Arlington Million

Barn Notes: Thursday, August 22, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/22/2013 #
  • Dale Bennett

In Today’s Notes: Trainer Dale Bennett Hits 500 Wins; Blackhawks Resurgence Reflected in Horse Names; Nates Mineshaft Aggravates Suspensory in Million

Fifteen years and one month after winning his first race, Arlington-based trainer Dale Bennett achieved his 500th win on Aug. 17, Arlington Million Day, in the 12th race with Peter Karahalios’ Next Speaker.   Scratched from the $65,000 Straight Line Stakes earlier in the card, Next Speaker earned the nightcap win for Bennett under decorated rider Rosie Napravnik in front of more than 30,000 people.

“I think the key is basically taking good care of your horses, keeping them happy and putting them in races where they’ll be competitive,” Bennett explained.  Currently striking at 21.3% (52.8% in the money), the Toronto native has 16 wins at the current Arlington meet, tying him for sixth in the standings. 

Bennett, a son of longtime Michigan-based conditioner Gerald Bennett, took out his trainer’s license in 1998 and has been a regular in the Midwest since his first win in July of that year at Detroit Race Course.  Consistently a good percentage performer at Arlington, including two years in which he struck at 27% (2009 and 2012), Bennett believes the key to such regularity is very simple.

“Right now the horses are running well – that’s key.  It’s pretty similar to most of our meets here.  You have to stay successful so that your clients keep reinvesting,” Bennett explained.  “I have clients who look for the higher end and go to the Keeneland sales and I have clients who prefer the lower end.  As long as we’re doing well and the horses are running well and are happy, that’s what matters.”

Bennett’s understanding of the racetrack and how the racing department works has also been a great help toward his success.  “You want to assist the racing office and want to make sure you’re running the horses in your barn.  That also helps you get stalls the next year.  That’s important.  Still, I won’t run anything I don’t feel is ready.  Patience is key.”

Such composure has helped him focus on what is important when managing his barn.  “Things happen.  Sometimes horses tail off.  I think spacing the races out and patiently picking your spots has made the most difference,” Bennett explained.  “All of my owners have also been good to me over the years, obviously.  No trainer can be successful without a good relationship with his owners.”

As far as what is in store for the newest member of the 500-win club, the respected trainer is optimistic and practical.  “We’re probably going to send some to Florida this winter, but we have a lot of Illinois-breds this year and will have them (at Hawthorne Race Course), as well.  I have more (Illinois-breds) now than ever, so it doesn’t make sense to run them elsewhere when they can run for extra money here,” Bennett reported.  “I have some nice unraced 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds, too, but we’ll see how that pans out – you never know.”

One thing is clear for the trainer of 22.3% winners during his career – the future looks bright.  “(Hitting 500 wins) came a little later than I would have liked, but for the first two or three years I didn’t have that many horses – until I moved to Chicago,” Bennett said.  “Now I really want to get to a thousand!”

The recent resurgence by the Chicago Blackhawks that has seen the Original-Six NHL franchise win the Stanley Cup twice in the last four years has led to an influx of Blackhawks and hockey-flavored horse names.

Earlier this summer, horses with the names Stanley Cup and Niemi Says No found themselves in the same race.  The genesis of the former horse name is obvious; the second stems from longtime Blackhawks’ play-by-play announcer Pat Foley’s call of any difficult or flashy save by 2010 Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi.

In Saturday’s sixth race, a horse named Toews in honor of the Blackhawks captain makes his debut in a $39,000 race for Illinois-bred maidens.  Toews (the horse) is owned by Chicago-area resident and big Blackhawks fan Craig Glander.  The Glander family has been  involved with Chicago racing for decades.  Later this summer, Glander will debut a horse with the moniker Kaner in honor of the ‘Hawks star forward and Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

Popular ridgling Nates Mineshaft, a winner of a salty grass allowance earlier in the meet, exited his 12th-place finish in the Arlington Million with an aggravated suspensory injury in his hind end, trainer Anne P. Smith said via telephone on Thursday.  “The ultrasound showed no tear.  He’s had suspensory issues before.  It could have been just one bad step,” the conditioner explained.

According to Smith, she and owner Windy Hill Farm are awaiting word from their veterinarian and will be watching the swelling intently.  “He could be back to work soon if it’s completely minor,” she reported.

In better news for Windy Hill and Smith, their promising debut winner Whyruawesome may be pointed toward the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 8.  On Friday, August 16, the gelded son of Whywhywhy (a Grade I winner at two) overcame a bad start and a green stretch run to easily best eight others in the seven-furlong event.  Jockey Diego Sanchez, who has consistently worked the promising charge in the mornings, was aboard for the ride.

“He’s talented and has a nice long stride.  He’s still learning, but recently the light looks like it’s going on in his works.  We’ll look at the (Arlington-Washington Futurity) or an allowance race,” Smith said.  The gelding earned a solid 86 Equibase Speed Figure in his eventful premier.