|Arlington Park Barn Notes
Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 385-7500 ext. 7319
In today's notes:
Apprentice jockey Elvis Trujillo opened the eyes of Chicago horsemen and Arlington Park Thoroughbred racing fans by riding both halves of the daily double on Friday as the third day of racing at the local oval this season got underway.
Both of Trujillo's wins -- aboard Roses Roses Roses in the opener and astride Unaccounted Affair in the second - came for the owner-trainer duo of Frank C. Calabrese and Wayne Catalano. They were Trujillo's only two mounts of the day, earning the 18-year-old a perfect record during his Arlington Park career to date.
The Calabrese-Catalano tandem, however, went on to a third victory in the sixth race with Ells End to earn a perfect three-for-three record on Friday. Jockey E. T. Baird was the winning rider on Ells End.
But the buzz of the afternoon was definitely all about Elvis, who speaks almost no English at the present time but will take language lessons on the backstretch for the duration of the Arlington Park season. In the meantime, agent Harry "the Hat" Hacek, who guided Garrett Gomez to his jockey championship at Arlington in 1997, was able to talk about how Trujillo came to the Midwest.
"I was looking for an apprentice rider because I thought the Chicago circuit could use some new talent," said Hacek, who in his own past has handled such active Hall of Fame jockeys as Chris McCarron, Eddie Delahoussaye and Gary Stevens.
"Steve Leving (stable agent for the Calabrese-Catalano team) pointed out Trujillo to me," Hacek said, "and then Alex Solis (another former Hacek client) told me he had been watching this kid and that he was going to be another Corey Nakatani.
"Mutually, Steve and Wayne and I agreed that they would let him ride some horses," Hacek said, "and I thought, 'This is all the introduction I'm going to need.' I did some research on the kid, and he had some good numbers and a good foundation under him. He looked good in his races in Southern California.
"Bob Baffert, Dick Mandella and Bobby Frankel had all used him and had good things to say about him," Hacek said. "Frankel says he puts horses into the race and always gives them a chance. That's not an easy thing for an apprentice to do. It's more like a natural instinct.
"It was Mandella who suggested strongly that Trujillo come to Chicago," Hacek said. "The kid wants to get situated on a circuit where he can continue as a journeyman when he loses his 'bug' (in about two and a half months.) When you lose the 'bug' in Southern California you're in against six or seven Hall of Famers. That's what he had in mind when he decided to make the transition.
"Trujillo flew in late Wednesday night and I picked him up at his motel at 5 a.m. Friday morning," said Hacek, "and then he went out and rode the first two winners. It's the dream of anybody showing up in a new place - to win the first two races they ride. He probably felt like he was Jerry Bailey. The first time 'Cat' met him was in the paddock before the first race."
Trujillo, born October 7, 1983 in Panama City, Panama, recorded his first victory in the United States on November 28 last year, after arriving from Mexico the night before. He rode 58 winners in Mexico City in 2001 after winning 35 in his native Panama, where he graduated from the Laffit Pincay Jr. Jockey School in September of 2000.
"Trujillo knows that the language barrier is a negative," Hacek said, "but he came here with a commitment and plans to overcome that by learning English while he's here. In the meantime, the valet Carlos 'Eyes' Marquez acts as his translator, and paddock judge Conrad Enrique is very helpful in the paddock.
"The language barrier is the only thing that going to be any problem," Hacek said, "but that should take care of itself. Other than that, he has all the tools he needs to be a star. He works hard, and people like him. An apprentice is a nice option for the trainers here. All the time you hear trainers say, 'I wish I could get the five pounds. I wish there was a good bug rider here.' Now there is."
Wayne Catalano, who won the 2000 Arlington trainer championship before narrowly losing leading conditioner honors in 2001 at Arlington Park, made a strong early move to contend for this season's championship by saddling three winners from three races entered on Friday for owner Frank C. Calabrese.
The Calabrese-Catalano duo's perfect day came with Roses Roses Roses in the initial event of the afternoon, continued with Unaccounted Affair in the second half of the daily double, and concluded with the triumph by Ells End in the sixth race of the day.
"We had a very nice day," said the popular Catalano Saturday morning. "We need a day like that every once in awhile."
Catalano, who put Chicago's newest apprentice jockey Elvis Trujillo aboard the first two winners in his troika, was asked to assess the new "bug" rider.
"The rider seemed to be okay," said Catalano, speaking of Trujillo, who enjoyed his own perfect afternoon with his two-for-two successful race day. "I was touted on him when he was still in Southern California, and then Eddie Razo told me he'd seen him while he was riding 50 winners in Mexico.
"The main thing was that he performed pretty good for me," said Catalano. "He had a chance to get over his jitters a little bit." Catalano was asked if the language barrier was any kind of a hindrance when he first met Trujillo in the paddock before the first race.
"Not really," Catalano said. "Most of my grooms speak Spanish and the paddock judge (Conrad Enrique) was a big help."
Jockey Shane Laviolette, fresh off his championship spring as the leading rider during the recently concluded meeting at Hawthorne, is the only jockey to have ridden at least one winner during the first three days of the young Arlington Park season.
Defending trainer champion Jerry Hollendorfer scored his second winner of the season on Friday when he saddled Todaro, Hollendorfer and Marta Racing Ventures' Glitter Gulch to win the ninth and final race of the day.
Defending jockey champion Rene Douglas rode both halves of the late daily double, tallying with Thunderhead Farms' Sand Ridge in the eighth and coming right back with a win aboard Glitter Gulch in the nightcap.
Sand Ridge, when bought by Thunderhead Farms' owner Bill Peters, was the top price in the sale from which he was purchased. Peters was reinvesting the profit realized when selling Thunderhead Farms' Mariah's Storm, winner of the Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie as a 2-year-old, the Grade III Arlington Oaks as a sophomore, and the Grade III Arlington Matron as a 4-year-old in 1995. Mariah's Storm went on to foal European champion Giant's Causeway.
Caressing, one of the choices in Saturday's Grade III Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap, won the Eclipse Award as 2-year-old filly in 2000. Caressing is in foal to Fusaichi Pegasus. 1990 Chicago Breeders Cup Handicap champion Fit For A Queen was in foal to Gulch when she finished second in the 1992 renewal of the Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap.
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