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The Dark Horse

My Favorite Chicago Racing Moments of 2012

LITTLE MIKE and jockey Ramon A. Dominguez winning the Arlington Million at Arlington Park 8-18-12
So it seems that a lot of people, writers, and bloggers are putting together favorite and “best of” lists for this last year. I have decided to join the parade and will share with you my own list of my favorite moments from the world of Chicago racing in 2012.
Here we go!



On a very nice day in April, by Chicago standards, Done Talking earned his berth into the Kentucky Derby by winning the 55th running of the Illinois Derby. Jockey Sheldon Russell comes to town to guide Done Talking to a ¾ length victory over Rosie Napravnik and Morgan’s Guerrilla in a race that was truly up for grabs. HRN’s own handicapper extraordinaire Jasen Mangrum nailed this winner at 12-1! I really enjoyed my very first ever Illinois Derby experience and I hope to be there again in the future!


After taking down Jim Miller in the fall version of the weekly Jim Vs. contest, I decided to try to beat him again this last spring. Let’s just say I shot a round of blanks and had little to say about my huge loss in the epic battle. Still, the day was not a total loss as I had the great opportunity to hang with announcer Peter Galassi in the booth while he called some races. What a great guy! It was a fun day all together and I was humbled by the experience.

Not many times in my recent memory had a horse set fairly quick turf route fractions, for example 22.4, 46.3, and 1:11.0 yet have enough left in the tank to dominate the field and win. Silver Max did just that in the Arlington Classic this year, winning by a full two lengths, but don’t let that fool you. This race was never that close. Silver Max would win two more after this race for a total of six wins in a row and seven of eight.

















 (Photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos)


Saint Leon wins the Arlington Sprint

Another of one of the more amazing stories of the year, Saint Leon overcomes injury and defeats graded stakes champion Chamberlain Bridge to win the Arlington Sprint Handicap. In catching up with winning jockey E.T. Baird after the race, I laughed when he said he didn’t see Chamberlain Bridge coming, but he heard him! Saint Leon had a short run in 2012, but had two wins in four races on the year.

The rise of La Tia and Leading Astray
Once the great Giant Oak was retired, I was concerned about who would be the next best Illinois-bred horse that could make a splash on the national scene. Well I was not disappointed as now we have two fillies that should have an impact in their four year old campaigns.

La Tia (City Place – La Adelita by Sky Classic) broke her maiden in her first race as a three year old and never looked back. She then scored victories in the Purple Violet Stakes for Illinois-breds, the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks, and the La Lorgnette Stakes up at Woodbine. Typically alone on the lead, she had four wins from six starts in 2012 and I expect that she will have a good year in 2013!






























 (La Tia by Four Footed Fotos)


Another filly by the name of Leading Astray (Belong To Me – Taxable Deduction by Prized) has only run at three years old for Team Block and has yet to finish off the board. She has won a couple of allowance races, the Hatoof at Arlington over the summer, and the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes. She only finished behind by a length in the Valley View Stakes at Keeneland and finished second in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Keeneland! As a four year old in 2013, I expect Leading Astray to mow ‘em down on the grass!

One of my favorite days of the year, Arlington Million day is the perfect combination of racing, friends, and good times. This year’s rendition was fun for me because I almost picked the entire card correct! You’d think I would have made a lot of money off of that, but of course I blew it. Anyway, the highlight of the day is Little Mike’s gate to wire victory with seasoned jockey Ramon Dominguez aboard. Once I saw the opening fraction of 25.0, I knew Little Mike had it in the bag. He had plenty of energy left to fend off a hard charging Afsare in the final strides.

Earlier in that day we also saw a new Million Day race in the American St. Leger run at the standard distance of a mile and 11/16. Jakkalberry had to run down leader Ioya Bigtime to take the victory. I’m a Dreamer and Bayrir both shipped in from Europe as well to take the Beverly D. and the Secretariat Stakes respectively.
More importantly, getting to hang out with all of my friends, and meet new friends, at the nicest track in the country, is all I need.

Switching back to the south side, Pool Play at the time had only run one other time on dirt and that was a 36-1 victory in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. A lot of people must have thought that was a fluke as he went on to win another graded stake on dirt this time at Hawthorne in the Gold Cup. At 16-1 he stormed home from dead last and beat a pretty good field in Alternation, Cease, and Mister Marti Gras.

Days at the track with friends and new fans
Still, my favorite part of horse racing BY FAR is the connections with other fans, the new friends, and introducing new people to the sport. I have made a lot of good friends over the years through racing, and for that I am forever grateful.
What was your favorite Chicago racing moment in 2012?



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Older Comments about My Favorite Chicago Racing Moments of 2012...

Me neither Jasen! How about that.
Thanks for the shout out Chris. Sadly, that might have been my last horse to pay more than $20 all year. Its always great to see you, but it wasn't great to Little Mike. I saw all of his Grade 1 wins in person & didn't get out of my seat to cash a ticket each time. =(
I sure am going to miss my Chicago tracks!!! Arlington has been my hangout since high school!
Asusual a great article Chris! Thanks for sharing!!!
Little Mike's Arlington Million win. Not surprising with Dominguez on.
Little Mike in the Arlington Million was my favorite Chicago racing moment. I'm looking forward to his 2013 campaign and crossing my fingers that voters will award him with the Champion Turf Male Eclipse Award for this year.
Agree on Bayrir. was an easy choice in the Secretariat!!!
Great recap, my personal highlight was Bayrir, and also the great season Francois had after being claimed by Charlie Bettis, one of my favorite under-the-radar trainers. Also, a big year-end shoutout to the Finks, who are going to class up the Eclipse awards nicely...great people, great horses!!
I was surprised by not only how many tracks there are in Chicago but also how nice they are. I had a great time at Hawthorne. Thanks for the reminder of such great racing!
Amazing just how many good races took place outside of KY, CA, FL and NY in 2012?! My point being the majority of this audience rarely ventures beyond those states for their racing action. IMHO, your Chicago list is right up there w/ mine (Maryland's Top 10 races in 2012). Personally, my favorite 2012 race in Chi-town was the Illinois Derby. Not only was DONE TALKING's stretch run a gritty one, but the fact the connections were based in MD made it doubly sweet. Great job Chris! Best of Luck in 2013. I'll be at Pimlico entire Preakness week, so if you get there, let me know.
Great recap, Dark Horse. Welcome to the east coast, Chris!! Let's meet at the Preakness 2013.
An enjoyable read as usual, Chris. It was always fun to be at the races with you ... I wish you and your beautiful family nothing but the best in Virginia.

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 (Whoa - it's me - the DARK HORSE)
Greetings and welcome to my "dark" blog!  I have been a fan of horse racing since I was about 12 years old.  Growing up in Minnesota, my dad would take me and my brothers to Canterbury Downs and I would practically beg to go every weekend!!  I made my first "big" score there hitting the win, place, and exacta in the same race at age 14 (pulled in $84 with horses named Railroad Red and Racers Dream!).  I even had a poster in my bedroom of Lost Code winning the 1987 St. Paul Derby!
While finishing school in Chicago, I spent every possible moment at Arlington Park with my dad.  We took the time to develop computer programs (on the ever popular Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS) to try to find patterns and handicap races more accurately.  My dad taught me a lot about handicapping races, paying particular attention to class moves!

Since then, I have become more involved with horse racing each passing year through a variety of different media-based roles. Once deemed the "second best racing ambassador in Chicago" (hey I've been called worse), 
I now reside in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the USA and will be covering many different aspects of racing - in my unpredictable DARK HORSE STYLE!  
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This blog is eternally dedicated to the memory of Tim "Tiznow" Reynolds.

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