Think back to the initial days
of Arlington’s racing season a year ago, and how an unfamiliar Russian-born
trainer named Gennadi Dorochenko arrived on the Chicago scene as a total
unknown with little but the visionary foresight of Arlington racing secretary
Chris Polzin to recommend him.
At the time, the native of Krasnodar,
Russia, had horses that
were something of an anomaly – including stock purchased at the Keeneland sales
for bottom-feeder prices that had subsequently begun their circuitous racing
careers at unfamiliar courses in Poland
Understandably, most of them
went off at indifferent odds when making their Arlington
debuts, and when few of them visited the winner’s circle, those indifferent
odds gradually became disrespectful in subsequent trips to the post.
“Horses are like people, they
are all different,” said Dorochenko at the time. “We are trying to figure
out where they fit best. Some may like the Polytrack here, some may
not. We’ll just keep trying different things with different horses until
we figure out exactly where they belong.
“I do have what I think is
going to be a nice filly named Santina Dond,” Dorochenko noted of a Vladamir
Kazakov color bearer. “I have high hopes for her this summer.”
However, while Dorochenko held
onto his patience and kept his head during the first half of the season, the
local punters increasingly lost theirs. Consequently, on Arlington
Million Day last Aug. 13 when Santina Dond surged to a neck tally in the
$65,000 Hatoof Stakes, she returned $64.40 for a $2 win wager.
When the 2011 Arlington
session ended, Dorochenko headed to Fair Grounds and The Big Easy, where his
hard life continued as a man who chooses to get on all of his own horses during
“Everybody thinks this is an
easy business, but I have to work hard every day to keep my horses running,”
Dorochenko said midway through his first Crescent
“I gallop all of them myself,”
the former jockey said. “I don’t ever have time to take a day
off. I haven’t had a day off in almost 19 years. But that’s
all right. Life is all about trying.”
However, once again, the Louisiana
wagering public and simulcast fans from all over the nation gradually dismissed
his horses due to his low win percentage.
“I don’t have big expensive
horses like those I run against in the big races,” said Dorochenko.
“Those other horses are like Ferraris. My horses are like bicycles.
Fair Grounds is a very tough place to try to win, but if you don’t run them,
they can’t win.”
At the time, Dorochenko’s most
promising horse was a 3-year-old Sharp Humor colt named Hero of Order, who
raced in Dorochenko’s Raut LLC silks. Hero of Order ran fifth in Fair
Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes, first leg of the local sophomore series, as
part of an entry that went off at 57.60-1. Sent back in the Grade II
Risen Star Stakes as the final preview of the Louisiana Derby, Hero of Order
finished a respectable fourth at 79.30-1.
intimated that he was still planning on running Hero of Order in the $1 million
Louisiana Derby – and he did that with Hero of Order going to the post at an
What followed on the race run
on April Fool’s Day, was the largest win price of the New
Orleans winter racing season when Hero of Order returned
$220.80 to those who wagered $2 to win. It was also the largest win price
ever posted in the 99 runnings of the Louisiana Derby.
Asked if he bet, Dorochenko
gave out a look reserved for someone who probably would need instruction on
what a bear might do in the woods.
“What do you think?”
Dorochenko said when talking during Arlington
training hours Tuesday morning, as the ever-present cigarette hung from his
lips. After a few moments, the reticent Russian expanded, with what for
him was something of a soliloquy.
“You know, sometimes,” he
said, taking another drag on his cigarette for the proper dramatic pause,
“sometimes you can sneak away from a Ferrari on a bicycle. What I showed
the people down in New Orleans
is that when it comes to horses, I know what I’m doing.”