|Arlington Park Barn Notes
In today's notes:
James Tafel LLC's Lakenheath breezed a half-mile in :47 3/5 over the Arlington Park surface Thursday morning in preparation for her upcoming engagement in Monday's Grade III Arlington Matron.
The special Labor Day racing program is one of only two Monday race days offered at Arlington during the 2002 season, and the 66th running of the Matron, Arlington's traditional premier event for fillies and mares, is the featured event of the holiday program.
This season, however, the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, including the Grade I Breeders' Cup Distaff, come to Arlington Park for the first time on October 26.
However, the local first step remains Monday's Matron and Lakenheath, who finished a close third in last year's running while still a 3-year-old, returns with an added year of maturity.
"She's as good as she's ever been," said trainer Gene Cilio, shortly after Lakenheath's Thursday breeze. "She's 101 percent right now, she's back on her home track, and it will take a really good effort for somebody to beat her."
In her last trip to the post in the Grade III Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park August 10, Lakenheath finished second, beaten a length and three-quarters by Lucky 7 Stable's Minister's Baby. That rival is an Arlington Matron nominee but is not an expected participant at this time.
"She kind of defeated herself that day," said Cilio, who traveled to the Western Kentucky oval to saddle Lakenheath in the Gardenia. "There was a horse on the inside of her and another horse came up on her outside right at the half-mile pole. She got distracted and ducked back out of there. At the three-eighths pole she got to the outside again and was eating up ground in the late stages.
"Now, however, she's back on her home grounds," Cilio said. "With Ability and Your Out are two tough horses that are expected to go in there, but we're on our home ground and I'm very confident that Lakenheath will give a good account of herself."
How did Lakenheath get her name?
"She's named for an Air Force base in England where Mr. Tafel was stationed during World War II," Cilio said.
"America's Day at the Races" was designed on a national level to introduce the world of Thoroughbred racing to new fans and increase public awareness of the sport as a "National Holiday for Horse Lovers."
Celebrated on Labor Day Monday again this year, the highlight of the program will be the "America's Day at the Races Pick Three." The three races involved will begin at River Downs with the $200,000 Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes, move on locally to Arlington Park for the Grade III Arlington Matron and finally go out to Del Mar for the Grade II Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap.
In this national Pick Three, patrons will be asked to pick the winners of all three of those races with a potentially large payoff earned by those who are able to do that successfully.
The first 10,000 paid admissions to Arlington Park Monday will receive a free Arlington Park 75th anniversary commemorative T-shirt.
During the races there will be "America's Day at the Races" T-shirt tosses from the paddock and winner's circle, and radio station US-99 will bring the band "Dry Country" to support the Labor Day program.
Attracting the youngsters to the "Family Day" theme of "America's Day at the Races" will be a number of activities including T-shirt and horseshoe decorating as well as a coloring book and crayon giveaway, with all gifts provided by the NTRA.
Other highlights for the kids will be a stick pony race (with the opportunity to win a stick pony), as well as pony rides for the younger set.
Trainer Dee Poulos enjoyed a banner afternoon at Arlington Park when she saddled the winners of both halves of Wednesday's daily double.
Mrs. Poulos, who took over the conditioning of her late husband Ernie's stable following his death in 1997, took the first race of the day with Mi Pat Farm's Table Stakes. Then, she came right back to the winner's circle with E. & B. Frejlach, L. Guranovich, L. Steiden, J. Rubech et al.'s Tricky Clearance in the second race of the day.
"It was fun," said Poulos Thursday morning. "Anytime you win a race, it's a good day, but I believe that was the first time I've ever won a double. It was especially nice because the owners of the second horse had just gotten back into the game. They had been clients of ours back in the early '90s but been away from it for a few years."
Jockey Carlos H. Marquez Jr. rode Table Stakes in the opener and Arlington's all-time leading rider Earlie Fires was aboard Tricky Clearance.
Fires was also aboard the Poulos-trained Wild Percussionist, owned by Jeffrey Sullivan & Ernie Poulos Racing Stable Inc., in the third race of the day. That gelding made the pace most of the way before tiring in the late stages.
"I really thought that third horse had the best shot of all," said Poulos Thursday. "Probably that post position (toward the outside) hurt us a little bit. Still, he ran as well as he could for as long as he could and that's all you can ask."
Twenty-one years ago Friday, on August 30, 1981, Arlington Park introduced the first million-dollar Thoroughbred race with the inaugural running of the Arlington Million. John Henry, ridden by Bill Shoemaker, won the race in a thrilling photo finish over The Bart.
Twenty-five years ago Friday, on August 30, 1977, Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, years later aboard The Bart, rode five winners on the Arlington Park program.
Arlington Park's leading owner and defending owner champion Frank C. Calabrese had his silks visit the winner's circle three times at the local oval Wednesday.
Leading jockey and defending jockey champion Rene Douglas had a riding triple for the day.
Leading trainer Wayne Catalano, who saddled two of the Calabrese-owned horses, was the other training double on the program in addition to the Poulos pair.
Jockeys Robby Albarado and Carlos H. Marquez Jr. had riding doubles during the afternoon.
The Miller Lite Party In The Park band for Friday is "Tumbleweed," a classic rock band.
The Trackside Arlington Park band for Friday is "The Good Word," a reggae band.
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