|Arlington Park Barn Notes
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In today's notes:
Mrs. M. de Chambure's Baldellia, the French-campaigned 3-year-old filly whose flight to the United States was delayed four days by a labor strike, finally toured the Arlington Park main course Thursday morning in advance of Saturday's Grade III Pucker Up Stakes.
The French-bred daughter of Grape Tree Road had been scheduled to leave the Continent last Saturday, but was unable to depart Orly International Airport until noon on Tuesday, and arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport late Tuesday night.
Baldellia, accompanied on her journey by groom Veronique Verbrugghe, was vanned to Arlington Park, arriving shortly after midnight. David Smaga, Baldellia's trainer in France, will not be coming to Arlington. The sophomore distaffer will be saddled by Desmond McInenery in Saturday's Pucker Up, a nine-furlong turf stakes for 3-year-old fillies that has a $150,000 purse.
Baldellia, a playful, gentle dark bay who seemed to enjoy her new surroundings at Arlington Thursday, left the Quarantine barn mid-morning for a leisurely gallop once around Arlington's nine-furlong main course, with Verbrugghe in the saddle. She was returned to that facility immediately after her exercise. The 25-year-old horsewoman who hails from suburban Paris seemed pleased with Baldellia's move.
In her last trip to the post on August 4 at Deauville in a one-mile stakes event, Baldellia finished eighth when facing older horses. However, on June 7 at Maisons-Laffitte, she was best by a half-length in a stakes restricted to 3-year-olds.
Saturday's Pucker Up could serve as a prep for the Grade I Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Arlington October 26, when the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships come to Arlington Park for the first time in their 19-year history.
Bentley Smith Revocable Trust's Solvig, who won the Pucker Up two years ago, finished fourth in the $1 Million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf last fall at Belmont Park.
Thoroughbred racing fans know how physically conditioned jockeys must be to perform their best in that dangerous occupation, but Thoroughbred owners don't usually need much in the way of physical fitness requirements or face much in the way of danger.
Unless your name is James Harris, and your amateur sport is "helicopter skiing," an extreme sport of sorts that has attracted the husband of Arlington Park-based trainer Rickey Harris for a number of years.
For that matter, extreme sports, increasingly popular if somewhat loosely defined in the national consciousness, are usually the domain of Generation X, but Harris, who also assists his wife with morning chores in the barn area, will turn 60 years of age in the days just after Thanksgiving this year.
What is helicopter skiing?
"It's 10 skiers, two guides and a pilot," said Harris, "who go deep into the Canadian Rockies and find the best powder snow in the world. We fly from Chicago to Calgary, charter a plane and fly another two and a half hours Northwest, and are then picked up by a helicopter.
"The helicopter sets us down in the wilderness, we ski from Sunday through Friday and then rendezvous at a pre-arranged meeting place at the end of the week," said Harris. "The purpose of the remote setting is to find this incredible powder snow that is created by the jet streams in the mountains. It's not like pack powder snow.
"The mountains are not forgiving to those not in shape," said Harris. "You're pushing a tremendous volume of powder snow. That's the whole kick. We are skiing virgin snow, making our own tracks. The guides are incredible athletes. They have to be the best skiers of all, and one strict rule we have is never to get in front of a guide. There are hidden rivers, crevices, and cliffs out there that only they know about."
How does Harris keep in shape for such a grueling sport?
"I run three or four days a week, and I play tennis once or twice a week," said Harris. "I'm physically active at least six days a week, with treadmills, stretching, or a little bit of yoga."
Naturally, at 59, Harris can see the day coming when he will be unable to compete in this unusual sport.
"I know there is going to be a time when I can't," he says, "but as long as I have my legs under me, I want to keep going. It's truly an adventure, and one you can never appreciate unless you experience it.
"There's definitely a spirituality to the thing," said Harris. "When that helicopter leaves, and I see nothing but mountain range after mountain range, I'm just a speck. Each of us can go off into a little section by ourselves and meditate. I can think about how any of us are only here for a little while, but those mountains will be here forever."
If you like "laughter for the soul," Arlington Park is the place to be this Saturday, when music of all kinds comes to the local facility.
A variety of bands and musicians will play on the apron near the winner's circle between races as well as at the Arlington entrance gates throughout the day.
"Music Everywhere: Summer in Chicago 2002" is a new initiative presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Office of Tourism. Although the presentation is on the grounds at Arlington Saturday only, the event will showcase Chicago's depth and range of music events at other locations through September 29.
Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires, Arlington Park's all-time leading rider with more than 6,100 trips to the winner's circle during his lifetime, passed another milestone Wednesday here when he rode the 2,700th winner of his career at the local oval.
"I love riding here," said Fires in the Arlington Park winner's circle shortly after he piloted Richard F. Rudolph's Castlewood to victory for trainer Spanky Broussard in the fourth race of the afternoon. "I've always said that and I always will."
Veteran Arlington Park reinsman Eddie Razo Jr. is on the cusp of $1 million in purse earnings at the local session, with $995,000 through Wednesday. Razo has mounts in the second, fourth, seventh and eighth races Thursday.
Defending jockey champion Rene Douglas, far in front once again during the 2002 session, had a riding triple on Wednesday's program here.
Thirteen years ago Friday, on September 13, 1989, Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day set a North American record by winning with eight of his nine mounts at Arlington. His only losing mount finished second.
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