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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/22/10)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Estrorace LLC’s Workin for Hops, who won Saturday’s Grade II American Derby after annexing the 75th renewal of the Arlington Classic on May 22, is now in the position to become the fourth horse in history to win Arlington’s Mid-America Triple should he capture the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day Aug. 21.

The first horse to sweep the Chicago oval’s Triple was Powhatan’s Tom Rolfe in 1965, when the entire series was contested on the main track. That year, the $100,000 Chicagoan, run at a mile and an eighth, kicked off the series; the $100,000 Arlington Classic, contested a one mile, was the middle leg; followed by the $100,000 American Derby at a mile and a quarter.

That left Tom Rolfe with the unenviable task of winning races at nine furlongs, eight furlongs and 10 furlongs respectively, but Tom Rolfe was up to it.

The Ribot colt had finished third in the Kentucky Derby that spring after being blocked turning for home, but was coming again in the late stages. He had won the Preakness and then finished second in the Belmont after leading in the final furlong.

Given a breather after the Triple Crown, Tom Rolfe had resumed preparations for the Mid-America Triple by winning the $50,000 Citation at Arlington.

Jockey Bill Shoemaker, already elected to the Hall of Fame seven years earlier, had replaced Ron Turcotte as the rider for Tom Rolfe in time for the Mid-America Triple, and on Aug. 7, the pair won the Chicagoan in a time of 1:47.2, a fifth of a second off Round Table’s track record.

Sent back at the one-mile distance on Aug. 28 for the Arlington Classic, Tom Rolfe got the eight panels over a dull track in 1:34.4 while carrying 124 pounds.

The American Derby came on Sept. 13, and once again, although carrying 124 pounds with the rest of the field at 114, Tom Rolfe was up to the task, touring the Derby distance in 2:00.3, taking a tick off the record held by R. C. Ellsworth’s Prove It.

Earlier that year, Tom Rolfe’s owner, Raymond Guest, had been appointed Ambassador to Ireland, and he had not seen his colt accomplish Arlington’s Mid-America Triple.

A decision was made to send the colt to France for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe so that Guest could see Tom Rolfe compete. Asking Tom Rolfe to go clockwise after a counterclockwise career proved too much to overcome. Tom Rolfe failed to switch leads and finished sixth behind the European champion Sea-Bird.

The following year, in 1966, the Arlington Classic was the first leg of the Mid-America Triple, and enjoyed one of its finest renewals, featuring Kentucky Derby winner Kauai King, owned by Michael Ford; and Jersey Derby winner Crème de la Crème, who raced in the silks of Bwamazon Farm. But it was Ogden Phipps’ Buckpasser, who had been sidelined from the Triple Crown after winning the Flamingo that winter, who was the horse to beat.

A son of Tom Fool, Buckpasser had prepped for the Mid-America Triple by winning the $50,000 Leonard Richards at Delaware Park. After allowing stablemate Impressive to set blistering early fractions that included 1:06.3 for three-quarters in the Arlington Classic, Buckpasser surged to the front to get the mile in 1:32.3.

Buckpasser stayed at Arlington to win the Chicagoan, went back to New York to outduel fellow brilliant sophomore Baffle, owned by King Ranch, in the Brooklyn Handicap against older horses, and then returned to Chicago to win the American Derby by a neck.

Buckpasser eventually ran his victory streak to 13, and when it was broken, it was because he had been asked to switch to the grass for the first time in his career in Belmont’s 1967 Bowling Green Handicap. Carrying 135 pounds, Buckpasser finished third behind two grass specialists. Finishing second was the South African import Assagai, and the winner was Buckpasser’s stablemate Poker, an appropriate name for a son of grass sire Round Table.


Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, who retired in 2008 as Arlington’s all-time leading rider and combined with his Kentucky-based trainer brother Jinks to win Arlington’s 2007 Grade III Hanshin Cup with Robert Yagos’ Spotsgone, left a third brother Edgar “Pedro” Fires as an active member of Arlington’s starting gate crew until this season.

Last Sunday, Arlington recognized Pedro Fires’ retirement from 36 years on the gate with a special winner’s circle ceremony accompanied by a special plaque presentation and the reading of a proclamation in the winner’s circle.

“I didn’t know anything about all this,” said a surprised “Pedro” Fires immediately after posing in the winner’s circle with brother Earlie and the Arlington’s jockey colony, “but I’m really grateful and I want to thank all of you very much.”

- END -

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