Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Wed., June 15

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/15/2011 #
  • Shebli and Wayne Catalano

Three Arlington Daughters Send Early Fathers’ Day Greetings; Nakatani Scores Sunday Triple at Arlington Park

Fathers: irreplaceable when they’re present but a huge, vacuous void when absent.

For the fortunate they are there during the molding years from infancy to adolescence, and eventually young adulthood.  That’s why there is a Fathers’ Day.

At Arlington Park, where families make up the backbone of its guests, Fathers’ Day is a special day, annually enjoyed by families throughout Chicagoland that will eagerly anticipate Sunday afternoon as a rite of early summer.

It’s a day to give dads a great gift, and three highly visible young ladies (including two sisters) employed at Arlington, all of whom have reached young adulthood in exemplary fashion, welcomed the opportunity to express their appreciation to the two men responsible for making them into the special daughters they have become.

Here are some of their recollections and feelings toward their trainer fathers, one of whom has a host of horses and the other only a handful.  However, both men exude those paternal qualities that mirror those of the dads in many local families that will be on hand Sunday, and that wish to say:  “Thanks, Dad!”

Musings from Alyssa Ali, Arlington Television Personality and Promotions Coordinator, concerning her trainer father Alnaz Ali, especially noted for hoisting Indian jockey Suraj Narredu aboard his first American winner earlier this season at Arlington.

“Growing up, my dad was always the one who made sure I said ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ and ‘Pardon?’ – (never ‘What?’)  He made sure I looked people in the eyes and always asked how they were doing.

“He has a ‘man cave’ in our house filled with our accomplishments – riding ribbons, diplomas, pictures at Arlington.  He’s so proud of us but he should also know how proud we are of him.  Family is the most important thing to him.  He is the most dedicated, kindest person I know.

“My sister Sophie was named Winter Formal Princess in high school.  My dad showed up at the pep rally and cheered her on when she was announced in front of the whole school.  Then when we got home he put on the sash and tiara and posed for a picture showing us his muscles.  It was his way of showing his support for a ‘girl’ thing.

“He taught me how to ride.  When I was on a difficult horse and was about to get bucked off he always stayed calm.  Even when I was learning to drive he never got anxious, and me driving is something to be anxious about….trust me.”

Some additional Fathers’ Day thoughts from Sophie Ali, Arlington’s Turf Club Hostess and Alyssa’s sister:

“My dad taught me some of the values and qualities I cherish, including good manners and to always be respectful to others.  In spite of his long hours at the race track, he always made time to attend my basketball games, horse shows, to pick me up from school and basketball practice, and to cook my sister and me dinner when my mom had to work late.

“He is also a man who is always quick to lend a helping hand to others, whether that be stepping up to help someone who ran out of gas on the side of the road, or giving a new jockey a chance to ride one of his horses.

“One of my favorite childhood memories is of going to the Daddy-Daughter Dances with him when I was in elementary school.  Along with horses, another passion we share is dancing.  He would twirl me around all night long and when I got tired he would carry me out to the car.  I don’t think we ever missed one of those dances.”

More Fathers’ Day reminiscing comes from Shelbi Catalano, Arlington’s Horsemen’s Services Hostess and a college student at North Central in Naperville. Her father Wayne Catalano has been Arlington’s leading trainer the last six years and last Sunday, the elder Catalano saddled two 2-year-old first time starters to finish second and third in the first race of the day.  The runner-up, Class Break, ran in Shelbi’s name, while her mother Renee and father were listed as co-owners of Vickis Got Swagger, the third-place finisher.

“That was kind of nice – those two fillies running second and third like that, because they grew up together in the paddock behind our house in Elgin.  All of our horses are special to us because they are our livelihood.  Dad only told me last week that Class Break would race in my name.  I’m happy for all of us because either way, my dad was going to be happy.

“Dad has always been such a great example for me.  He tries very hard to be successful at what he does and he is successful because he puts his mind to it.  He always tells me to love what you do and to work hard at it.  That’s why he’s such a great example, and not only for his family.  If someone needs something he’s always there to lend a hand.  He’ll teach people how to do things, and how to work around the horses when that’s what they need to learn.

“What are some of my special memories growing up around him?   It’s hard to pinpoint just one, because there are so many good times we’ve had together, like going to the Kentucky Derby with Crypto Star in 1997 or winning those Breeders’ Cup races with Dreaming of Anna in 2006 and again with She Be Wild in 2009.  Most people don’t get to be in a position to enjoy things like that, but I’ve been very fortunate.  I know that.

“But as much as I enjoy going to those big races with my dad, I probably enjoy just as much sitting around the backyard grill with him, relaxing with my family while he cooks out for us in the evening.  He’s always been the chef of the family, and he’s great at that, too.” 

Veteran jockey Corey Nakatani, hanging his tack at Arlington Park on a regular basis for the first time this season, journeyed out of town to ride Zayat Stables’ Nehro to a fourth place finish in last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes but was back at Arlington Sunday in time to ride three winners during the afternoon.

After riding Wesley Ward and Jim Downey’s Shes Down With Jim in Sunday’s opener for trainer Larry Rivelli, Nakatani returned to the winner’s circle after the third astride Kay Reed’s Tribecky for conditioner Eric Reed, and concluded his hat trick aboard Jim Stackpoole’s Newport in the seventh race of the day for trainer Mike Dini.

Newport’s victory was the second of the afternoon for Dini, who also saddled Ben Barnow’s Panama Hat to win the sixth with James Graham in the irons.

Jockey Tim Thornton had a riding double, winning the fourth with Kimberlee and Markus Lindsay’s Inexcessive Sue for trainer Ricky Lindsay and the fifth on Peacock Stable’s Rainy Rain for conditioner Kerry Zavash.