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Barn Notes: Friday, May 9, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/09/2014 #

In Today’s Notes: Catalano Operation an Evolution of Excellence; Arlington Sprint Rematch in Sunday Allowance Feature

CATALANO OPERATION AN EVOLUTION OF EXCELLENCE
“This is what I do.  I train horses,” veteran Arlington International Racecourse trainer Wayne Catalano stated frankly.  “I’m going to do that and whatever we have is going to go where it’s supposed to go to win.”

Such a simple philosophy for the 10-time leading Arlington conditioner is less terse and more transparent, for the straightforward focus of his operation is success on all levels attempted.  After a season in which his 70 wins – a total eclipsed only by his own marks of 75 (2010) and 74 (2007) – and six stakes wins quelled his competition, the focal point is no less defined in 2014 – even if the maturation of his team has changed the approach to the game.

“What we’re going to do here is a ‘come-from-behind’,” Catalano laughed.  “We will have a big presence.  We’re going to do what we usually do – we’re going to win races – but we’ll probably be doing it a little bit later, I think.”

In years past, especially in 2013, the Catalano barn has struck hard and early with its charges at Arlington.  This year, the stable has spread and grown with presences at Churchill Downs and Monmouth Park – it addition to its Chicago home.  “Mr. West and Benny (owner Gary West and stable manager Benny Glass) have a lot of dirt horses, so we will send a few of those east for those opportunities, but some will also be kept here,” Catalano explained.  “The horses that fit on the synthetic and will definitely be here running.

“We will also have some young ones come up who will be just getting ready to run,” Catalano continued.  Always dangerous with his young horses – as evidenced by his two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies trophies – one of those six 2013 stakes was a victory by Susan Moulton’s synthetic and turf specialist Solitary Ranger in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity.  That same colt will possibly be back in action at Arlington as soon as May 24. 

“Solitary Ranger has some distance limitations.  The (Grade III Arlington Classic) is at 1 1/16-miles – that one we will put a question mark on, for sure - a possible,” he reported.  “The first big stakes we will run in will probably be the (Grade III) Hanshin (Cup) – we’ll run a horse called Pass the Dice (owned by West) in that one.” 

Equally a force on the lawn – as one must be to dominate at Arlington – Catalano is excited to unleash one of his best fillies – Aurelia’s Belle – on the world-renowned turf course later in the season.  Last week, the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid was unplaced in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. 

“Aurelia’s Belle is doing really well.  She didn’t handle the last part of the dirt track as well as we thought she might, but she’s probably a lot better on the Polytrack than dirt.  We are really excited to try her on the grass.  We will have her here and hope to run her in the stakes down the road like the (Grade III) Pucker Up (Stakes) – maybe the (Grade III Arlington) Oaks in July.”

With more stakes-level horses, the Catalano operation has developed into a formidable beast of success – even if it is a different animal than it once was.  “Years ago when we had (eight-time champion) Frank Calabrese as an owner and his manager Steve Leving, we would claim and buy horses who fit this track and be stacked for the meet.  It’s a different operation, now, but we still have a lot of horses who will do well,” he explained.  “Being spread out sometimes dilutes you a little bit.  But, in this day and age, when you get to a certain level, you have to be ready for races all around the country.

“We are now developing horses who can run in the big races – the stakes races – not just here, but everywhere,” said Catalano.  “We have graduated up.  We are looking for the stock that will get us there.  The whole point now is to get to the classics.”

Still, the soon-to-be 58-year-old is overjoyed to have a little time to return to the Arlington backside.  “You know – it is nice to be home and I wish I could stay longer,” he said with sobering coherence.  “In the old days we would stay for five or six months, but I will be traveling around.  We have a lot of top horses and running around the country is the price you gotta pay.”

Never one to neglect recognizing the full spectrum of his success and his ever-evolving objectives, Catalano was quick to point out how he has attained such.  “The two biggest reasons we’ve been successful have been the horses and the clientele – but the main ingredient that makes it all work is the help,” he said humbly.  “We have great people behind us.  We couldn’t do it without them.”

Though the sheer breadth of his operation may diffuse his perspective on the prospect of a repeat of 2013’s accomplishments, one would be short-sighted to assume that the second-leading all-time Arlington trianer does not have another title within his ever-evolving vision of excellence.

ARLINGTON SPRINT REMATCH IN SUNDAY ALLOWANCE
Margaret Burlingham’s swift warrior Saint Leon returns on Sunday in an allowance optional claiming event on the second Sunday of the 2014 meet – the exact date of the meet as his debut in 2013 – under identical conditions.  Though he was impressive last year at age eight upon return from his winter vacation, the son of Stravinsky will have his work cut out for him as he takes on graded stakes winner Hogy, against whom he battled the length of the stretch in last year’s Listed Arlington Sprint – arguably one of the most exciting races of the 2013 meet. 

“He’s nine now, so I’m beginning to wonder if he will be the same, but he’s always been lightly raced,” explained trainer Michele Boyce.  “He loves coming back to the track and loves to let us know who’s boss.”

William Stiritz’s Hogy will be making his return to Arlington after a 2013 season that saw him annex the Grade III Hanshin Cup, in addition to his runner up in the Sprint.  He exits a solid fourth-place finish in the Grade III Shakertown Stakes – a turf sprint – at Keeneland.  Hogy, trained by Scott Becker, will break from post two, while Saint Leon landed in the four-hole in the six-horse field.  The Sunday feature goes as the fifth of nine races.