Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, Aug. 18

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/18/2011 #

In Today's Notes: Hats Off to Mary; Arlington Family's Angela Hillebrand Suwanski Recovering; Jockey James Graham Arlington's Leader in Purse Earnings

Two weeks before she was judged the winner of Arlington Park's 2011 Hat Contest on Arlington Million Day, Mary Krasovec celebrated her 87th birthday, so not surprisingly, she was more than happy to consider her locally recognized millinery milestone as something of a late birthday present.

"It meant a lot to me to win the hat contest, it really did," said Krosovec earlier this week. "My sister, my niece and a total of five of us came to the races that afternoon, and when I won the hat contest, it really made our day. We all went out to dinner at Bob Chinn's (Crab House) after the races to celebrate.

"I haven't missed an Arlington Million since they first started running it," said Krasovec, who was born in Joliet but has lived in Waukegan since 1965. "I even went to the one in Toronto and I still have a red sweatshirt from that year to prove it.

"I never, ever thought I had a chance to win the other day," Krasovec said. "When I got down there with all the other contestants I looked at them and they were all pretty young girls all dressed up in fancy outfits with high heels and everything, and I thought to myself that this was going to be a waste of time.

"I wasn't dressed up at all," Krasovec said. "In fact, I was wearing a t-shirt I bought at the inaugural Arlington Million in 1981. I pulled my hat down low to hide my face so nobody could see how old I was. I guess they really did judge the voting by the hat and not who was wearing it.

"There were two horses on my hat as part of the design," said Krasovec, "and at one point during the day there was a man standing in line behind me who leaned forward and asked me if my horses turned around. I told him, 'Yes, they do. They turn around whenever I turn around.' He liked that."

Would Krasovec be coming back to the Arlington Million next summer?

"Absolutely," she said. "In fact, I'm already planning my hat for next year."

Angela Hillebrand Suwanski, daughter of the late lamented longtime Illinois owner and breeder John Hillebrand, and wife of Arlington jockey agent Jon Suwanski, is continuing her own recovery both emotionally and physically from her personal ordeal of recent days.

Mrs. Suwanski donated a kidney to her father earlier this month in an attempt to save his life, but Mr. Hillebrand died shortly after the surgery. Arlington Park observed a public moment of silence in Mr. Hillebrand's memory early last week.

"She's doing a little better each day," Suwanski, agent for jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan, said Thursday morning. "Naturally, she's heartbroken about the whole thing, but she's a very strong person and eventually she'll recover. It will just take some time.

"Physically, she's still very sore from the surgery," Suwanski said. "She's getting around, but she won't be able to lift anything for another few weeks."

Last Sunday, Bridgmohan, who is currently tied for the 10th position in Arlington's jockey standings, rode two winners during the afternoon. The Jamaican-born reinsman captured the sixth race aboard Ben Wessels' Vouch for Victory for trainer Tom Swearingen and came right back to the winner's circle after the seventh on Lee Battaglia's Macho Coach to help conditioner Jimmy DiVito accomplish a training double for the day.

Although jockey James Graham is currently runner-up in Arlington's jockey standings by number of wins entering Thursday's racing day, the Irish-born rider has accumulated the most money in purse earnings to date.

Graham had amassed purse earnings of $1,189,316 through Sunday's races, while a close second in that category, with $1,174,971 in purse earnings, was jockey J. Z. Santana, a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, who has been Arlington's leading rider most of the season and had four more wins than Graham entering Thursday's races.

Jockeys Eddie Perez ($925,238), Junior Alvarado ($839,582) and E. T. Baird ($827,226) currently complete Arlington's top five riders in purse rankings.

Jockey Ramon Dominguez, who won last Saturday's $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes with Martin Schwartz's Stacelita and finished second in last Saturday's Arlington Million with Castleton Lyons' Gio Ponti, amassed purse earnings of $631,140 based on those two mounts, while Jamie Spencer, who won last Saturday's Million with Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor's Cape Blanco, and finished third in last Saturday's $65,000 Hatoof Stakes with Mike Small and Marc Detampel's Lily Again, has purse earnings of $583,480 based on those two mounts. Jockey Colm O'Donaghue, who won last Saturday's $400,000 Secretariat Stakes with Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor's Treasure Beach, garnered purse earnings of $232,800 based on that lone victory.