RENE READIES TO DEFEND ARLINGTON PARK CROWN

Arlington Park’s defending champion jockey Rene Douglas has now tied Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires with six riding titles at Chicago’s premier Thoroughbred oval and also remains the only jockey in Arlington Park history to win four successive riding crowns.

However, Douglas preferred to talk about how he might improve when encountered on the apron during training hours Wednesday morning – two days before the opening of Arlington’s 98-day 2009 session.

“I’m a very athletic guy and I want to focus on trying to do better each year,” said the 42-year-old native of Panama who began his career in 1981. “I’m still trying to learn something new every day. I watch the replays of all my races, and every time I see myself doing something I shouldn’t do I try to correct that mistake the next time.”

Despite his perennial dominance locally in recent seasons, Douglas shows no signs of wanting to lighten his workload. He is listed to ride seven of the 10 races on Friday’s opening day program before traveling to Louisville for his mount aboard WinStar Farm’s Advice in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby 135th running of the Kentucky Derby.

“I won the (Grade II) Lexington Stakes at Keeneland with this horse,” said Douglas of the Todd Pletcher trainee who is 30-1 in the Derby morning line but was also a 15-1 longshot in the Lexington. “I had a great meet at Keeneland and I’m looking forward to a great meet at Arlington. I always look forward to coming back here.”

One thing Douglas not done locally is win the Grade I Arlington Million – showcase race of the season – but on closing day at Keeneland last Friday, he won the Grade II Elkhorn Stakes with Harlequin Ranch’s Spice Route, a 5-year-old son of King’s Best who began his career in England but has been only been off the board once in his last seven American starts.

“He’s a very nice horse,” Douglas said of Spice Route, who has been nominated to the Arlington Million by his trainer Roger Attfield.

“I also worked (Phipps Stable’s) Dancing Forever the other Day at Keeneland,” said Douglas of the Shug McGaughey trainee who won the Elkhorn a year ago before winning Belmont’s Grade I Manhattan Handicap on last year’s Belmont Stakes Day.

“(Dancing Forever) worked great the other day (five furlongs in 1:02 April 18),” said Douglas. “Shug gave him a little time after the Breeders’ Cup (Turf) last year, and it seems to have done him a lot of good.

“Better to have two chances than one,” concluded Douglas, of the potential of conflicting mounts for this summer’s Arlington Million Day Aug. 8.


ASSISTANT TRAINER ROBIN WIGGINS RETURNS TO WORK

Assistant trainer Robin Wiggins, wife of trainer Lon Wiggins, returned to work Wednesday morning at Arlington Park as she continues to recuperate from life-threatening head injuries sustained in a fall last winter.

“I’m just happy to be here at all,” said Mrs. Wiggins, who was released from the hospital Tuesday evening. “It was a little chilly riding into work with Lon this morning, but I rolled my window down anyway. I was really enjoying just being able to be breathing the fresh air outside. I’m very, very grateful to be here.”

Robin Wiggins is also the daughter-in-law of trainer Hal Wiggins, who will saddle prohibitive favorite Rachel Alexandra, owned by L & M Partners, in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.