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Cruguet Ready for Legends Race

Arlington Park.

Legendary jockey Jean Cruguet, who etched his name into Thoroughbred racing history by riding Karen Taylor’s Seattle Slew to a sweep of the Triple Crown in 1977, will come out of retirement briefly to ride at Arlington Park next Friday, one day prior to the 29th running of the Grade I Arlington Million – centerpiece race of the 2011 Arlington Park season Aug. 13.


Cruguet, 72, a native of France, rode extensively on both sides of the Atlantic throughout his career but has not ridden competitively since retiring from the saddle in 1996.  He will journey from his summer headquarters in Saratoga to ride in a special jockey legends-versus-active riders race designed as part of Arlington Park’s festivities during the week of its annually showcased International Festival of Racing.


“Physically, I’m in pretty good shape,” said Cruguet midweek, speaking over the phone from Saratoga.  “I was in Ocala (Florida) last winter and got on some horses, and I got on one or two in Kentucky this spring for five-furlong breezes.  Also, I run a mile and a half every morning so I’m feeling fit enough to get a horse around the track.”


Friday’s challenge race, featuring five retired jockeys against five of Arlington’s top riders, will be run for the second consecutive year as part of Arlington’s “Dining with the Dynasty” gathering, now in its third season.


“Dining with the Dynasty” is ticketed charity event that brings legendary jockeys from all over the country to raise funds for The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America.  Ticketholders get to spend the afternoon in Mr. D.’s Sports Bar with the legendary riders as they reminisce about their experiences including their rides aboard some of the most famous horses in Thoroughbred racing history.


Scheduled to join Cruguet among the retired jockeys returning to the saddle for the race against Arlington’s active riders are:  Hall of Fame jockeys Chris McCarron and Earlie Fires (Arlington’s all-time leading jockey), as well as two-time Arlington champion Mark Guidry and Patti Cooksey, at one time the world’s all-time leading female jockey.


Other Hall of Fame jockeys scheduled to attend “Dining with the Dynasty” – but not slated to ride – include Laffit Pincay Jr., Pat Day, Angel Cordero Jr., Walter Blum, Sandy Hawley, John Rotz, Bobby Ussery and Randy Romero.


As for Cruguet, who lost the wife of his youth Denise early in 2010 and will be riding in honor of her memory, his reminisces over the phone offer a sampling of the type of stories ticketholders will hear at “Dining with the Dynasty.”


“She was the greatest horsewoman I’ve ever known,” said Cruguet.   “We came to this country together in 1965, and if it hadn’t have been for her, no one would even know me today.  Not long after we got to this country, she was helpful in getting me the mount on (Jane Forbes Clark’s) Hoist The Flag, who was trained by her friend (and future Hall of Fame trainer) Sidney Watters Jr.


“Hoist The Flag was the best horse I ever rode, by far,” said Cruguet.  “It wasn’t Seattle Slew.  The first time I ever got on Hoist The Flag (as a 2-year-old), I told everyone I knew that I was going to win the Kentucky Derby with this horse.  The only reason I didn’t say ‘the Triple Crown’ was because I was so new in this county I didn’t even know what the Triple Crown was.  I’d never even heard of it.  If he hadn’t broke down (early in his 3-year-old season but eventually saved for stud duties), Hoist The Flag would have been 1-9 to win the Triple Crown.  Seattle Slew was a top miler, and because he was so much better than everyone else that year he was able to win the Triple Crown, but Hoist The Flag would have beat everyone else going any distance at any time.  He was just that much better than everyone else.”





Tom Nagle, a World War II veteran, former Cook County judge and volunteer at Chicago Botanic Garden, will celebrate his 87th birthday Aug. 12 as Arlington’s senior employee.


A resident of Northbrook, Illinois, Nagle began his Arlington career in 1995, but was honored with an early birthday present July 20 when he participated in the Honor Flight Chicago program that included a one-day trip to Washington, D. C.


Honor Flight Chicago is a non-profit organization existing to recognize honor and thank our nation’s military veterans, with particular emphasis on veterans of World War II.  Nagle, who served in the Navy as a radioman aboard the destroyer USS Brush during the Iwo Jima offensive, visited the World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and the Marine Corps Memorial during his trip to the nation’s capital.


Upon returning to Chicago after his long day, Nagle and his fellow veterans experienced a “Welcome Home” celebration including brass bands, banners, family members and a large crowd on hand to greet them.




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