With immediate interest focused on Arlington’s Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap this Friday on the Fourth of July, Chicago’s Thoroughbred racing fans should remember that July 12 is Million Preview Day, featuring Arlington’s final major local preps for the International Festival of Racing four weeks later on Aug. 9
Slated for the second Saturday of this month is the Grade II American Derby, middle leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple at 1 3/16-miles on turf in advance of the Grade I Secretariat at a mile and a quarter on grass; the Grade III Arlington Handicap at 10 furlongs as the final major local prep for this summer’s Arlington Million XXVI at that same distance; as well as the Grade III grassy Modesty Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 3/16-miles as the designated tune-up for the Grade I Beverly D., also at that distance over Arlington’s world-famous turf course.
Sand and See Stables’ Secret Getaway, prepping for a start in the American Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 with jockey Jesse Campbell astride. The sophomore son of Skip Away captured Woodbine’s $150,000 Victoria Park Stakes June 8 in his last trip to the post.
Also on Wednesday’s grass course tab was Frank Calabrese’s Lewis Michael, winner of last summer’s Grade II Washington Park Handicap here – but without a race this year. The 5-year-old son of Rahy breezed one mile in 1:45.20 with Florent Geroux up. Lewis Michael is expected to make his seasonal debut in Arlington’s $150,000 Sea o’ Erin Handicap July 26.
MILLER LITE PARTY IN THE PARK FEATURED ON FOURTH OF JULY
In addition to Friday’s featured Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap, Arlington will offer its Friday staple on this Fourth of July – the Miller Lite Party in the Park. This week’s band is the classic rock group “Nine Fifty,” with first song and first post at 1 p.m.
‘JUNIOR’ MAKES NAME FOR HIMSELF IN SUNDAY’S BLANKET FINISH
Fans of Arlington racing and discerning horsemen have quickly realized the talents of local newcomer Junior Alvarado, now on the cusp of the top 10 in Arlington’s jockey standings after registering his 17th win Sunday.
However, Alvarado’s latest win came in what most local observers have labeled the most exciting race ever run over Arlington’s Polytrack course – with seven horses within a half-length of each other on the wire.
Arlington announcer John G. Dooley – in one of his own most exceptional race calls – concluded his description of Sunday’s fourth race with a reference to a “mind-blowing” finish. It was every bit of that, with Alvarado besting his six photo-finish rivals.
After being shuffled back at the start, Alvarado wove his way between competitors to gain the fifth spot in mid-stretch and then continued willingly in the final furlong to be best by a neck at the wire aboard Betty Landoff, Robert Brandstetter and Earl Trostrud Jr.’s Rylee River. Behind him, the second, third, fourth and fifth finishers finished noses apart, with the sixth and seventh-place runners separated by a head.
Eight days earlier, Alvarado won his first local stakes race, capturing the $97,350 Lincoln Heritage Handicap astride Charles Sigrist and Del Sol Farm’s Lady Lionel, again after being squeezed at the break and forced to steady during the running.
Who is this guy, and how did he get such an unusual first name?
“My name was supposed to be Rafael Alvarado Jr.,” said the jockey, speaking through an interpreter, “but when my father went to register my name, it came out Junior Rafael Alvarado, and I’ve been called ‘Junior’ ever since.”
Born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, 23 years ago, Alvarado began his American riding career a year and a half ago in South Florida. At Gulfstream, he rode 15 winners this winter, but left Calder after their recent purse cuts.
“I thought about returning to Venezuela, but (Illinois-based) trainer Moises Yanez convinced me to come to Arlington,” Alvarado said. “It’s worked out well. I love riding on grass, and I love this grass course here in Chicago. I’d like to buy a home and settle down here with my wife Malaski.”
While still in South Florida, Alvarado rode for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, and was asked if he watched the Belmont Stakes and rooted for the Zito-trained Da’ Tara.
“Oh sure, I was rooting for Nick and Da’ Tara,” Alvarado said, “but I was wishing I was the one on the horse instead of Alan Garcia.”