|Arlington Park Barn Notes
Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 385-7500 ext. 7319
In today's notes:
The Arlington Park horse population continued to grow dramatically Tuesday as Chicago's premier Thoroughbred oval readied for Wednesday's opening day program of the 107-day 2002 meeting.
"The heavy hitters are all gathering for our season this year," said stall superintendent Harry McCabe. "We got a lot of big name people coming in that have never brought as many horses as they have this year.
"Horses have been coming in all morning and will keep coming all day," McCabe said. "We'll have a bunch more arrive tomorrow, a good deal more on Thursday, and then things will begin to gradually settle down.
"A guy like Carl Nafzger, who has 26 stalls here this season, already has most of his horses on the grounds with a few more still to come," said McCabe.
Nafzger, who became nationally known by saddling Unbridled to win the 1990 Kentucky Derby and describing the horse's winning race to the owner on the network live telecast, later won the Grade I Breeders' Cup Classic with Unbridled at the conclusion of that season.
"Tom Amoss, who has been given 30 stalls here, has most of his horses on the grounds but may still have a few due in shortly," added McCabe. He was speaking of the popular conditioner who almost won the training title at the Fair Grounds this winter and posted a phenomenal win percentage while in New Orleans.
Dallas Stewart, a former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas who has become a celebrity on his own in recent seasons, has the bulk of his stable in place at Arlington, McCabe said.
Jerry Hollendorfer, who came from Northern California last season to narrowly win the training title from Wayne Catalano, the 2000 Arlington champion, brought the bulk of his horses to Chicago last Thursday on a single flight from Oakland to O'Hare.
Catalano, who promises a battle this season in an attempt to regain the trainer championship, has been a prominent figure in the Arlington racing secretary's office throughout the week.
Harvey Vanier, who won five straight training titles at Arlington (1993-97), is once again present at his home oval, where he and the Vanier family keep a home in Palatine.
Gene Cilio, perennially among the leading trainers at both Arlington and the Fair Grounds, has been visible daily near the clockers during training hours each morning.
Steve Asmussen, among the leading trainers nationally in recent seasons, is due to arrive at Arlington Wednesday.
One new face among Arlington Park trainers in town for the 2002 season opening Wednesday is Eric Kruljac, a 49-year-old native of San Jose, California, who has been splitting his stable between Southern California and Phoenix until now.
Although the first group of Kruljac-trained horses arrived May 23, with another group coming in May 30, the conditioner arrived in person on the Chicago scene Monday after driving from his more familiar Western environs.
Nevertheless, he is pleased with what he has seen so far.
"I'm incredibly impressed with your surface here," said Kruljac after familiarizing himself with the main track, "and I particularly love your grass course. The turf course is at least three times as wide as anything I have ever seen - much less run a horse on - and it has such a lush green color. It's beautiful. It doesn't have a mark on it."
Raised on a ranch in Northern California, Kruljac entered the Thoroughbred business as an owner before going out on his own as a trainer about 15 years ago.
"I usually split my stable between Santa Anita and Turf Paradise, and then go on to Del Mar later in the year for their season, but I figured Chicago would be a good fit for me this summer," Kruljac said. "I've always tried to mix and match my horses a little bit, keeping them in a rotation that works to their advantage, and Arlington should fit very well with those plans.
"I expect that I'll be here in person pretty much for the next month and a half," Kruljac said. "I'm divorced, but when Del Mar opens, I like to stay at a place on the beach there and spend some time with my kids. However, I'll still keep a bunch of my horses at Arlington.
"Of those horses I have here right now, a filly named No Turbulence might be worth watching," Kruljac said. "She's a 3-year-old that placed in a Grade III at Santa Anita and won a $75,000 stakes in New Mexico.
"I have another filly named Without Doubt that I'm thinking I'll probably bring here shortly," the trainer added. "I claimed her for $20,000 and won a $50,000 stakes with her on closing day at Phoenix.
"I also train Respectful," Kruljac said. "She finished second to Tempera (2001 2-year-old filly champion) in the Sorrento at Del Mar, and was also second in the Beaumont at Keeneland.
"I've heard a lot of good things about this track," Kruljac concluded. "I'm very happy to be here in Chicago, and since I've come to Arlington I've got to say that all the people I've met have really worked hard to make me feel welcome. I'm glad I came."
Jockey Carlos Silva, an Arlington Park veteran approaching the 3,000-victory milestone, rode two winners Monday to bring his total to 2,988, 12 shy of the mark he is expected to achieve at Arlington shortly after the season gets underway.
Friday's Party In the Park band at Arlington Park will be Kevin Purcell & the Nightburners.
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