Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/19/10)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
PRAIRIE STATE FESTIVAL TURF RACES REMAIN ON GRASS
Despite the severe storms that swept through Chicagoland late Friday afternoon, causing a 20-minute delay between Arlington’s third and fourth races and blown-out windows downtown in the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, Saturday’s $100,000 Black Tie Affair and $100,000 Lincoln Heritage handicaps remain on Arlington’s world famous turf course, which was listed as yielding Saturday morning.
The two 1 1/16-mile races are the only grass races scheduled as part of the six-stakes state-bred Prairie State Festival series, restricted to horses registered in the Illinois program.
Arlington-based trainers Chris Block and Mickey Goldfine, both with horses scheduled in the turf races, walked the turf course Saturday morning and praised its condition as did David Block, patriarch of Team Block, who walked on it with his shoes off and said his socks didn’t even get wet.
The Prairie State Festival, which celebrates its 10th renewal Saturday, is completed by the White Oak and Isaac Murphy handicaps as well as the Springfield and Purple Violet Stakes. All six stakes events carry $100,000 purses.
BLACK TIE AFFAIR ENJOYING OLD FRIENDS
Jeffrey Sullivan’s Black Tie Affair received Horse of the Year honors for 1991, based in a large part on his victory by a length and a quarter in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs that year, but in his prior start the gray son of Miswaki had captured the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park by seven and a half lengths.
That was his lone victory at Arlington that year although his base of operations was at Barn 9 just outside of the fence on the clubhouse turn between his out-of-town ventures. That was the barn of Black Tie Affair’s late trainer Ernie Poulos, a beloved Chicagoan who was based at Arlington throughout his career.
Barn 9, of course, is still there, with Dee Poulos serving as the conditioner since the death of her husband. Black Tie Affair, however, has moved on, to Japan for awhile during his stud career, and more recently to enjoy his retirement years at Old Friends Farm located in Georgetown, Kentucky.
In fact, friends of Black Tie Affair might want to make their way down to the winner’s circle after Saturday’s Black Tie Affair Handicap to greet Dee Poulos, Jeffrey Sullivan, and most of all Michael Blowen – founder and owner of Old Friends Farm when – when he presents the trophy to the winners.
Some of Black Tie Affair’s neighbors at Old Friends Farm are other champions such as Bonapaw, Hidden Lake, Sunshine Forever and The Wicked North, but other residents include Commentator, Kiri’s Clown and 1995 Arlington Million winner Awad.
“Black Tie Affair is a true star who has fans all over the country,” said Blowen. “He is one more example of the economic value star horses still have after their racing careers are over. Of course, most of the horses we take in at Old Friends were never stars on the racetrack, but people come to visit us at Old Friends because of the star power of our champions and the unique exhibits of racing memorabilia we also offer.
“I started Old Friends Farm in 2003 with one horse and one paddock, and now we have about 90 horses (with total earnings of more than $59 million) and 92 acres on the main farm with another 40 acres on the farm next to us,” said Blowen. “I was born in Connecticut, went to school in Boston, and spent most of my career as a sportswriter for the Boston Globe, but when my wife and I took our buyouts from the Globe, I briefly served as the operations director for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and that’s where I got the idea for starting Old Friends.”
Dee Poulos and her sister Dianna Caramico made a brief trip down to Old Friends earlier this month and updated on the status of Black Tie Affair.
“Obviously, at 24 years of age, he’s in the twilight of his years,” said Poulos, “but you can tell he’s still enjoying his life. He’s had a melanoma condition for a number of years now, and now he has arthritis in his left hind. He also had a cancer condition that started in his neck and spread throughout his body.
“However, they gave him some cancer medication that’s really cleared that up a lot,” concluded Poulos, “and now he walks around with a kind of an attitude that says: ‘Don’t count me out just yet.’”
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