Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Saturday, June 16, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/16/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Trainer Champion Larry Rivelli Keeping His Cool Again This Summer; Leading Jockey Torres Gets Riding Triple Friday; Graham Doubles; Two Stars and Stripes Stakes Candidates Work at Woodbine Friday

The man just doesn't sweat the small stuff. On his way to Arlington's leading trainer honors last season – the first training title of his career – Chicago-born conditioner Larry Rivelli withstood a constant challenge from fellow trainer Scott Becker, with former perennial leading trainer Wayne Catalano charging into the fray in the late stages of the season.

At one point in late September, when you would think Rivelli might have been furtively looking over his shoulder at those pursuing him, a horse of his and another from the barn of trainer Ingrid Mason engaged in a stretch-long battle before crossing under the wire together in a finish too close to call.

The photo-finish sign stayed lit an indeterminable amount of time before the race was declared a dead-heat. Then, in a mutual magnanimous sporting gesture, Rivelli and Mason had their horses pose together in a single winner's circle photo to the accompanying applause of the patrons on hand.

When he finally secured the training title on the penultimate day of the season, Rivelli intimated he was lucky, saying that in another couple days Catalano would have caught him.

This summer, Rivelli has been leading the Arlington trainer standings almost from opening day, but with several rivals, including his uncle Jimmy DiVito, close behind.

"Yeah, we started off well," said Rivelli, sporting his trademark relaxed grin shortly before the 2012 summer session reached the one-third-complete mark. "Hopefully, we can keep it going. We'll just keep trying and hope things continue to go well for us.

"I've got a lot of 2-year-olds this year that haven't started yet," he added. "I keep entering them but some of their races haven't been going."

Who did he think was his biggest threat as a challenger for leading trainer honors?

"Mike Stidham," he said without hesitation. "He's got some nice horses this year."

What about Catalano? Isn't he always a threat?

"'Cat' could beat me easy if he had all his horses here at Arlington, but he's got a lot of horses now for owners who like to run their horses in Kentucky," Rivelli said.

As the grandson of the late longtime Arlington trainer Pete DiVito, Rivelli, 41, began his own career as a horseman by working for his uncle Jimmy before going out on his own in 1999. He saddled his first winner that year at Prairie Meadows, and has maintained a high win percentage from his starters ever since.

"I think Larry's going to be leading trainer here again this summer," said DiVito when asked about his nephew's chances for a second straight local title. "I think he has just the right kind of horses in his barn to do it."

When Arlington's current leading jockey Francisco Torres guided Marco Thoroughbreds' You're too Wild to a three-length tally in Friday's first race for trainer Danny Miller, it marked the fifth time in the previous seven racing days that Torres had ridden the winner of the opening event on the Arlington program.

Then the 43-year-old Chicago-raised reinsman added two more wins later in the afternoon in his quest for his first local jockey championship during the course of his long career – taking the fourth race on John Carver's Rain Ray for conditioner Tom Swearingen and the twilight program's nightcap aboard the Judd Becker-owned and trained Neverrguwithrichie.

Defending jockey champion James Graham kept up his challenge as the current runner-up rider behind Torres by scoring two wins, winning the second half of the Daily Double on Highlander LLP's August Day for trainer Percy Scherbenske and taking the fifth on John Wade, Darrell and Lendy Brown and Ben McElroy's Freedom Reigns for trainer Doug Matthews.

Torres enjoyed a seven-win advantage over Graham at the conclusion of Friday's races, with jockeys Julio Felix and Rosemary Homeister Jr. tied for third nine wins farther back.

Louisville Handicap winner Simmard, co-owned by trainer Roger Attfield and William Werner, breezed a half-mile at Woodbine Friday in 47 flat, while his stable mate Musketier, owned by Stella Perdomo, went five-eighths in 1:03 flat.

Both horses are under consideration for Arlington's Grade III Stars and Stripes Stakes four weeks from now on Arlington's Million Preview Day July 14.