Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, May 13

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/13/2011 #

Tajaaweed Back to Try for Another Arlington Million Run; Introducing Trainer W. T. (Tom) Howard to Arlington Fans

TAJAAWEED BACK TO TRY FOR ANOTHER ARLINGTON MILLION RUN      Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, third beaten a length and a half in last summer’s Grade III Arlington Handicap and then eliminated from contention in the Grade I Arlington Million after being held up in close quarters early, returned to competition by finishing second beaten three-quarters of a length in last Sunday’s $80,000 allowance optional claiming feature at Arlington in his first start of 2011.

“We were pleased with his race the other day,” said Tajaaweed’s trainer Danny Peitz Wednesday morning.  “He did everything but win.  Obviously, we would have been happier if he had won it, but all in all we were happy with his effort.

“We gave Tajaaweed the whole winter off,” said Peitz.  “After Arlington last summer we ran him in a couple of races at Keeneland (including a fourth-place finish in the Grade III Sycamore Stakes), but after a little time on the farm in Lexington we sent him back to (Shadwell’s Camden, South Carolina) farm where he had spent the previous winter.

“He looks like he’s come back a little bigger and a little stronger this year, and for now I would think the whole idea is to try to earn another free ride to the Million,” Peitz said. “We’ll look around for another race for him in a few weeks and if that goes well we’ll probably take a look at the Arlington Handicap (July 9) once again.”      

After campaigning his horses at Louisiana Downs during recent summers following the Oaklawn Park season, trainer W. T. (Tom) Howard decided it was time for a change and has brought his stable to Arlington Park for the first time this year.

“Louisiana Downs is going down instead of up these last few years,” said Howard, speaking on the apron during training hours this week.  “We had a home just three miles from Louisiana Downs, and it was hard to give up the convenience of that, but we wanted to go to a track where things were moving forward.  Fortunately, (Arlington racing secretary) Chris Polzin was nice enough to give us stalls up here.

“This facility is just beautiful,” said Howard as he gestured toward the stands behind him.  “It’s like being in Disneyland.  But what has impressed us most is how nice everyone has been to us since we got here.  No matter where we go, everyone seems to be so anxious to help us get adjusted to our new surroundings.  Everyone goes out of their way to make us feel at home.”     

Howard served as an assistant trainer for Cole Norman during the years that Norman was leading trainer at Oaklawn beginning in the late 1990s, but the Oklahoma-born Howard went out on his own in 2001.  His wife Kathy serves as his assistant at the barn as well as a racing advisor for Frank Fletcher Racing Operations.

Racing fans at Oaklawn might remember her as jockey Kathy Moore, where she reigned as Oaklawn’s all-time leading female rider throughout the 1980s until jockey Cindy Noll came along in the 1990s and finally surpassed Moore’s totals in 1999.

“Cindy and I got to be good friends when she came to Oaklawn,” said Mrs. Howard, “and if somebody had to beat my record I’m glad it was her.  I had given up riding by then and was working as a racing official.  In fact, as she got close to the mark, Oaklawn kept buying a flower display to present her when she broke my mark, but then she hit a little slump for a few days and kept giving the flowers to me.  We had a lot of fun with that for a week or so.

“I gave up riding in 1994,” Mrs. Howard concluded.  “When Fair Grounds burned down in 1993, I lost all my tack in that fire.  I went out and bought all new tack but by that time everybody had started wearing flak jackets and I could never get to feeling comfortable in those things.  I realized it was time for me to just hang it up.”

Howard trains for Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and that ownership’s Admiral Rocket finished third in his first start over Polytrack on opening day here last week.  Howard’s other owner is Lewis Mathews, for whom he trains a 4-year-old gelding named Gentle Moment that was claimed from trainer Steve Asmussen for $7,500 early in the Fair Grounds meeting.  In his only start for Howard, Gentle Moment finished second over Oaklawn’s main track, but as a son of Yankee Gentleman, there is a lot of grass potential in his pedigree as evidenced by his appearance in Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Gentilly Stakes last year.