|Arlington Park Barn Notes 07/25/03
In today's notes:
Trainer Graham Motion has Bushwood Stable's Better Talk Now set for Saturday's Grade III Arlington Handicap, final local prep for the Grade I Arlington Million three weeks later, but it is Frances J. O'Toole's Dr. Brendler who would seem to be a better possibility for the centerpiece event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season August 16.
Talking first about Better Talk Now, winner of the $55,000 Eight Thirty Stakes at Delaware Park in his last trip to the post June 29, Motion assessed that horse's chances during Saturday's Million Preview Day at Arlington Park.
"He is coming off a nice win in his comeback race last time," said Motion, speaking over the phone from the East Coast Friday morning. "We gave him a little freshening after Gulfstream (where he posted a first and a third) and your race Saturday looks like an excellent spot to try him again. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to be there, but I've sent my assistant Adrian Rolls to saddle him there so I know that the horse will be in good hands."
Would an excellent showing by Better Talk Now in Saturday's Arlington Handicap encourage Motion to consider the Arlington Million for a follow-up appearance?
"That would be unlikely," Motion said. "I would think the timing of three weeks later would be a little soon to bring him back. He's not a big horse, but he puts a lot of effort into his races, and to have him come back and face the best horses in the world three weeks later would be asking too much from him."
However, Motion made a trip to Arlington three weeks ago to saddle Dr. Brendler to be easily second best in the Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap, and the amenable young Englishman was asked for an update on that late-running 5-year-old.
"I just supplemented him to the Million the other day," said Motion, "but I'm also looking at the (Grade I) Sword Dancer (Invitational Handicap, Aug. 9). We have received an invitation to that race and our horses are at Saratoga now, so I would say I'm leaning that way. Also, the mile and a half of the Sword Dancer would appear to be more suitable to his style.
"However, we're still going to hold out on a final decision for awhile," said Motion, "because there are a few other things weighing in, like the weather. Dr. Brendler seems to prefer soft ground, so if the grass course was to come up really firm at Saratoga, we could consider the Million as an excellent option."
"Seabiscuit" -- certainly the summer's most sensationally touted movie among Thoroughbred racing fans -- finally opened in Arlington Heights, Illinois, on Friday, and on hand for the screening was the nation's oldest active Thoroughbred trainer.
Jim Eckrosh, 94, an Arlington Park staple for almost seven decades and one conditioner who actually saw Seabiscuit race, was asked his assessment of the movie shortly after its initial local screening.
"It was a good show," said the always reticent but never truculent dean of Arlington trainers. "It was about true, too."
It should be noted that Eckrosh, who has always said Seabiscuit was the best horse he ever saw, has always been famous among horsemen for his homemade remedies, not all of which are strictly equine.
In that characteristic Eckrosh could be compared to Seabiscuit's trainer, Tom Smith, at least as that horseman was portrayed in the latest movie.
The Grade III Arlington Handicap, the Grade III Modesty Handicap and the $100,000 Round Table Stakes make up a troika of headline attractions on Saturday's Million Preview Day at Arlington Park, but the $50,000 Honest Pleasure Stakes and the $45,000 Unique Type Handicap provide a pair of admirable supporting attractions.
Dreabon Copeland's First Money, an invader from Churchill Downs, is the morning line favorite in the Honest Pleasure, for 2-year-olds at five and a half furlongs, and Richard Otto Stables Inc.'s Summer Mis is the highweight and odds-on choice in the Unique Type 'Cap, restricted to fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward that are in the Illinois-bred program.
First Money, a Kentucky-bred by Lil's Lad out of a Phone Trick mare, has posted a win and two seconds in three career starts for trainer Bernie Flint, and 1996 Arlington jockey champion Robby Albarado is listed for the irons.
Summer Mis, the Tony Mitchell-trained victress in the $84,550 Isaac Murphy this season and heroine of last year's $86,450 Purple Violet, will have regular rider Larry Sterling Jr. aboard.
After riding seven winners from nine mounts Thursday, current leading rider and defending Arlington champion of the last two years Rene Douglas put on the best performance by a jockey at Arlington since the track reopened in 2000. Only Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, who recorded eight wins from nine mounts on Sept. 13, 1989, has ever had a better day in the history of Arlington.
Defending trainer champion Wayne Catalano saddled two winners Thursday, capturing the opener with Frank C. Calabrese's Stormy Rosa with Douglas aboard and seventh with Calabrese's Red Mimi with Douglas up once again.
Saturday's "Breakfast at Arlington" guests are the red-hot rider Rene Douglas, fresh off his dominating Thursday, as well as Irish-born jockey Mick Doyle. Also on the program are trainer Paul McGee, conditioner of Arlington Handicap highweight and favorite Honor in War, and trainer Ken McPeek, who will saddle Round Table favorite Best Minister.
Saturday's "Corona Summer Party" band is "Sidewinders."
Sunday's Junior Jockey Club theme is "Jockeys' View of the Track," where members will take a tram ride around the track.
Sunday's "Pepsi Family Day" theme involves interactive carnival games.
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