|Arlington Park Barn Notes 06/21/03
In today's notes:
The Irish are coming! Two promising 3-year-old colts that have been campaigning on The Emerald Isle will help international racing make its annual bow at Arlington Park in time for the Grade II Arlington Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve, which serves as the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple. The 69th running of the Classic will be contested at a mile and an eighth over Arlington's world famous turf course June 28.
Both of the Irish runners are scheduled to arrive in Chicago Sunday afternoon, and should they run to their potential in their United States debuts next weekend, both are expected to stay for the Grade II American Derby, presented by Jack Daniel's on July 20, and complete their Mid-America Triple campaigns in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes August 16.
The Secretariat, along with the Grade I Arlington Million and the Grade I Beverly D., make up Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing on that third Saturday in August, and are the only three Grade I races offered in Illinois on an annual basis.
Irish-bred European, an undefeated chestnut recently purchased by Team Valor, will join the barn of American trainer Elliott Walden in Chicago after clearing quarantine. The sophomore son of Great Commotion out of a Trempolino mare last went to the post in the listed Amethyst Stakes May 11 at Leopardstown and proved best by a neck in the one-mile event over ground rated "good." In his only previous trip to the post, European had broken his maiden in a six-furlong sprint over a "yielding" course at The Curragh as a 2-year-old.
Coincidentally, European's only start as a juvenile came on the day of last year's Arlington Classic. Walden trained WinStar Farm LLC & Thomas Van Meter II's Mr. Mellon to win last year's Classic.
Irish-bred Good Day Too, recently purchased by Ross Gilbert, will accompany European on the flight from Ireland to Chicago in anticipation of the Arlington Classic. A son of the Danehill stud Danetime, Good Day Too was upset a head by the French-bred Tipperary All Star in his last start in the listed Airlie Stud Silver Stakes at The Curragh May 25, but outgamed the Kingmambo colt Multazem by that same margin for the runner-up position.
In his start before that, Good Day Too finished second by a half to Refuse To Bend at Leopardstown April 13, and that colt, a half-brother to last year's Group I Melbourne Cup winner Media Puzzle, went on to win the Group I Sagitta 2000 Guineas at Newmarket May 3. Good Day Too is trained by Tommy Stack but will be housed in the barn of conditioner Chris Block (after clearing quarantine) while at Arlington Park.
Curt Bourque is penciled in for the mount on Good Day Too in the Arlington Classic, while European is expected to have Rene Douglas in the irons.
Apprentice jockey Cruz Contreras, 22, celebrated the second riding double of his career at Arlington Park Friday, capping off the two-win day with another longshot in the finale on the twilight program.
This time the win price was $113.20 after Contreras rode Bryan J. Mazey's Beaulieu to a three-quarter length-win for trainer Don Von Hemel in the ninth race. Earlier in the afternoon, Contreras was aboard Robert J. Neumeyer's Jtl's Thunder Road in the fourth race for conditioner Jim DiVito.
Beaulieu made the pace in his race, while Jtl's Thunder Road came from last position in the early going. Which style does Contreras prefer?
"Whatever the horse wants to do," said Contreras. "I like the front, I can come from behind, or I can be in the middle. No problem. I just don't quit."
Longshot players were happy to see the "don't quit" philosophy when Contreras rode Jim Perrone & Stephen Richek's Mynameischase to the first of his three wins here May 14 for a $242.80 payoff - largest straight price of the meeting based on a $2 wager. Since that day Contreras and Mynameischase have teamed up for two more scores for trainer Nicolas Perez, both at long prices, and Contreras is quick to credit Perez with his continuing and rapid improvement as a rider.
"I'm from Guadalajara, Mexico," said Contreras. "I never went to the Jockey's School in Panama or one in Puerto Rico. Right here at the racetrack is my school, and I go to class every day. I watch the other riders, like Eddie Razo, and I learn everything I can."
It is a good thing that Contreras is learning as fast as he is. He is the sole support of his family back in Mexico, which includes his father who has been in a wheelchair the last nine years, two younger brothers and a sister.
"I like the United States very much," said Contreras, who began galloping horses in this country three and a half years ago, "and I like Chicago. I'm going to stay here for a while. I'm happy I have had the success I have had, but I want to keep improving."
Jockey E. T. Baird scored his second successive two-win day at Arlington Park Friday, winning the third race with Von Jay Spreck's Alstott for trainer Larry Rivelli and the fifth astride Dennis Churilla's Best Echo for conditioner Bettye Gabriel.
Jockey Curt Bourque also had a riding double Friday, taking the eighth aboard Stan Wilson's Rockchalk Jayhawk for Don Von Hemel and the ninth with WinStar Farm LLC's Victory At Sea for Elliott Walden.
Veteran conditioner Don Von Hemel saddled a training double, combining the talents of the veteran Bourque aboard Rockchalk Jayhawk and the apprentice Contreras on Jtl's Thunder Road to celebrate his own two-win day.
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