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Joe Kristufek's Meet-End Awards
There will be no trophies, acceptance speeches, bad jokes, or guest musical acts, but please tune in anyway -- it’s time to hand out the DAK Awards for the 2008 meet at Arlington.
Jockey of the Meet: Rene Douglas is the only jockey in the history of Arlington to win four consecutive titles (2001-04). He captured this year’s crown, his sixth overall, by a wide margin, and won five graded stakes, including the Grade I Secretariat aboard Winchester.
Honorable mention: Earlie Fires, Jesse Campbell, Inez Karlsson, & Brandon Meier.
Jockey Agent of the meet: Super agent Dennis Cooper booked mounts for Arlington’s leading jock for the eighth time in the last nine seasons (Mark Guidry ’00, Douglas ’01-04 and ’07-08, and Shaun Bridgmohan ’05). Jesse Campbell, the other jock in his stable, is currently second in the Arlington standings.
Honorable mention: Penny Ffitch-Heyes enjoyed an incredible second half of the meet. She won a boatload of races with apprentice Inez Karlsson and journeyman E. T. Baird, who got off to a late start at the meet, and did it all while pushing a baby carriage around all summer!
Trainer of the Meet: This was a one-horse race. Wayne Catalano isn’t going to break his own single season Arlington record of 74 wins that he established last season, but he may actually be enjoying his best meet to date. He took down his seventh Arlington title in the last nine years, scoring at an unconscionable 41% clip (through 9-16).
Honorable mention: Chris Block, Larry Rivelli, Dale Bennett, Todd Pletcher & Rusty Arnold.
Owner of the Meet: With four days remaining in the meet as this goes to press, Frank Calabrese, is six wins away from equaling his own Arlington record of 74 wins established last year. He also wears the Arlington earnings crown for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.
Honorable mention: William Stiritz, Montesano Racing, Team Block, Alex and Joanne Lieblong, Miller Racing Stable and Joseph Novogratz.
Horse of the Meet: This was a tough call. My self imposed rule in this category – the horse must have run at least twice at the meet, and one of those starts had to produce a stakes victory. After careful consideration, the title goes to Mr. Nightlinger. The winner of an overnight stake in his first run over the Arlington turf course, he returned to wax a quality field in the Arlington Sprint, and he’s currently one of the favorite for the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint to be held at the end of October.
Honorable mention: Coragil Cat. Amazing Results, Dreaming of Liz, Communique, Apple Martini, Magnetic Miss, Silverfoot, Stream Cat, Lucky Copy & General Charley.
Claimer of the Meet ($25K or less): Kemp was one of only three horses to win as many as four races at the meet, the others being Subcultural Girl and Rotary. The first three scores came on Polytrack, but he actually broke the “about” five-furlong course record on turf in his most recent outing.
Honorable mention: Subcultural Girl, Gold Spike, Sully’s Wish, Pisces Poem, A. J.’s Conquest, Buddha Pass, Miss Classified & Tony Terrific.
Performance of the Meet: I’ll have to call this a tie between Winchester and C. S. Silk. The Euro raider Winchester dominated the Grade I Secretariat, running faster than Million winner Spirit One. C. S. Silk stamped herself as a major Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies contender with a visually impressive score in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie. She pressed a fast pace, and still won with plenty left in the tank, defeating a talented field in the process.
Honorable mention: Maurakalana (Beverly D.), Mr. Nightlinger (Arlington Sprint), Stream Cat (Arlington Handicap), Communique (Modesty) & Sky Mom (Arlington Oaks).
Rising Star of the Meet (jockey) – Can’t split ‘em. This is a dead-heat between two very promising apprentice riders in Brandon Meier and Inez Karlsson. Currently fifth and sixth respectively in the overall standings (through Sept. 16), they are separated by just two wins in the race for top bug honors. Karlsson and Meier ran one-two in the August Arlington standings. Word on the backstretch is that Meier is going to test the very tough waters of Southern California, while Karlsson should contend for the riding title at Hawthorne.
Rising Star of the Meet (horse) – In order to qualify, the horse has to be 3-years old or younger and have started at Arlington at least twice at the meet. The Wayne Catalano-trained 2-year-old Jose Adan won the first two starts of his career after it looked like he was hopelessly beaten in both. It was dejavu all over again in the Grade III Arlington- Washington Futurity. He popped out of the ground late to defeat 11 rivals at double-digit odds, but was disqualified for crossing over in the deep stretch in what was a very tough call.
Honorable mention: Amazing Results, Advice, Dreaming of Liz, Apple Martini, Lucky Copy, Mr. Mischief, My Dominick James & Wildeyedsouthernboy.
Rising Star of the Meet (trainer) – He’s been successful on the Chicago circuit for many years, but Larry Rivelli gets the nod in this category anyway. Always a high strike trainer in the claiming ranks, he showed an ability to develop 2-year-olds this meet, winning several baby races and starting the two-time stakes winner and Arlington 4 ½- furlong track record holder My Dominick James in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity.
Honorable mention: Terry Gestes, Rebecca Maker and Lon Wiggins.
Comeback Player of the Meet: Don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years. With thoughts of retirement dancing around in his head, Hall of Famer Earlie Fires enjoyed one of his finest seasons in quite some time. Last year he won with 23 of his 202 mounts. Buoyed by strong support from the mighty Team Calabrese, the 61-year-old Fires scored with 35 of his 154 mounts this season (23%), good enough for 11th in the standings.
Honorable mention: Ramsey Zimmerman.
Newcomer of the Meet: Seemingly out of nowhere, Junior Alvarado posted a top ten finish in the Arlington standings, bagging 51 wins from 393 mounts, with 17 of those scores coming for trainer Moises Yanez. He displayed determination, strength and solid timing. If he decides to remain in Chicago, he will be a force on this circuit for years to come.
Most Exciting Race of the Meet: One would think this would have to be a graded stake, but I’m going to go in a different direction. On June 29 in a conditioned claimer, Rylee River closed from out of the clouds to win a SEVEN-HORSE photo finish. That’s right the horse who finished seventh was defeated by only a half-length for the win, and he didn’t even earn a check!
Head Scratcher of the Meet: A certain maiden drove trainer Chris Block Applesolutely Wild this meet. The 4-year-old Illinois-bred gelding by that name finished second in his lone start of ’07, and he was the runner-up in all six of his starts this summer at Arlington. Seven starts, seven seconds, and he was favored to win in six of those races!