Happy Trails to the Arlington Park 2011 Meet

Before we review the Arlington meet, I’d like to extend my deepest sympathy to the Reynolds family.  It’s hard to believe that Tim “Tiznow” Reynolds is no longer with us.  He was the biggest fan of racing that any of us knew and he was well-versed in many aspects of our sport.  Let’s not forget Tim’s legacy as a world-class fan and person and let’s realize that we need more fans like him.  Rest in peace Tim, I’m happy that you were able to visit us at the Arlington Million this summer.

What an amazing ride Arlington Park’s 2011 meet was!  I was enthralled by the horses, the action, and the people.  Chicago racing returned to top form this year with full, quality fields not only in the stakes races but in the normal race day schedule as well.  The track also provided value to its customers with excellent payouts (which I will detail out below including my friend Travis’ 35-1 score on closing day) and promotions.  

Let’s dive into the recap of the Arlington 2011 meet.

Again, Arlington did not disappoint in their quest to draw world-class horses to their graded stakes races this year.  Not only were we blessed with the presence of my favorite horse Gio Ponti (whom I hope I get to visit some time) but also:
•    Cape Blanco,
Stacelita, and Treasure Beach showed their European Grade 1 dominance on turf on a rainy Million day.
•    Willcox Inn first won the Arlington Classic by 2 ½ lengths and then was quite impressive with a 4-length victory in the American Derby on July 9th giving Mike Stidham two in a row for that Grade 2 stake as well as making a bid for the Mid-America Triple.
•    Tajaaweed closed in from behind and took over in the stretch to win the Arlington Handicap on Million preview day.
•    Pachattack was much the best by 6 lengths in the Arlington Matron Handicap (and second in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.)
•    Devil By Design used a stalking trip to score in the Chicago Handicap.
•    Workin For Hops returned to Chicago to take another stakes victory, this time in the Hanshin.
•    Finally, how can we forget the new stakes record set by Fantasia in the Modesty Handicap?

Other local favorites that I also enjoyed watching this summer included
Tazz, Helicopter, Pirates Vow, Zipping Away, Top Surprize, and newly-retired Set In Stone.  

In a tight race to the finish Larry Rivelli took home the training title this summer with 39 wins; two ahead of
Scott Becker and five ahead of Wayne CatalanoJim DiVito was making significant strides at the end of the meet ending up with 31 wins overall.  Tim Ice also did very well in his first season in Chicago with 14 wins and 28 finishes on the board in only 62 starts.  I was very glad to have met Tim and have been able to write a blog post about him too!  For my first time in a stable (along with my daughter Greer) I was absolutely amazed by how well cared for and fit and trim these horses were.  

In my first ever visit to morning workouts, a jockey named James Graham noticed that Chris Szulc, my best friend Jason Katz, and I were STILL on the rail as he passed by on one horse after another.  He quipped at us “are you still here?”  That very jockey ended up winning the riding title this summer with a total of 82 victories. 
Jozbin Santana and Junior Alvarado (who missed time with a broken collar bone earlier in the season) each came in second with 79 wins each.  I also had the pleasure of meeting one of the classiest people in racing all together, jockey Chris EmighScott Dick’s blog about Chris earlier this summer was spot on.  

My second blog post ever was regarding the early value and returns that Arlington offered.  I’m proud to say that the value carried all the way through the entire season.  Check out these average payouts (certainly no chalk factories here)!

•    Win - $12.36
•    Double - $109.18
•    Exacta - $86.36
•    Trifecta - $158.32 (50 cent)
•    Superfecta - $208.33 (10 cent)
•    Pick 4 - $1443.04 (50 cent)

Whoa, right?  Horses that left the gate between 7/2 and 9/1 won an astounding 32.6% of the time!  

All of this pales in comparison to the people that I have been able to meet and connect with this season.  I first just want to say thanks to the opportunity afforded to me by Brian Zipse and Dave Zenner!! My first season as a credentialed press member in Chicago was the most amazing experience ever.  While I have been a fan of racing for some time this is the closest I have ever been to the action and have enjoyed every minute of it.  

I have also made some new Chicago-based racing friends and acquaintances that I will be able to talk racing with and enjoy races with forever.  These folks include Stats Master E (Eric Slora), Chris Szulc of Horizon Racing, Robert Potter, Tom Dubrick, Joe Kristufek, Brian W. Spencer, Janine Starykowicz, Jim Miller, MJ McLaughlin, Dahlia Fazioli, Jennifer Wirth-Ice, and fellow Minnesotan Dave Miller.  It’s been a pleasure to meet and hang out with you all!  

For anyone that visits Arlington Park, you are familiar with that final song as you leave the track for the day; Happy Trails.  Well as we ride off into the Arlington Heights sunset for the season, let us not forget that there is still racing in Chicago!  Hawthorne’s fall meet begins on 10/1/11 and I, the Chicago Dark Horse, will be covering the fall and spring meets.  I’ve actually never been to or wagered at Hawthorne and I am completely looking forward to this new experience.  

So with that we bid Arlington adieu, and say hello to Hawthorne.

What were your favorite memories of this year’s Arlington meet?



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Older Comments about Happy Trails to the Arlington Park 2011 Meet...

Let's hope the gambling bill gets passed with slots at the race tracks.
Hopefully this clears this up, I haven't turned into a turncoat.I do miss playing at home,I do miss my friends, and family and the Great things to see and do back in Chicago. We must admit though that the terain of Illinois racing has changed a lot since the 1970's we've lost numerous farms to Shopping malls and sudivisions.We have lost Trainers who left Illinois to race elsewhere,because horsemen have gotten the short end of the stick in Illinois for far to long,and you know that that is True. What say you to that ?
szulcc,I never said that we should end racing in Illinois forever.Nor did I imply that.There are a lot of good illinois horsemen around,and a lot of us whos careers in racing started in good ol Land of Lincoln. Still working at tracks around our Country and the World. However,New York finally got slots and they have been trying for longer than us. How long must we endure, without slots? Plus you're right about what you sat as to the difference between Arlington and Hawthorne clientel. At times I do miss racing at home along with our going to see ourHawks,Bears, Cubbies,Sox,
It was so great getting to know you Chris, and most everyone else you've mentioned. You're doing a great job as the Chicago Dark Horse, and you eloquently brought the big events and heartwarming aspects of the premier Chicago meet to your audience. Enjoyed reading your posts, and look forward to more...as we move on to Hawthorne. My fave AP memories included the smaller races as much as the big ones...especially those that yielded winners. Friday afternoons...an instant tonic for the stress of the work week. The intensity and passion of James Graham. And oh, yeah...hearing Happy Trails at the end of a racing day! The last one on Sunday, I hung around for...I wanted to soak it all in, just one last time.
Hawthorne is the exact opposite of AP. NOt that that is a bad thing but it is defnitely not the same experience.
  • szulcc · You're Right, night and day between Stickney and Arlington Heights. For the most part same horses and horsemen, but different bettors and visitors to the track. Atmosphere is also much different, a bit more unruly and cut-throat than Arlington, more "blue-collar" city-like compared to suburban Arlington. I love it. · 2244 days ago
Hawthorne, has a diffeerent clientel compared to AP, you'll see some of the same Trainers and Jockey's as at AP. However,the best days for Haw,are unfortunately behind that intown track.,and has been for quite some time ( like 1978 it should have closed with the traumatic fire the occured that year to the grandstand and Clubhouse ) AP gets the best dates ,far better horses,and location. Why not just toss in the towel HAW. and let AP extend their dates as has been discussed before?
  • szulcc · Disagree with this, of course we all know Hawthorne is holding out in case we get slots which will help both tracks. Owners and trainers also want Hawthorne running in the fall and spring as most don't want to ship all or most of their stock elsewhere. And AP just wants their dates for dark-period simulcasting revenue, NOT to extend their meet. Horsemen would have to move their stock elsewhere or get out of the business forever. · 2244 days ago
I enjoyed watching /simulcast of the AP Million,looks like the Euros are going to beat usin the BC Turf as well .Especially if we use the AP Million as a yardstick, to guide our judgement.
you are a true friend chris and a great writer.
Great coverage of Arlington, Chris! Treasure Beach's Secretariat was the AP meet highlight for me :)
Interesting John, can you elaborate on that?
Some of the links are surprises though, stay on your toes!
I loved Fantasia's Modesty win as well as the Arlington Million...I think Arlington had a great racing season! Also loved Stacelita. You're the master of "links" in these posts, great piece Chris!
Thank you, Chris ... It was a great meet at Arlington, and becoming friends with you was one of the highlights.

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