Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, June 3

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/03/2011 #

Jockey Carlos Castro Joins Nakatani At Arlington Park;Trainer Scott Becker Enjoying Fast 2011 Local Start; Saturday Kicks Off Northwestern Day at Arlington

Jockey Carlos Castro, who brought his tack to Arlington Park for the first time in his 10-year career earlier this week, celebrated a riding double Wednesday at the Chicago oval on the same day that the heralded west-coast veteran Corey Nakatani won aboard his first mount of the local season.

Castro, 29, who began his career in his native Puerto Rico after graduating from the jockey school there but has been riding in the United States for nine years, won Wednesday’s eighth race aboard Vladamir Kazakov’s Mr. Roessink for Russian-born conditioner Gennadi Dorochenko and came back to the winner’s circle after Wednesday’s finale astride Raut LLC’s L’Aiglon for that same trainer.

“(Dorochenko) is giving me a shot here at Arlington,” said Castro after completing the jockey-trainer double, “and I’m looking forward to riding for him.  I started riding in this country in Philadelphia but I’ve also ridden a lot at Penn National, Charles Town and Mountaineer.  I met Mr. Dorochenko at Mountaineer earlier this year and he asked me to come to Chicago.”

Nakatani, on the other hand, has switched his tack to Arlington on a full-time basis for the first time this season and won with his first local mount of the summer aboard William Stiritz’s Nagys Piggy Bank for trainer Scott Becker.

“Scottie’s just making me look good,” said Nakatani with a nod toward the trainer after dismounting. “I always enjoy coming back to Arlington because Mr. Duchossois and all the people at Arlington have treated me so well here over the years.”

Wednesday’s riding star turned out to be the veteran Chicago-based reinsman Timmy Thornton, who enjoyed a riding triple for day.  Thornton won the second half of the Daily Double aboard Mark Dedomenico’s Cam Fairfax R N and trainer Michael Reavis, the fifth on Iron County Farms’ Stouts Creek for conditioner Frank Kirby and the ninth astride Timothy Keeley’s The Best Option for trainer Steve Fridley.

Conditioner Scott Becker, runner-up in Arlington’s trainer standings entering Friday’s racing program, is off to his fastest start at Chicago’s northwest oval since becoming a solid presence at the local session since 2005.

“I thought we might get off to a good start here this summer because we had a lot of young horses ready to go,” said Becker, “but I honestly didn’t think we’d be doing this well.”

Becker, 42, a native of Belleville, Illinois, who still makes his home downstate, trains exclusively for William Stiritz, owner of Fairmount Park but also far in front in Arlington’s leading owner standings. Stiritz had more than twice as many wins as his nearest competitor entering Friday’s racing program while Becker was two wins shy of current leading conditioner Larry Rivelli.

Stiritz’s Proceed Bee won the 2009 Grade III Hawthorne Derby after taking Arlington’s $50,000 Honor Glide Stakes in his previous start, and captured Arlington’s $100,000 Illinois Owners Stakes as well as the $100,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap last season for Becker.

The owner-trainer tandem also campaigns Awesome Symmetry, undefeated in three starts this year as well as Racing Bran, runner-up in Prairie Meadows Grade II Cornhusker Handicap last summer.

Penciled in for Arlington’s upcoming Prairie State Festival Day June 25 is the Stiritz-Becker duo of My Sonny Boy, defending champion from last summer’s $100,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap and Domain’s Rap, runner up in last year’s $100,000 Futurity at Hawthorne.

Purple reigns this Saturday at Arlington Park when the first annual Northwestern Day at Arlington takes place in celebration of athletics and academics at Chicago’s Big Ten University.

Special Family Day activities with pony rides and a petting zoo will take place in the Park Area Saturday as part of Northwestern University Day and there will be Northwestern Band performances in between races.

During the afternoon there will be trophy presentations by head football Pat Fitzgerald, head basketball coach Bill Carmody and 10 others, and the Northwestern Cup will be presented to the winners of the fifth race of the day.