Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sat. July 9

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/10/2011 #

In Today’s Notes:  Santana Celebrates ‘Daddy’ of All Weeks at Arlington; Clocker Bobby Belpedio – Chicago’s Original Clocker Bob; Block, Maker Have Horses in Three Million Preview Day Stakes; Virginia H. Tarra Trust Selected as Illinois Breeder of the Year

On Monday, the Fourth of July, Arlington’s current leading jockey J. Z. Santana became the father of a little girl for the first time in his life, and on Friday, the night before Million Preview Day at Arlington Park, the Puerto Rican-born 32-year-old rider scored a hat trick and celebrated his 1,000-career victory with his final mount of the day.

Santana’s 1,000th lifetime win came aboard James DiVito, Vince Swartz and Joe Paglini’s Clocker Bob, who is trained by DiVito and returned an $8.40 straight price.  He had recorded his first win of the day in the opener on Ron Magers, Roe Conn, Robert Marcocchio and Russell Scurto’s Third Chance, also trained by DiVito, who paid $3 as the odd-on choice.  However, in the sixth race, Santana’s mount Hot Kitten, owned by Robert Heckman and trained by Michele Boyce returned $46.40 to win, easily the highest win price of the afternoon.

"I’d just like to thank God and all the people in Chicago who have used me to ride their horses,” said Santana, who is riding in just his second season at Arlington and tied for leading rider honors at Hawthorne this spring.  “I just take things day by day and do the best I can with every horse I ride.”

Clocker Bob, the sophomore gelding who gave jockey J. Z. Santana his 1,000th career victory, is owned by James DiVito, Vince Swartz and Joe Paglini and is trained by DiVito.

It was DiVito who renamed the son of Bandini, who went through his sale as Uncle Kitchy, in honor of his longtime friend and longtime Arlington Park clocker Bobby Belpedio at the beginning of the 2011 Arlington season.

Belpedio, born in Chicago and a 1962 graduate of St. Rita, is a Vietnam veteran who started out on the racetrack as a jockey’s agent and quit his last rider (now Arlington Park’s perennial leading trainer Wayne Catalano) to become a clocker in Illinois in 1978.

Over the last 33 years, Belpedio has become a staple among Arlington’s close knit family of horsemen and when DiVito invited him down to the winner’s circle to share in Clocker Bob’s victory, he had no idea he would be joining such a large celebration.

“I was shocked to see that many people down there,” said Belpedio Saturday morning during training hours prior to Arlington’s Million Preview Day.  “A lot of the people down there were taking their own pictures of the ceremony and wanted to have their picture taken with me.  It was lots of fun – all in all a very ‘fun’ day for me.

“I had never met (jockey) J. Z. Santana until yesterday in the winner’s circle, and what a nice kid he is!   I congratulated him on having his first little girl earlier in the week,” added Belpedio, who has been the single parent who raised four daughters over the last 17 years.  “I told J. Z., ‘Now that you have that little baby girl, you’d better get busy working on your second thousand wins pretty quickly.  You’re going to need them.’” 

In Arlington Park history, no trainer has ever saddled horses to win all three of the graded stakes on Million Preview Day in the same season, but conditioners Chris Block and Mike Maker could accomplish that feat Saturday.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott won the 2004 American Derby with Brant Laue’s Gun Salute in 2005 and the Modesty Handicap that same season with Haras Santa Maria Aras S. A.’s Noisette, but his former assistant Ralph Nicks saddled David Garner’s Cool Conductor to win that year’s Arlington Handicap.

In another Arlington Handicap memory, owner Carl Lizza of Flying Zee Stable, who died Friday morning at the age of 73 at his home in Rockaway, N. J., won that Grade III prep race for the Grade I Arlington Million in 2006 and 2007 with Cosmonaut, trained by Patrick Biancone. 

The Virginia H. Tarra Trust has been selected as 2010 Illinois Breeder of the Year by the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation (ITBOF), and will be honored at the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) National Awards Dinner at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 9.

The Virginia H. Tarra Trust is primarily noted as the breeder and owner of Giant Oak, who won the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park Feb. 5.