Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Monday, May 2

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/02/2011 #
  • European Trainer to be Active at Arlington All Season Long
  • Three Different Post Times at Arlington for Opening Weekend

British-born Newmarket-based horseman Gerard Butler has invaded Arlington Park before – most recently during last summer’s International Festival of Racing when he saddled Michael Deegan’s Pachattack to finish sixth in the Grade I Beverly D. won by Richard L. Duchossois’ Éclair de Lune.

However, this season Butler is returning with a vengeance – arriving from overseas Sunday morning with a contingent of six or seven stakes-caliber horses scheduled to compete in Arlington’s major events throughout the 86-day spring and summer session which begins this Friday and runs through Sunday, Sept. 25.

Butler, who celebrated his 45th birthday last week, will be here Sunday to supervise the arrival of his Arlington string, return Great Britain shortly thereafter to oversee the bulk of his operation at Newmarket and then be back and forth across the Atlantic intermittently throughout the season.

“My assistant Andrew Morris will remain in Chicago to be in charge of the Arlington runners,” Butler explained Monday morning while speaking over the phone from Newmarket, “but I’ll be coming over at various times to saddle them in the bigger stakes races.

“Pachattack will be among the group leaving Newmarket Wednesday and arriving at Arlington Sunday morning,” said Butler, who spent four years in the United States as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and an additional nine months as an assistant to the late Rodney Rash.  “Pachattack dwelt ‘big-time’ leaving the gate in the Beverly D. last summer and lost all chance in the race.  Hopefully, if things go well for her at Arlington this season, down the line we’ll get another crack at the Beverly D. with her this year.

“However, if things go according to plan, we’ll be in action at Arlington long before that,” said Butler.  “We may even have two horses for the (Grade III) Hanshin Cup (first stakes race of the Arlington season May 21).  I have a horse named Beauchamp Viceroy who has been running on the all-weather tracks over here and is owned by Erik Penser.  I saddled Beauchamp Pilot and Compton Bolter for Mr. Penser in the Arlington Millions of 2003 and 2001.

“Another possibility I might have for the Hanshin (run at one mile over Arlington’s Polytrack) is Mark Johnston Racing’s Joe Le Taxi,” Butler said.  “He’s a ‘bread-and-butter’ type horse we have who has been running over some of our ‘all weather’ tracks over here.

“I’m bringing over an Irish-bred 3-year-old colt named Burj Alzain (owned by Mr. Asaad Al Banwan) who might fit very well into your Mid-America Triple Crown races,” Butler said of Arlington’s sophomore grass series that begins with the 77th running of the $100,000 Arlington Classic on May 28, continues with the 96th renewal of the Grade II American Derby July 9 and concludes with the 35th running of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on this year’s Arlington Million Day Aug. 13.

“I also have two 4-year-old fillies – (Michael Deegan’s) Maristar and (T. C. Stewart’s) Akhmatova – that both might fit in the (Grade III) Arlington Matron May 28,” Butler said.  “They’ve been running well over our ‘all-weathers’ over here – Maristar has won her last two and Akhmatova won two straight last November –  and both should like the Arlington Polytrack.

“Lastly, I have another owner who has been back and forth on the possibility of sending some horses over with this group of mine, but I’ve got to get back to him today and tell him he needs to make a decision.  He’s either going to be on the bus, or he’s not.  We’ll see about that shortly.”

Guests of Arlington Park and fans of Arlington’s simulcast signal should be aware that on Friday’s Opening Day program, gates will open at 11:15 a.m. and the races will start at 3 p.m.

There will be free admission for all customers on Opening Day and the first 5,000 customers will get a coupon good for a hot dog and a draft beer, or a hot dog and a soft drink for just a penny.  Also on Opening Day, Arlington will offer simulcast wagering on the Grade I Kentucky Oaks as well as advance wagering on Saturday’s Grade I Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum! Brands.

On Saturday at Arlington the local post time will be 12:15 p.m. with guests getting to enjoy Chicagoland’s Largest Kentucky Derby Day Party to include the chance to watch and wager on the Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs.

On Mother’s Day Sunday, when post time is slated for 1 p.m., the gates will open at 11:15 p.m. and the first 5,000 ladies through the gates will receive a free rose.

Also, there will be an opportunity to get a free keepsake photo with the whole family taken by one of Arlington’s roaming photographers, and of course there will also be pony rides and a petting zoo in the Park Area to keep the kids happy.