Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sat. May 7

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/07/2011 #

Helicopter Takes Off in Arlington’s First Race on Opening Day; Mid-America Triple Nominee Banned Wins Churchill’s American Turf; Dooley Delivers Despite Detached Retina Recovery-In-Progress;Petrillo Points to Things Positive After Arlington’s Opening Day

Richard Ravin and Christine Wagner’s Helicopter touched down on familiar ground when winning the first race of Arlington’s 2011 season Friday.

The 5-year-old gelding was born in Florida but has consistently made his home on Arlington’s Polytrack course, winning nine of his 11 outings over the local synthetic surface and subsequently posing in the winner’s circle as if it was his personal front porch.

“(Helicopter) just loves the Poly here,” said trainer Larry Rivelli during training hours Saturday morning. “We gave him a little break at the end of last year, but he came back yesterday just as good as ever.  He’s always been a very sound horse.”

One change that did take place for Helicopter’s 2011 debut was the man on his back, with veteran jockey Eddie Perez substituting for the injured Brandon Meier.

“It was good to win the first race of the season here,” said Perez, who passed the 2,000-career win milestone during the winter.  “Helicopter is a special horse and he’s always been a nice special horse for Larry.”

Perez returned to the winner’s circle after the fourth race aboard Larry Owens’ Royal Posh for conditioner Mark Cristel and completed a riding triple astride Darrell and Sadie Brommer and Team Block’s Gold Former in the Friday’s ninth race.

Jockey Junior Alvarado, Arlington’s jockey champion two seasons ago and the close runner-up at the end of the 2010 session, also posted a “hat trick” on the opening day program.

“It’s nice to get off to a good start like that,” said Alvarado Saturday morning after winning Friday’s third race on Carson Springs Farm, Ken Meeker and David Campbell’s Zipping Away for trainer Christine Janks, the fifth astride Too Wild for Words for owner West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Wayne Catalano, and the opening day finale for owner Richard Ravin with Perfect Casting.  “Hopefully, I can have more days like that and try to be leading rider again.”

Perfect Casting’s victory in Friday’s finale gave Larry Rivelli a bookend training double for the afternoon, giving the conditioner the temporary lead in the trainer standings.

“King for a Day,” said Rivelli of his leading trainer status.  “We may not be leading trainer at the end of the year, but we’re loaded up and ready to try.”

Glen Hill Farm’s Banned, an early nomination to Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, got off to a good start in that direction by winning Friday’s 20th anniversary edition of the Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks Day.

In fact, the first eight finishers in the American Turf are nominated to the Triple, which begins with the prestigious Arlington Classic May 28, continues with the Grade II American Derby July 9 and concludes with the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 13.

John G. Dooley, the only announcer to man the microphones at Arlington in the 21st century, never missed a beat during Friday’s opening day program at the local oval despite his continuing recovery from last month’s surgery to repair a detached retina in his left eye.

“It’s coming along fairly well,” said Dooley Saturday morning of his recovery.  “I’ll feel a lot better when I can wear contact lenses again.”

Arlington general manager Tony Petrillo permeated positive thoughts when assessing Arlington’s opening day on Friday.

“We were pleased and surprised with the response to our opening day program,” Petrillo said Saturday morning.  “While we don’t have the final figures due to a computer glitch in our system, our attendance was about double what it was on the corresponding Friday from last year, and we were about 44 percent up in on-track handle.

“The entire Arlington team was responsible for all these good things that happened yesterday,” said Petrillo.  “Also, I was very encouraged by all the people that came up to us and wished us good luck for the entire season.”