Sunday, May 27, 2012

Arlington Park Barn Noes: Sat. May 26

Gaelic football, or rugby as Americans know it, is a rough game which Irish-born Arlington-based trainer John Haran played for about 15 of his younger years and coached for another five.

Then, after coming to the United States in 1985, Haran got into the construction business for another two decades, but when the bottom fell out of that industry about five years ago Haran became increasingly involved with breeding, owning and now training Thoroughbreds.

“Now, I coach horses,” Haran said, noting the irony of his latest occupation as a trainer of the breed, begun in earnest at the beginning of the Arlington meeting last year. “I was always around horses growing up. My grandfather was a blacksmith, and I grew up on a family farm back in Ireland, and after I came to this country I owned and operated Eagle Valley Farm in Kentucky. I owned and raced a couple of horses and then I retired them to be broodmares but my one or two broodmares quickly became five or 10 and pretty soon that number grew to about 80. That was way too many. Now, I’m down to about 40.

“Although I owned a lot of horses and had to have a trainer’s license to operate the training center in Kentucky, I had other trainers race them for me at the track,” Haran said. “Eddie Kenneally trained for me and then I had others with guys like Frank Kirby, Ray Sibille and Eduardo Caramori.

“Then last year I started training my own horses,” Haran said. “Believe me, training my own horses has quickly taught me to have great respect for my fellow trainers. It’s not easy to do and the racing at Arlington is very tough. Recently, I sold the farm in Kentucky because it got to be too much – driving seven hours down there and seven hours back. That took up two days of the week. Now, I own a much smaller farm down in Peotone, about 80 miles south of Arlington, and I’m up and down from there to here all the time. I raise, grow and bale my own hay down there to save money and I’ll start doing straw at the end of this month. That should take care of the barn for the year. However, this has been a very tough year for the breeding business, because with all the warmer than usual weather we’ve had this year a lot of mares are still making the transition. Their cycles have gotten way off and it’s been very frustrating trying to get them in foal.

“But the part of this business I enjoy the most is pulling the foal out of the mare, watching the foal grow up, starting to train it and then, hopefully, making the horse a winner,” Haran said. “I never go to sales and buy horses. I put all my hopes in the horses I breed, and I’ve got two good assistants here named Carlos Ramirez and Richard Pidgo and two more assistants down at the farm.

“I had 14 wins at Arlington last summer,” Haran said, “and this year I’ve had four wins already at Arlington. Hopefully, we’ll continue to progress during the summer. We’ve got some nice 2-year-olds we have high hopes for, but I’m still looking for the big horse. So far, my best horse has been Italian Breeze. He has two wins here this season.

“You know, I got all my love for these horses from my mother while I was growing up,” Haran concluded with a twinkle in his eye. “I blame her for getting me involved in this crazy business. She was the instigator in all of this.”

With a riding triple Friday, Arlington’s Irish-born jockey champion James Graham narrowed the young 2012 season’s victory gap behind current leading rider Francisco Torres to three wins entering Saturday’s program.

After taking Friday’s sixth race aboard Larry Owens’ Powerful Zen for conditioner Mark Cristel, Graham returned to the winner’s circle after Friday’s eighth race astride Wexler Racing Stables’ Greytap for trainer Frank Kirby and then completed the second half of Friday’s late daily double on Feel the Thunder Stable, John Adger and Mike Stidham Lady Candidate for trainer Stidham.

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