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Barn Notes: Thursday, July 12, 2012
In Today's Notes: Trainer Michelle Lovell One to Watch at Arlington; French-Born Jockey Florent Geroux Readies for Return; Irish-Born Jockey James Graham Scored Hat Trick Saturday
TRAINER MICHELLE LOVELL ONE TO WATCH AT ARLINGTON
Increasingly over the last three years, trainer Michelle Lovell has stepped up to the plate on one major league racing circuit after another and answered each challenge with a solid hit.
During the winter of 2009 she brought a very small stable of mostly average horses to Fair Grounds for the first time and had success, winning the $60,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial with Kamal Sheena's Gold Wonder. In the fall of 2010 she tried Keeneland for the first time and enjoyed another solid debut, and then last fall at Churchill Downs her horses were competitive once again on the Kentucky circuit.
Now, following the completion of Churchill's spring meeting, she has brought 14 horses to Arlington while 16 others remain at the Twin Spires oval under the care of her husband Casey, who she refers to as the "unsung hero" of her operation.
"This is really a great facility with great racing," said Lovell while still settling in during her first week in Chicago. "I also wanted to come here to Arlington because it has such a great reputation for treating owners so well and my owners are very important to me. Some of them have been with me for a long time and have remained very loyal to me.
"As for the city of Chicago, I've only been here to visit before but it's a great place to visit," Lovell said. "However, I have a sister who lives here in Chicago and she loves it.
"Almost all of the horses I brought up here are grass horses," Lovell said. "Three of the four horses that I've run here so far have been in grass races and one finished third, another finished second and the other one ran fourth."
Not a bad Arlington beginning for the former jockey who rode under the name Michelle Hanley before two separate injuries compromised her riding career. She began her career as a trainer nine years ago in Texas by saddling seven horses, none of whom reached the winner's circle. However, in 2004 she won 19 races – including one stakes – and what followed were successful meetings at Retama and Lone Star Park.
Eventually, the lure of more lucrative purses in Louisiana led Lovell to Shreveport where she culminated her career there with a second-place finish in the 2010 Louisiana Downs trainer standings. Her record at Fair Grounds over the last four winters has also steadily improved.
One of Lovell's longtime loyal owners is the Agave Racing Stable, nom-de-course of a San Antonio businessman named Mark Martinez who runs a company called M2 Technologies.
"Mr. Martinez is very passionate about Thoroughbred racing," Lovell said. "In fact, M2 Technology is the title sponsor of Retama's $100,000 La Senorita Stakes, so obviously that kind of owner is very good for the game."
Martinez, who will travel to Chicago to watch his gelding Southern Anthem take on some very stiff competition in Saturday's Grade III Arlington Handicap, once referred to his trainer as "the best kept secret in racing," but with the steady prowess Lovell has shown over the last couple of years, that secret may not be safe much longer.
FRENCH-BORN JOCKEY FLORENT GEROUX READIES FOR RETURN
French-born jockey Florent Geroux, who suffered a broken collarbone earlier this season at Arlington, will begin accepting mounts once again on July 19, his agent Doug Bredar reported one week earlier.
IRISH-BORN JOCKEY JAMES GRAHAM SCORED HAT TRICK SATURDAY
Irish-born jockey James Graham, Arlington's defending jockey champion and current runner-up rider this season, kept pace with leading jockey Francisco Torres by riding three winners last Saturday, including both halves of the Daily Double.
Entering Thursday's races Graham was six wins in arrears of the Chicago-raised Torres.