Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, July 19, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/06/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Torres Sets Torrid Pace Thru First Half of 2012 Arlington Season; Catalano, Rivelli, Stidham: All Vie In Battle for Leading Trainer

Arlington's current leading jockey Francisco Torres, the Chicago-raised reins master who has been riding in the best form of his Arlington career since the local meeting's inception on May 4, enjoyed a six-win advantage in the jockey standings when the first half of the season was completed after Sunday's ninth race was made official.

Despite his already lengthy career in the saddle, it seems hard to believe that this highly talented jockey has never won an Arlington riding title in his hometown, but if he maintains the form he has exhibited throughout the summer, there is good reason to believe that unusual gap in his distinguished resume could be filled by the time the meeting ends on Sept. 30.

Torres almost captured his first local leading rider title six years ago, keeping up a seesaw battle with fellow Chicago-based rider Chris Emigh throughout most of that summer, but in the last days of the session Emigh suddenly went on a win rampage just as Torres went through a slow spell. He finished as the runner-up rider, 12 wins in arrears of Emigh's 110 victories that earned Emigh his first Arlington championship. Interestingly, with 55 wins through Sunday, Torres is exactly halfway toward the final total that earned Emigh the title in 2006.

However, with only a month to go before his 43rd birthday, Torres has consistently maintained a sense of dedication and energy that surely has a host of other riders in the room that are half his age looking toward his leadership with admiration.

Defending jockey champion James Graham, with 49 wins to his credit through Sunday, has doggedly pursued Torres for leadership in the standings since the opening days of the meeting and remains the only jockey that seems capable of catching Torres.

A tight battle for the third spot most of the season had Rosemary Homeister Jr. holding down that position with 28 wins through Sunday. Seth Martinez was fourth with 27 wins, followed by Jeffrey Sanchez in fifth with 26 wins at the conclusion of Sunday's races.

Nine-time Arlington trainer champion Wayne Catalano, defending champion Larry Rivelli and veteran conditioner Mike Stidham, Arlington-based in the summer but without a local title, were in a three-way battle for leading trainer honors at the local meet's halfway point.

Catalano and Stidham were tied for the lead in Arlington's trainer standings with 22 wins with Rivelli in close pursuit with 21 trips to the winner's circle.

Two years ago, Catalano, 55, born in New Orleans, Louisiana, but primarily based in South Florida during the winter months, bested his own Arlington single-season training record of 74 wins set in 2007 by saddling his 75th winner on closing day of the 2010 season. His stable will be somewhat diluted with the opening of Saratoga, where he has sent some of best horses for the duration of that upstate New York summer session.

"Winning training titles is nice," said Catalano recently, "but my attitude toward that is, 'Been there – done that.' That's not our main focus anymore."

Stidham, 54, born in Neptune, New Jersey, who maintains his stable at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana, during the wintertime, has never won a training title at Arlington, Fair Grounds or anywhere else.

"A training title is one of those things that has never really been my forte," Stidham said. "Our goal has always been to run our horses where they belong and we are very happy with that as our focus. We are certainly not going to change the way we run our program to try for leading trainer honors. Let's just say if we keep winning races we'll be happy with that."

Rivelli, 41, born in Chicago, Illinois, captured the first leading trainer title of his conditioning career by winning Arlington's trainer championship last summer on the penultimate day of Arlington's 2011 season. This summer he has been in the hunt for a successful defense of that championship throughout the season.

"We started off well," said Rivelli of this season's success. "Hopefully, we can keep it going. We'll just keep trying and hope things continue to go well for us. I've got a lot of 2-year-olds that haven't even started yet. That should help us keep going later on this summer."