Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Saturday, May 14

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/14/2011 #

Trainer Joe Griffitt Scores 1st Career Win, Then Hits a Double; Junior, E. T. Tied Atop Arlington Jockey Standings Through Friday; Trainer Owen Rainwater Dies at 75

Here’s something you don’t see everyday:  a trainer saddling the first winner of his career in one race and coming back two races later to win his second.

That’s the way things happened for 21-year-old trainer Joe Griffitt at Arlington Park on Friday.  The young native of Lexington, Kentucky, celebrated his first win in Friday’s first race with Scott Easterling’s Honored View, but before he had a chance to come down from that high he won Friday’s third race with a horse named High, somewhat prophetically owned by the You Never Know Stable of Stephen Soulis.

“The whole day turned out to be kind of surreal,” said Griffitt during training hours Saturday morning shortly before returning to Lexington.  “I felt both horses had turned a corner recently, and both had been training really nice lately.  To tell you the truth, I almost expected the first horse to win, but the second, I thought she might like the Polytrack up here but I didn’t know she’d like it that much. I’m still like ‘Wow!’ about that race.

“I also got the benefit of two incredibly good rides,” said Griffitt with a salute to Junior Alvarado aboard Honored View and Florent Geroux who was up on High.  “Honored View was actually the first starter of my career when I saddled her at Turfway last December.  She finished second that day and she’ll always be my favorite horse.  Animal Kingdom could suddenly show up in my barn tomorrow but she’d still be my favorite horse.

“I’m especially happy for her owner,” Griffitt said, speaking of Easterling.  “Scott has been a family friend for a long time and he’s actually the guy who pushed me into getting my trainer’s license by fronting me the money I needed to get started.  As for Stephen Soulis, I’m friends with his son Nick who I met through the University of Louisville equine program.  I’m very grateful to my owners who have been more than patient with me.  Also, up at Arlington I’m especially grateful to Lisa Merritt who has been super helpful to me with my horses.

“But one of the best things about yesterday happened when I went to a little sports bar across the street after the races,” Griffitt said.  “There were a lot of people from the racetrack in there and it seemed like everybody in there was pointing at me and nodding to each other.

“For a minute they all had me thinking I’d done something bad,” Griffitt said, “but then they all started coming up to me and congratulating me.  That was great.  I couldn’t have written a book about how the day went and made it turn out any better.  Maybe now what happened yesterday will help people open their eyes and think about sending me their horses.  I only have five horses right now but I want to expand.  What I really want is a barnful of ‘em, but even with the ones I’ve got, I’ll be back at Arlington soon.” 

Jockey Junior Alvarado, Arlington’s riding champion two years ago and runner-up last season, had a riding triple Friday to move into a tie for the lead with E. T. Baird, who posted a riding double on the same program.

Alvarado won the opener with Scott Easterling’s Honored View for new conditioner Joseph Griffitt, the fourth with William Stiritz’s Cap’n Nick for trainer Scott Becker and the fifth with Richard Ravin’s Top Surprize for leading trainer Larry Rivelli.

Baird won Friday’s late daily double, taking the eighth with Jason Horner and Mike Wiengarten’s Love This Kitten for Rivelli and the finale with Kathy Halleran’ Sunshine Express for trainer Jimmy DiVito.

Jockey Tim Thornton also had a riding double Friday, and conditioners Rivelli, Griffitt and Becker all ended the afternoon with training doubles.     

Word has been received of the death of longtime southern Illinois-based trainer Owen Rainwater, who died earlier this week at age 75 following an extended illness.

Rainwater was credited with 155 lifetime wins from about 1,400 starters since 1977 and saddled three winners from 45 starters at Arlington last season.