Joseph Engelhart and Magdalena
Racing’s Dark Cove is a bay, but because he has never run at Arlington Park,
the 4-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro might be overlooked in Saturday’s Grade
III Washington Park Handicap at Chicago’s northwest suburban oval.
Nevertheless, such a handicapping stance could prove precarious.
Trainer Ken McPeek breezed
Dark Cove five furlongs in 1:03 flat over Saratoga’s
Oklahoma training track on Travers Day
morning and will send the 4-year-old to Arlington
for Saturday’s 77th renewal of one of Arlington’s
most tradition-rich stakes races.
“It was a good solid breeze
for him,” McPeek said while speaking over the phone Sunday morning from the
hurricane-ravaged northeast. Dark Cove has made more than half of his 13
lifetime starts on turf, most recently finishing sixth in Saratoga’s grassy
$81,000 John’s Call Stakes on Aug. 5, but he was only beaten four lengths for
all of it despite his three-wide trip.
However, when Dark Cove made
his first start on Polytrack in first level allowance company at Keeneland last
fall, he dug in late after altering course and got up to win the race by a
head. When sent back over that same synthetic surface on April 28, Dark
Cove won by a length and a half after circling five-wide.
“He seems to like (Polytrack)
all right,” said McPeek. “When he ran (over Polytrack) in the (Grade I
Hollywood) Gold Cup (July 9), the mile and a quarter was just too far for
him. I’m not sure he’s a really top horse, but we’re still trying to find
out where he fits best. This might turn out to be the best level for him.”
Jim Tafel’s Fast Alex breezed
five furlongs in 1:01.80 over Arlington’s
Polytrack Saturday morning in probable preparation for Saturday’s Grade III
Washington Park Handicap.
“He worked fine,” said trainer Greg Geier
Sunday morning. “Right now, we plan on running Saturday, but we’ll see
how he comes out of the work after a couple of days.”
Geier, 54, a longtime
assistant trainer for the revered late Chicago
horseman Gene Cilio, went out on his own after Cilio’s death in 2003, but only
after inheriting his mentor’s cautious ways. He likes to space out Fast
Alex’s time between starts.
The homebred belonging to Barrington
resident Tafel is a 4-year-old son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner
Afleet Alex and has not raced since June 25 when he ran a disappointing ninth
in the Grade III Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows. Geier discounts that
“He just didn’t seem to get
over that surface out there very well,” Geier said. “He never really
looked comfortable the whole way around.”
However, in his start before
the Cornhusker in Fair Grounds’ Grade II New Orleans Handicap March 26, Fast
Alex had an impressive fourth-place run behind Twin Creek Racing Stable’s
Mission Impazible. That horse had always shown a preference for the Crescent
City surface that
included a win in the Louisiana Derby the previous year.
BUGLER RACHEL SERBER GETTING RAVE REVIEWS
guests have already shown their appreciation for the track’s new bugler Rachel
Serber with their appreciative applause, and she likes them as well.
“The people have been really
friendly toward me,” said Serber in the midst of her first full weekend flying
solo at the local oval. “The whole Arlington
experience has been great.
“I’d never been to a racetrack
before I came here around the time of the Arlington Million,” Serber explained,
“but I guess it’s sort of a rite of passage for any trumpeter.”
Serber, who met Arlington’s
regular bugler Jean Laurenz while both were at Northwestern and ended up as her
roommate, graduated with a Master’s Degree in Music Performance at Chicago’s
Big Ten University last year. Laurenz left Chicago
last week to pursue further studies at Yale
University in New
“Jean was in the midst
of her drive up there when the earthquake hit last week,” Serber said, “but she
told me she never felt a thing while she was driving in her car.”
Born in Plymouth,
Minnesota, the 26-year-old Serber did her undergraduate work at the Curtis
Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and occasionally played at
Phillies and Eagles games during her stint on the East Coast.
At the present time she is a
regular member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.