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SPORTSMAN'S NOTES

Sportsman's Park Daily Notebook

Contact: David Zenner (773) 242-1121 ext. 310
sportsmanspub@aol.com

Thursday, February 21, 2002
8 Days Until Opening Day

PUT IN ON THE WIRE: MEIER BACK FOR MORE

“I should have a pretty good meet,” said Sportsman’s Park’s defending jockey champion Randall Meier in the track kitchen Thursday morning when asked how he felt coming into the 46-day meeting that kicks off the 2002 Chicago Thoroughbred racing season Friday, March 1. “I’ve been getting on quite a few horses the last week and a half.”

Meier, 47, enjoyed a career year in 2001, completing a comeback from a late 1999 injury that nearly ended the veteran’s career.

“Last year was indescribable,” Meier said. “I don’t know what I can do to top it. To have the year I had after missing 9 ½ months is unbelievable. Not too many riders have a year like I had last year even if they weren’t coming off a major injury.”

Though Meier’s actual comeback began in the summer of 2000 at Arlington Park with a victory aboard Count on Cart and continued with a solid autumn meet at Hawthorne, the rider garnered significant local headlines when he was easily champion here with 53 victories, 20 more than his nearest pursuer.

Early in last year’s Sportsman’s meet, Meier became the track’s all-time leading rider, surpassing Juvenal Diaz. He enters the 2002 season with 1,074 victories here.

The storybook season for the native Nebraskan continued as he added a Hawthorne Gold Cup victory aboard Duckhorn, an American Derby tally astride Illinois champion Fan Club’s Mister and an Arlington-Washington Futurity win with Publication to his ever-growing ledger of stakes triumphs. Along the way, he also picked up his 3,500th career score, reaching that milestone at Arlington one day before his 47th birthday.

“It seemed like every thing I did, I did right,” he said.

He might have won the title at Hawthorne last fall had he not honored a commitment to his family to spend New Year’s Eve with them at Disney World in Florida, necessitating his leaving with two days remaining in the meet. “I think I may have won the meet had I stayed,” said Meier, who was tied with Shane Laviolette at the time of his departure. “Actually, depending on that appeal, we may be tied if they overturn that disqualification.”

The appeal to which Meier is referring involves the disqualification of Willowbrook Lane from the win in the Colonel Power Stakes. That moved Tic N Tin, ridden by Laviolette, to the top spot. Laviolette took the Hawthorne crown by one victory.

Even though he lost the title, Meier is glad that he put family first.

“My kids (Emily and Brandon) loved spending New Year’s Eve at the Magic Kingdom,” he said. “The park stayed open until 2 a.m. It was a good kid’s party with 10,000 people and not a drop of alcohol.

“So many people told me that they respect me for what I did,” he added. “They keep saying that they respected that I put the kids first and didn’t worry about winning the title.”

LASALA TO MISS 4-6 WEEKS; ZIMMERMAN BACK

Jockey Jerry LaSala will be sidelined four to six weeks after cracking his ankle in a training mishap several days ago. When he returns, Jeff Jones will serve as his agent.

Jones will also book mounts for Ramsey Zimmerman, who returned from Mountaineer Park in West Virginia on Tuesday night.

“I just went out there for a couple of weeks,” Zimmerman said. “I just wanted to get light, fit and ready for the meet here. I won a few races there and a lot of the horsemen wanted me to stay but I wanted to get back here.”

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