Chicago Barn to Wire


Sportsman's Park Daily Notebook

Contact: David Zenner (773) 242-1121 ext. 310

Friday, February 22, 2002
7 Days Until Opening Day


With the opening of the 2002 Thoroughbred season at Sportsman’s Park now just a week away, the local jockey colony is growing with the return of veterans Ray Sibille, Chris Emigh and Larry Sterling Jr., each of whom was making the rounds in the stable area for the first time this year Friday morning.

Sibille, who departed the Chicago scene early in the Fall meet at Hawthorne Race Course, had been wintering at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds and arrived home just last night.

“I’ve worked four horses so far,” said the four-time National Jockey Club riding champion during the mid-morning renovation break. “I rode 60 horses at the Fair Grounds and won six races, including a stakes race for Spanky (trainer Broussard).”

The stakes victory came aboard Illinois-bred San Pedro when the eventual reserve champion 3-year-old captured the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap by 1¾ lengths on Dec. 29.

“He’s a really nice Illinois-bred horse,” Sibille said. “We beat a nice horse in Valhol that day. Valhol beat us the next time (in the Feb. 10 Whirlaway) and we ran fourth. I had nowhere to go until the eighth pole in that race.

“He’s really gotten better since Spanky put blinkers on him,” he continued. “He won the stakes with the blinkers. I thought we had a big chance in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park (in October) but we got slammed leaving the gate.”

San Pedro is slated to run next in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (Grade II) at the Fair Grounds on March 3. Sibille will ride.

Emigh was making his first local appearance since the end of the Hawthorne meet after spending the last few weeks at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

“It was a good experience,” Emigh said of his late-winter jaunt. “I had always wanted to ride there. I’d shipped there a couple of times for stakes but never rode there regularly. I made some good connections for the future. I won four races there and had a bunch of seconds (11).

“It was fun, but it would have been better if I could have caught some fish,” he joked. “You’d think since I was out there with a professional fisherman (his agent, Jay Fedor), I would have caught some.”

Sterling, who finished second in the standings at last year’s Sportsman’s meet, spent most of the time between local meets vacationing but he did ride briefly at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas in January.

“Late in the Hawthorne meet I got a call from (jockey agent) Scott Hare,” Sterling said. “His rider, Roman Chapa, was about to begin a (15-day) suspension. He asked me to come down there to ride during that time. It was kind of a working vacation.”


Agent Dennis Petrucelli will book mounts for apprentice jockey Gino Velasquez during the upcoming Sportsman’s Park meeting.

“I think Gino will be the only ‘bug’ rider here when the meet starts,” Petrucelli said Friday morning. “(Roberto) Villafan is staying in New York. I don’t know if that’s good or bad (to be the only apprentice rider). When I had the bug, I liked that there were two or three bugs so more people were used to using us. On the other hand, being the only one means that if they want a bug rider, they’ve got to use (Gino).”




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