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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (9/26/09)

Contact: Graham Ross
graham.ross@arlingtonpark.com

In today's notes:

JOCKEY JUNIOR ALVARADO CLOSE TO ARLINGTON TITLE

Arlington Park’s 2009 jockey championship is not a done deal by any means, but whatever happens in the last two days of Arlington Park’s 2009 session, Junior Alvarado, who has led the local standings for much of the summer, deserves congratulations for his excellent Chicago summer.

The 23-year-old native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela – still being doggedly pursued by jockey James Graham – had a four-win lead over that Irish rival at the end of Friday’s twilight racing program.

Although forced to take off his final mount Friday after getting a deep thigh bruise in the starting gate, Alvarado returns with seven mounts scheduled for Saturday and four more Sunday.

Graham, runner-up in last year’s Arlington standings, has nine mounts slated for Saturday and seven more on Sunday.

Together, Alvarado and Graham – assisted by their respective agents Oscar Sanchez and Britt McGehee – have treated Arlington’s guests and simulcast fans to a very exciting summer.

McGehee, a former trainer who saddled Frank Calabrese’s Silver Maiden to win the 1997 Arlington-Washington Lassie, has guided the fortunes of Graham since the rider’s arrival at Arlington in 2004.

Sanchez, Arlington’s leading apprentice jockey in 1971, did not make a significant mark as an agent until he picked up Alvarado at Calder early last summer at the suggestion of trainer Moises Yanez and brought him to Arlington shortly after the local 2008 season was underway.

New to the United States and a complete unknown in Chicago, Alvarado gradually introduced himself locally through his talent by finishing eighth in last summer’s Arlington rankings.

This summer, everyone knows who Alvarado is because he’s been leading rider most of the season, but a lot more occasional racing fans found out who Sanchez is because his daughter Kiele has a starring role in this summer’s blockbuster movie “A Perfect Getaway.”

GIO PONTI GOING NEXT IN BELMONT’S JOE HIRSCH TURF CLASSIC

Ashley Herriman, formerly of Arlington Park’s publicity department but now with similar duties at the NYRA, has been told by trainer Christophe Clement that this summer’s Grade I Arlington Million winner Gio Ponti, owned by Castleton Lyons, will run next in Belmont’s Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational on Oct. 3.

“Thus he will meet (Alex and Joann Lieblong’s) Telling (Saratoga’s Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational winner trained by Arlington’s Steve Hobby), if all goes according to plan,” Herriman noted.

“It’s like six degrees of Arlington Park separation,” she added. “What fun!”

CLOSEOUT CHOICE IN CLOSING DAY STAKES SUNDAY AT ARLINGTON

Glen Hill Farm’s Closeout, heroine of Arlington Park’s Grade III Pucker Up Stakes in 2008, looms as the prohibitive 7-5 morning line favorite in Sunday’s $100,000 Virginia H. Tarra Illinois Owners Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles over Arlington’s world-famous turf course.

The third running of the Illinois Owners stakes for members of the equine distaff set specifically honors a different female owner with an Illinois address each season, with Virginia Tarra following the late Ada L. Rice in 2007 and Nancy Vanier in 2008 as recipients of that honor.

The Virginia Tarra is the last stakes scheduled for the 2009 racing season at Chicago’s northwest suburban oval. Arlington brings down the curtain on its current session Sunday evening, but will reopen on April 29, 2010.

In her last trip to the post Aug. 29, Closeout finished seventh in Saratoga’s Grade II Ballston Spa Handicap, but before that the Florida homebred won Churchill’s Grade III Locust Grove Handicap July 5.

Arlington’s 1996 jockey champion Robby Albarado returns to Chicago to accept the mount on the Tom Proctor trainee.

Named to oppose Closeout in the Virginia Tarra are Eagle Valley Farm’s Chantilly Lady, Inez Karlsson aboard; Glen Hill Farm’s Positivelycharming, Jesus Castanon; Timothy Keeley’s Peyote Patty, Tim Thornton; Carson Springs Farm’s Sun for Fun, Chris Emigh; Eagle Valley Farm and Seamus Haran’s Royal Thumb Tack, Tanner Riggs; and Team Block’s Never Retreat, James Graham in the irons.

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