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Barn Notes: Saturday, May 3
In Today’s Notes: Olczyk Filly Wins Opening Day Finale; Sheldon Russell Wastes No Time on a First Impression; Defending Champ Esquivel “Maintains Title” Opening Day
OLCZYK FILLY WINS OPENING DAY FINALE
Chicago Blackhawk legend Eddie Olczyk was on hand at Arlington International Racecourse on Opening Day to cheer on his new acquisition, Lavender Patch, to victory in the finale – a six-furlong allowance for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old bay filly was making only her sixth career start and first for new owner Olczyk and trainer Tammy Domenosky.
“We claimed her out of Turfway (Park) from a trainer we thought we could improve upon,” explained Olczyk. “All credit to Tammy for doing what was right and getting her better manners in the gate.”
Lavender Patch, a daughter of Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Artie Schiller out of a mare by Royal Academy (also a Breeders’ Cup Mile victor) was guided quickly to the front by reigning Arlington champion jockey Emmanuel Esquivel and maintained that advantage through quick fractions of :22.69 and :45.77. Despite the swift pace, the filly was moving easily – ears pricked – and asserted her dominance under a drive to win the race by nearly two lengths.
Domenosky was visibly pleased with the result. “We didn’t expect her to run so well based on her form, but we think highly of her,” stated the talented 31-year-old conditioner.
“We claimed her with the idea of putting her on grass here at Arlington,” Olczyk added. “The pedigree was a big reason we bought her.” Bred by the Chandler Family’s famed Mill Ridge Farm, a stud famed for producing solid grass horses like multiple graded stakes-winning local favorite Willcox Inn and 2013 Grade I Secretariat Stakes runner-up Stormy Len, Lavender Patch counts European champions Alleged, Soviet Star and Nureyev in her first four generations.
As far as today’s Kentucky Derby selections – a race for which Olczyk gave out the winning superfecta on NBC during a hockey telecast immediately preceding the 2013 Derby – he is taking current 21-1 shot Vicar’s In Trouble, who breaks from the rail under Rosie Napravnik for trainer Mike Maker and owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.
SHELDON RUSSELL WASTES NO TIME ON A FIRST IMPRESSION
New addition to the jockey colony, multiple Mid-Atlantic riding champion Sheldon Russell made quick work of a first impression on his initial ride of the meet. In the first race of the meet, the England-raised 26-year-old guided the Hugh Robertson-owned and -trained Forest King to a rail-skimming win by four lengths.
The race itself was a dramatic one for Russell, as the reins snapped on the horse early on, creating some anxious moments. “It happened so quickly. As soon as we broke out the gate, I felt the rein come right back at me,” he explained. “In the first three or four jumps it just snapped. I had the inside rein and was lucky enough that the horse was very coherent and got me around the turn.”
With such an obvious disadvantage, the open-length victory was even more impressive. A lot can be said for the calm nature of Russell, as he never seemed to appear panicked at any moment during the race. “I was not really paying attention to winning as much as I was keeping the horse balanced,” he explained. “But, the rail opened up at the top of the stretch. I rode him up the inside and he won it well.”
In his first race on Polytrack in a very long time – a surface he was greatly familiar with from his early riding days in England – Russell seemed equally as agreeable. “The track felt great. It was a nice compact field and a comfortable situation,” he said. “A great first ride.”
DEFENDING CHAMP ESQUIVEL “MAINTAINS TITLE” OPENING DAY
Opening Day saw the return of reigning champion jockey Emmanuel Esquivel, who took an early lead as the only rider with multiple wins on the day. The Chicago-raised Esquivel, who became the first apprentice to land an Arlington International Racecourse title since 1940, looks to win his first as a journeyman and become first back-to-back champ since Rene Douglas in 2009.
Esquivel won the fourth race by a hard-fought neck on Carson Springs Farm, Letto Thoroughbreds and JKR Investments’ aptly named Heart Stopper and the finale on Eddie Olczyk’s new acquisition Lavender Patch. Esquivel is represented, once again, by Ben Allen.