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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (9/3/10)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Tommy Tomillo fit the sport of Thoroughbred racing to a “T” – two Ts actually – just like the initials of his name.

“Tommy wanted to do two things all his life,” said Arlington clocker Bobby Belpedio during training hours Friday morning, about a day and a half after the longtime Chicago-born trainer died Wednesday evening following a six-week battle with pancreatic cancer.

“The most important thing for Tommy was to be at the racetrack every day, and the second most important thing was to be able to bet,” Belpedio said. “For more than 40 years, he got to do both those things, so when you think about it that way he had a very successful life because that’s exactly what he did.

“He was a good contributor,” said Belpedio tongue-in-cheek, whose friendship with Tomillo began during their high school years. “Let’s put it this way. When he won, the money got re-circulated quickly.

“We went to different high schools,” Belpedio noted of Tomillo, who was 16th on Arlington’s all-time leading trainer list at the end of 2009. “Tommy went to St. Phillip’s and I went to St. Rita, but we got to know each other before either one of us came on the racetrack. Then I went to work for (trainer) Jimmy DiVito’s dad Pete DiVito, and Tommy hooked up with a trainer from New Orleans who brought his horses up to Chicago in the summertime. In fact, it was Hal Bishop (eight-time Arlington trainer champion) who helped Tommy get his license.

“Then, with both of us on the track, eventually our families became friends, too,” Belpedio said, “so I guess we hung out together for 47 years or so. Tommy was a trip – a real racetrack character.

“The last time I really got to spend a little time with him was during Million week,” said Belpedio. “He was sitting down on the apron on his golf cart so I went down and talked to him for about 45 minutes, talking, telling stories and reminiscing about our time together during the ‘70s. His demeanor and his sense of humor were the same as they always were. He didn’t even look sick. He never let it (the illness) get to him.”

That’s not too surprising. Four years ago, Tomillo had to have one leg amputated due to an unrelated illness. That happened at the same time he was the trainer of Lord of the Game, a horse good enough to take him away from his normal winter headquarters at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and on to the more unfamiliar Gulfstream Park in South Florida.

“Most people – the first time they go to Gulfstream they lose an arm and a leg,” said Tomillo at that time. “Me – I just lost a leg.”

In early August, Tomillo’s sons rented a house in Saratoga, and Tomillo was supposed to join them there until a setback put him back in the hospital as he was getting ready to go.

When their father was unable to join them, Tomillo’s sons wanted to cancel the whole trip but Tommy insisted that they go on with their plans.

“I’ll make you a promise that I’ll be here when you get back,” Tomillo told his boys, and Tommy’s word was good. He kept that promise.


French composer Claude Debussy wrote his most recognized work, Clair de Lune, in 1890, and now, 120 years later, Debussy and Éclair de Lune are bracketed once again.

That’s because Debussy, an Irish-bred colt owned by Princess Haya of Jordan, won the Grade I Arlington Million XXVIII on Aug. 21 and Éclair de Lune, a German-bred filly owned by Richard Duchossois, won Arlington’s Grade I Beverly D. Stakes on the same day.

Both Debussy and Éclair de Lune appear on this week’s Thoroughbred Times’ list “2010 Road to the Breeders’ Cup.”

With his Arlington Million win, Debussy fulfilled the “Win and You’re In” provision for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, and Beverly D. heroine Éclair de Lune could take advantage of that same provision in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf to be run at the Twin Spires oval Nov. 5.


Irish-bred Coolcullen Times, owned by Hickory Tree Farm and trained by British-born Graham Motion, will not make the trip from his headquarters at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland, to run in Saturday’s Grade III Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park, the Arlington racing office learned Thursday afternoon.

- END -

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