Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sunday, July 24

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/24/2011 #

In Today’s Notes:  Free Fighter Wins Again on Arlington’s Military Appreciation Day; Winchester to Take a Shot at Saratoga’s Sword Dancer; ‘Girls’ Day Out’ Coming This Saturday at Arlington Park; Scott Becker Takes Lead in Arlington’s Trainer Standings

Frank Mancari’s Free Fighter was a good hunch bet to rule the showcase race on Arlington Park’s Military Appreciation Day, not only due to the karma of his name association with the afternoon’s theme, but also because the race Free Fighter won Saturday was the 80th anniversary edition of the Stars and Stripes Stakes – a race Free Fighter won two years ago.

On Sunday morning during training hours, Free Fighter’s trainer – Vietnam vet Mike Reavis – reported that Free Fighter was “standing in his stall like the warrior he is,” and might possibly be pointed for the sixth running of the $60,000 Illinois Owners Stakes on Aug. 12, one day before Grade I Arlington Million and Arlington’s International Festival of Racing.

The Illinois Owners Stakes will be run at a mile and a sixteenth over Arlington’s world famous turf course, but is restricted to Thoroughbreds where at least 51 per cent of the horses’ recorded ownership is registered to an owner whose Illinois Racing Board license registration reflects an address in the State of Illinois.

“I was really glad for Frank yesterday,” Reavis said of owner Mancari, “We’re good friends, but I was particularly happy for (jockey) Timmy Thornton, because he’s ridden a lot of good races for me and his Mom was there yesterday to watch him win the big race for me.

“Also, I want to say something about Chris Block,” said Reavis of Free Fighter’s former trainer, whose Team Block family bred and owned the horse originally.  “Chris did an excellent job training the horse before I got him.  He’s always been a class act, and he has always wished me luck ever since I got the horse.” 

Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Winchester, hero of Arlington’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes three years ago but runner-up in Saturday’s 80th anniversary edition of Arlington’s tradition-rich Stars and Stripes Stakes, came out of the race in good order, according to Liam Kelly, who saddled Winchester for trainer Christophe Clement

“We were very pleased with the way he ran considering how long he had been away from competition,” said Kelly.  “Naturally, we were disappointed when the race came off the grass, because that’s the only surface he had ever run on before, but I’m glad we had the opportunity to run him.  He hadn’t raced since last year and needed to get a race in before the (Grade I) Sword Dancer (Invitational Handicap on Aug. 13).  That’s the race that the boss (Clement) has had penciled in for him for quite awhile.

“He was sharper than he’d ever been before coming into the Stars and Stripes,” Kelly said.  “Sometimes that’s a good thing but sometimes it’s not.

“After the race, Cornelio (jockey Velasquez) told me that because the race was on Polytrack, he wished he had asked him for his run a little sooner than usual because he wasn’t quite comfortable getting over that surface,” Kelly said.  “Cornelio told some other people after the race that the horse didn’t really dig in for him.  He said that on the grass that would not have been a problem.” 

A ladies day program called “Girls’ Day Out” will offer an added incentive this Saturday at Arlington Park, to include a more exclusive gathering available for female guests in the International Room with tickets still available at

“Arlington has had Ladies Day themes before,” said Phoebe Wainwright, Arlington’s marketing manager, “and we will be offering our usual amenities like fashion hat contests throughout the grounds, but this year our International Room package is designed to please the ladies that may not know anything about horseracing but do like to get dressed up and come out to enjoy fashion, food and drink in a more exclusive setting.

“We can speak to all the ladies directly in a more intimate atmosphere in the International Room,” said Wainwright.  “In addition, those who opt for the International Room package will receive a free voucher for $2 and we will attempt to teach them the basics of the sport.

“Also, of course, in the enclosed air-conditioned confines of the International Room, the ladies in their fashion outfits will always be comfortable.” 

Scott Becker-trained Proceed Bee, owned by William Stiritz, may have finished third in Saturday’s 80th anniversary edition of Arlington’s Stars and Stripes Stakes, but earlier in the afternoon that owner-trainer tandem’s W W American won the fifth race of the day with Chris Emigh aboard to give Becker a one-win lead in Arlington’s trainer standings entering Sunday’s race day.