|Arlington Park Barn Notes
Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 385-7500 ext. 7319
In today's notes:
Irish-bred Doc Holiday, who has been racing in California, and Florida-bred Stonemason, who has been racing in Ireland, left Kentucky Thursday morning for Illinois where they are scheduled to compete in Saturday's Grade II Arlington Classic.
Doc Holiday, owned by Jarvis Conway & Jess Miller Trust, et al., and Stonemason, owned by Richard L. Duchossois, have been training at Hollywood Park under the care of Wally Dollase. The two sophomores left Southern California by air and arrived at Churchill Downs Wednesday prior to their Thursday van ride to Arlington Park in advance of Saturday's mile and a sixteenth turf test at Chicago's premier Thoroughbred oval.
The 68th running of the Classic, first Grade II event of the local season, is also the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple -- a grass series restricted to 3-year-olds which continues with the Grade II American Derby July 21 and concludes with the Grade I Secretariat August 17.
Doc Holiday captured the Grade III Will Rogers at Hollywood Park in his last trip to the post June 1, while Stonemason is unstarted since April 14 when he finished fourth in the Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial while still on The Emerald Isle.
"Doc Holiday is a free-running colt," said Dollase, over the phone from Hollywood Park. "He has natural speed so we try to let him do what he wants to do and not discourage him. In that last win in the Will Rogers at one mile he made all the pace and held on late to win it by a neck, but the jockey, David Flores, said he felt sure that he could get a mile and a sixteenth.
"I've had the other horse, Stonemason, for about a month," said Dollase. "He was purchased shortly before he was sent to me, so I don't know too much about him yet. However, he's a lovely horse to look at, and he's a really smart individual. You can teach him things, he learns his lessons quickly and he seems to enjoy training. He's extremely well bred (by Nureyev out of a Riverman mare) and Aidan O'Brien, who had him in Europe, said that he was just about a length and a half below the best ones he had over there. Naturally, that's very good for us."
Even though not quite among O'Brien's best, Stonemason managed to record a five-length tally in the Group III Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown in his final start as a 2-year-old, and was third in the Group III Round Tower at The Curragh before that.
"Brice Blanc will ride Stonemason on Saturday," Dollase said of his new pupil, "and hopefully he'll be full of run at the end."
Could it be that the running styles of Doc Holiday and Stonemason would accommodate each other perfectly?
"Yes," Dollase said. "We think so. That's exactly right. We've already talked that strategy over before the horses left here."
Taking command at the start, Classic Contenders' Puck scored a front-running victory in the $100,000 Unbridled Stakes at Calder Race Course Saturday afternoon. That 3-year-old son of Mr. Greeley out of the Relaunch mare Dawn Launch was bred in Kentucky by Paul Finke and his family before passing through the sales ring at Keeneland two years ago.
On Saturday evening, here at Arlington Park, Hip No. 39 in the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation 2002 Annual Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training and Horses of Racing Age failed to meet his reserve and was retained by his breeders - once again the Finke family. That colt, also by Mr. Greeley but out of the Noble Shamus mare Marine Legend, was bred in Illinois.
The ubiquitous Finke and his family then posed in the winner's circle at Arlington Park Wednesday when their 4-year-old filly Tay Laur proved narrowly best in the seventh race of the afternoon. That Illinois-bred, also out of Marine Legend but by the Roberto stallion Shuailaan, is trained by Chris Block and was ridden by jockey Jerry LaSala. The Finkes, who live in Southern Illinois, flew up to Chicago for the day and returned shortly after the race was run.
Although the family breeding operation is a small one, centered on Dawn Launch and Marine Legend as broodmares, they have had a busy week.
"That was Puck's first stakes victory," Finke said of the Unbridled win. "He was second in the Primal at Calder in his previous start and missed only by a head that day. Earlier this winter he was ninth in the Florida Derby but came back from that to win by 12 and a half in an allowance race on closing day at Gulfstream.
"Chris Block says that Tay Laur looks like she can run on grass or dirt, although I sure did like the way she ran on the grass yesterday," Finke said. "And as for the 2-year-old who we kept after the sale, Chris says he'll keep him with him for a while and see how he comes along in the next few weeks.
"This is an up and down business," Finke said of the small family breeding operation, "but right now we are enjoying the ride of a good period."
Not surprisingly, Tay Laur is named for grandchildren Taylor and Laura.
"Dawn Launch and Marine Legend both now have weanlings by High Yield (2000 Fountain of Youth and Blue Grass winner) that look very nice," Finke said, "and they are both back in foal to Commendable (2000 Belmont Stakes winner).
"But we owe our success to a lot of good people who have helped us along the way," Finke concluded. "Chris has been tremendous with our horses up here at Arlington, and advisors like Dennis Alquist, Alan Crocker, and Ann and Barney Gallagher have been essential to the success we have enjoyed."
On Friday, June 28, WXRT's Lin Brehmer will be at Arlington Park to host 10 winners of the "Lunch with Lin" Contest and he will also visit the station's promotional van in the Park Area.
Thirty-four years ago on June 28, 1968, trainer W. H. "Jenks" Fires recorded his first Arlington win, saddling U Didn't for owner B. O. Fires. Earlie Fires, inducted into the National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga last summer and brother of the trainer, was the winning rider aboard U Didn't.
Fifty-five years ago on June 28, 1947, jockey R. L. Baird recorded his first Arlington victory astride Jett-Jett for owner W. M. Peavey and trainer E. C. Dobson. Baird is the father of current Arlington rider E. T. Baird.
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