• Enola Gray takes the Melair gate to wire.Posted 2 hours ago
  • Surgical Strike charges on the outside to win the Arlington Classic (G3).Posted 3 hours ago
  • Diva Express and I'm a Looker make a dead heat run in the Winning Colors (G3).Posted 3 hours ago
  • Flipcup game in Arlington Matron (G3) victory.Posted 3 hours ago
  • In his first start since the Remsen, Gift Box rolls over a strong allowance field at Belmont.Posted 2 days ago
  • Nyquist has spiked a fever, delaying his trip to Belmont, via DRF's Dave Grening.Posted 5 days ago
  • Second Summer holds off Hard Aces to win the Grade 2 Californian.Posted 5 days ago
  • Exaggerator turns the tables and is victorious in the Preakness (G1).Posted 7 days ago
  • Takeover Target flies home late to win from last in the Grade 2 Dixie.Posted 7 days ago
  • American Freedom fights back for Sir Barton victory.Posted 7 days ago

Chicago Dark Horse 2011 Year in Review

Here ends the first year of the Chicago Dark Horse blog. Let’s recap what happened in 2011 and find out what we can expect in 2012.

I can’t believe I had so much fun this year in and around the race tracks. I’ve always been a fan of racing and this is the closest I’ve ever been to the action. So what have I learned in 2011? I'm glad you asked.

1. I learned that there are more race tracks in America other than Canterbury and Arlington. This year I visited two new race tracks: Hawthorne Race Course and Churchill Downs. Watch out Brian Zipse, I’ll be catching up to your count of race tracks visited. Or maybe not… that would require approval from the finance committee (and I know you know what I mean). 

2. I learned that both Chicago race tracks, Arlington and Hawthorne, offer great value to their customers. Not only is my personal ROI at Hawthorne very high, but the payouts at both tracks aren’t chalky at all. 

3. I learned that Jim Miller, Assistant General Manager at Hawthorne, has to be one of the tallest (and hardest working) men in the racing business. He puts on a great show and really works hard to appease the owners, trainers, jockeys, gamblers, Chicago Dark Horses, and fans.

4. I learned that being on TV can be difficult. It makes it more difficult on yourself when you forget who you write for while on live TV. (MUCH thanks to Jim Miller for bailing me out on that one)

5. I learned that Jim Miller is actually beatable as I somehow narrowly defeated him in his weekly contest. He even gave me the experience of previewing each race in the paddock with him. I already feel a little more prepared for next time. 

6. I learned that Arlington Park is still the most beautiful race track in the country. The grounds are pristine and facility is amazing.  I always feel like I’m at home there, and I can’t wait to visit again in 2012!  (On a side note, if anyone reading this is planning on visiting from outside of the area please let me know!)

7. I learned that going to morning workouts is actually very, very awesome and I look forward to attending more in the future. I know it’s so early in the morning, but I highly recommend checking them out sometime. Also, that “loose horse on the track” horn is very, very loud!!

8. I learned that Gio Ponti had a phenomenal career. This horse will always be a champion in my eyes and I can’t wait to see his progeny run.  I am fortunate to have seen him in two of his final stakes races ever (Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile).

9. I learned that there are some great up and coming owners in the industry. Chris Szulc’s Horizon Racing is a fine operation with a bright future. I’m sure we’ll see him in the winners’ circle some first Saturday in May…

10. I learned that Helicopter can win just about anywhere. He is a great race horse and we’ll see if he comes back in 2012!  I hope he does. 

11. I learned that Potatoesandgravy would make a great name for a race horse. Well, that’s according to my 8-year-old son

12. I learned that Hawthorne Race Course has some very good stakes races. The fall meet consisted of the Hawthorne Gold Cup (won by Headache) and the Hawthorne Derby (won by local favorite Willcox Inn). This is when I started taking exclusive video coverage for HRN. 

13. I learned that Chicago was well-represented during the Breeders’ Cup weekend. Mister Marti Gras, Stephanie’s Kitten, Pachattack, Giant Oak, and Caleb’s Posse all had good races. Chicago represent. Recognize.

14. I learned not to let people whose names start with the letter “Wes White” talk you out of your winning bet. (See Amazombie in the Breeders' Cup)

15. I learned what a Hot Brown was (yum). I also learned that this is a staple of eating in Louisville.

16. I learned that the “Sorenson factor” will ruin all of your wagers, and apparently Tim Ice’s chances to win too. If you’re putting together a multi-race exotic wager and want to win, do not include me. 

17. Most of all, I learned that there are a bunch of GREAT people in and around racing.  I am so fortunate that I have had a chance this year to meet most everyone.  Having the chance to meet the people I speak with using Facebook in person was a special treat!! 

To recap the year 2011: 

The 2011 Arlington meet winners included trainer Larry Rivelli with 39 wins and jockey James Graham with 82 victories.  For Hawthorne’s 2011 fall meet, with a week to go trainer Roger Brueggemann has pretty much locked up the title with 45 mins and jockey Florent Geroux has an amazing 67 wins! 

The winners of the big races of the year included:

-         Joe Vann (Illinois Derby)
-         Cape Blanco (Arlington Million)
-         Stacelita (Beverly D)
-         Treasure Beach (Secretariat)
-         Willcox Inn (Arlington Classic, American Derby, Hawthorne Derby)
-         Headache (Hawthorne Gold Cup)
-         Mister Marti Gras (Washington Park Handicap)
-         Devil By Design (Chicago Handicap)
-         Tajaaweed (Arlington Handicap)
-         Fantasia (Modesty Handicap)

And as this was my first year of writing anything since I finished my master’s degree, I learned a lot about the time it takes to research, type, and find links for the blogs.  Some of my favorite blogs during the year were (in chronological order):

So, what am I most looking forward to in 2012?  I’m glad you asked!

1)      Hawthorne’s spring meet and the great three year olds that will grace our presence at the Illinois Derby.
2)      The return of the Sixty Sails Handicap.
3)      Willcox Inn’s four year old campaign.
4)      Taking on Jim Miller in his weekly contest again (this time with my fellow Black Knights).
5)      Arlington Park’s opening day.
6)      The great stakes races that Chicago has to offer.
7)      Attempting to finally win some multi-race exotic wagers.
8)      Hiding more Easter Eggs (aka funny links) all over my blogs and providing even more exclusive coverage of Chicago racing for HRN.
9)      Getting to meet and interview more of the personalities of the Chicago racing circuit.
10)  Sharing more of the racing experience with my children.

Most of all let us never forget the loss of a true friend of racing in 2011. Tim Reynolds, you are sorely missed, yet thanks for continually looking out for all of us from up above.

What did you remember most in 2011?  What do you look forward to most in 2012?


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Older Comments about Chicago Dark Horse 2011 Year in Review...

Great Stuff Chris, and You are invited into my stable anytime at The Big T (Thistledown)
Love reading you all the time ""
Love reading you all the time ""
Epic blog post CDH!! Way to wrap 2011...I'm going to AP next year if its the only track I get to!! Agreed on "people of racing" that they are the best ever and yes what a tremendous loss....Tim Reynolds. We also have the same fave blog...Tim Ice!! Look forward to following him in 2012 along with that CDH blog ;) Aside from those I also look forward to seeing how the 2012 3 y.o. crop turns out!
I love my tracks of Chicago!
Hey Chris, job well done! I agree, Arlington Park is still the nicest track I've been to. I'm planning on coming up there in August for the Arlington Million. We'll have to plan another HRN assualt, just like at CD, but without any car troubles. =)
  • cpsoren121 · No kidding Jasen! Broken thermostat caused us to miss the first few races!!! Yeah, let me know when you are at AP again!! · 1614 days ago
Great job Chris; maybe we will get to meet up sometime! I know Tim is smiling about his shout-out and I love watching that video. Hey, the next video that popped up was shot by me of Tim visiting Curlin. I had never actually seen it before. Love the close up of Tim & that's me talking in the background. Love it Chris; thanks!!
  • cpsoren121 · Thanks Alice! Tim and us got to hang out at the Arlington Million this summer. He was awesome and I miss him a lot. · 1614 days ago
Chris, you've done a great job all year...and this is a great summary of the year.
Hey Chris, one other thing...big thumbs-up especially for your list of learnings - item #3! Jim Miller for President! Hawthorne has the best ambassador they've ever had with Jim...knowledgeable, friendly, whip-smart...good guy.
CoHosting with Buck on Pass The Buck Talking Horses. lol
Never met Jim Miller but when a race was MIA on their website I friended him on FB and told him I wanted to watch that race. It was up pretty quickly. Great job Chris!
great work
Great Blog (where have I been?)
It is a must, Matt! You're welcome anytime!
One day I'll have to make it to the track in Chicago. You make it sound like a must for me!
The "finance committee" gave a luke-warm smile to that comment on this blog...
Well done young master Chrsitopher
Nice job, Chris. I've always been a fan of Hawthorne and have made some big scores there in the past. I prefer dirt to synthetic for handicapping/wagering as well-so I prefer Hawthorne to Arlington. My fondest memory of Chicago racing was making a PILE of money on a horse called Rocket Twenty One who was given to me by a Facebook friend who goes by the handle "Mike Saratoga". We keyed him in the late pick 4 that day and connected for $1,800 as well as win bets @ 16/1!
Nice recap and great site to hear about Chicago racing which I didn't really know much about except the Arlington Million Looking forward to more in 2012
Great piece, Chris! Look forward to playing the ponies with you in 2012 at Arlington AND getting you and BZ down to Kentucky Downs, America

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