Mr. and Mrs. Bertram
Firestone’s Winchester was still expected to be the star attraction in
Saturday’s 80th anniversary edition of the Stars and Stripes Stakes as of late
morning even after Arlington’s traditional 12-furlong marathon was taken off
the grass following heavy overnight storms in northwest Chicago.
After being told that the
Stars and Stripes was off the grass, Winchester’s trainer Christophe Clement
advised the owner that the race would be run at a mile and a half over
Arlington’s Polytrack and then called the Arlington racing office to confirm
that – at least for the immediate future – the 6-year-old entire son of
Theatrical would remain in the afternoon’s featured $100,000 event.
Clement’s reasoning, according
to the racing office, was that the horse was already on the grounds at Arlington
and the jockey was already in the air in a flight from New
York to Chicago.
Winchester, who won
Grade I Secretariat Stakes as a 3-year-old in 2008, won Belmont’s Grade I
Manhattan Handicap in June of 2010 and Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
Invitational in early October, but has been idle since the Group I Cathay
Pacific Classic Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin last December. The horse has
run exclusively over grass courses in all 21 of his lifetime starts. The Virginia
homebred’s last four works, including a five-furlong move in 1:03.60 over Belmont’s
Long Island lawn on July 17, have all been on
Jockey Cornelio Velasquez, who
has ridden Winchester in his last five American
starts, was already on his flight to Chicago’s
O’Hare International Airport when the decision to abandon turf racing at Arlington
on Saturday was made. The Panamanian rider is remembered locally for
sweeping all three of the Arlington’s
graded stakes on Million Preview Day in 2005.
Incidentally, according to
weatherman Mike Caplan of ABC-7 News, almost seven inches of rain had fallen at
O’Hare before 9 a.m. Saturday, setting a single calendar day record.
Park Saturday morning,
the infield lake had breached its normal level and there was standing water in
the area of the Jumbotron board.
Irish-born assistant Liam Kelly flew to Chicago
Friday morning and schooled Winchester in the Arlington
paddock midway through the late afternoon program.
“He schooled very well – he
didn’t turn a hair,” said Kelly, who gallops Winchester
during his training. “It was like he was right at home. He’s quite
the professional. Other horses don’t seem to bother him. The boss
thinks he can be a little quirky during training, but I’ve always gotten along
very well with him and Cornelio knows him very well, too. I’m glad
Cornelio wants to come here and stay on the horse. You do need to know
RAINS FOLLOWED NEAR RECORD HEAT WAVE
The record rainfall in
northwest Chicago Friday night and Saturday
morning succeeded temperatures in the high 90s last Thursday, when Arlington
Park conducted a 10-race
program without incident to any of the horses that ran that day.
Trainer Chris Block was asked
midway through Thursday’s program about his own thoughts going into the day.
“I was very concerned going
into the day,” said Block, “but I think Arlington
Park has done a great job
getting ready. There are plenty of spots to hydrate and cool off your
horse before and after the race in both the paddock and down by the winner’s
circle. I also think watering the racetrack before every race has been
very helpful. My hat is off to Arlington
Park for being prepared for this very
unusual day weather-wise in Illinois.”
English-born jockey agent
Penny Ffitch-Heyes, a former steeplechase rider who now handles the engagements
current leading rider J. Z. Santana as well as the veteran jockey E. T. Baird,
currently fourth in the standings, had this to say when asked about Thursday’s
“What can I say other than
everything went well because everyone at Arlington
was ‘teaming in’ throughout the day?” said Ffitch-Heyes. “The members of
the starting gate crew, the track maintenance crew, the valets and all the
people in the paddock all chipped in because everyone around here cares about
the horses most of all. It’s always been that way around here.”
MILLIION CANDIDATE RUNNER-UP AT YORK
Million candidates Ransom Note, owned by H. R. Mould and trained by Barry
Hills, and Tazeez, owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by John Gosden, ran
second and seventh respectively in Saturday’s Group II Sky Bet York Stakes at
Great Britain’s York Racecourse.
BECKER TIES RIVELLI IN TRAINER STANDINGS FRIDAY
After recording a training
double Friday at Arlington, conditioner Scott
Becker moved into a tie with trainer Larry Rivelli for the lead in Arlington’s
trainer standings at the end of Friday’s racing program.