he’s helped a lot of people overcome a lot of things in his lifetime so far.
“When Jen called us this month from Three Chimneys, she happened to say that she was getting married shortly,” said Lazuka, “so we offered to send Buster Bailey to her as a wedding present. The day he got there was the day Jen’s family was in town for her wedding reception and they all came out to visit him and give him treats. Jen has sent us a lot of pictures of him at Three Chimneys, where he overlooks another paddock where there are a lot of broodmares. He has a lot of girlfriends, now, and he loves all the attention he’s getting.”
After saddling three winners Sunday, Arlington’s defending trainer champion Wayne Catalano has crept away to a nine-win advantage in Arlington’s leading trainer standings entering the final Wednesday racing program of the 2009 season at the local oval.
Catalano began his “hat trick” in Sunday’s opener with Gary and Mary West’s Zero Gravity, ridden by Chris Emigh; continued it with Bluegrass IV Partnership, Sommer Stables and John Hammerman’s Holy Geri in the sixth, ridden by James Graham; and concluded the threesome with Darrell and Evelyn Yates’ Just Julian in the eighth race of the day.
Catalano’s triple was the third training triple of the meeting, a feat also accomplished by conditioners Moises Yanez and Dale Bennett earlier this season.
The five-win advantage leading rider Junior Alvarado has over runner-up James Graham remained unchanged Sunday when both jockeys posted riding doubles on the program.
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