With horse vans beginning to back-up on the access road leading into the Arlington Park stable area, a decision was made to spring the gates a few minutes ahead of the planned 7 a.m. opening, which pleased both the humans and equines patiently waiting in vehicles just outside the entrance.
First to arrive as usual was Steve Hobby, who drove his truck through the gates at about 6:50 a.m. ahead of the three Creech horse vans that were carrying a total of 21 horses for the affable trainer.
Hobby, who tied for eighth in the 2008 Arlington Park trainer standings with 20 victories, is returning off a successful stand at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., where he tallied 18 wins to tie for third in the standings there.
“We didn’t have quite as good a year at Oaklawn as we did last year (finishing second), but it was good,” Hobby said. “It’s funny, we left Hot Springs yesterday morning and all the trees were in finally in bloom there and we get to Chicago and there’s not a leaf on a tree yet, but that means I get two springs. It was actually a cool spring down there – we had the horses wearing blankets almost the whole meet.”
Not too far behind the Hobby horses this morning was a Sallee van with four horses for trainer Jerry Quinn, who was also shipping in from Oaklawn.
“I have four horses here today and have another two coming,” said Quinn, whose horses were taking up residence in Barn 23. “I like it in Hot Springs, but I much prefer it here at Arlington. I thought I might be first in, but Hobby beat me by 15 minutes.”
Completing the early morning trifecta of arrivals from Hot Springs were two Sallee vans containing eight horses trained by Lon Wiggins. The horses were being bedded down in Barn 7 on the local backstretch while Wiggins himself was still en route.
Others expected to arrive during the course of the day Wednesday were horses trained by Austin Smith, Larry Rivelli and Rick Slomkowski.