Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/08/2013 #

In Today’s Notes:  Fast Starts for Rivelli, Stidham, DiVito; Esquivel Tips His Hat Trick Upon Arrival; Black Tie Affair Stakes Looking Sharp

Opening weekend at Arlington International Racecourse saw some solid trainer results from three of its usual suspects.  Larry Rivelli started strongly, as expected, with 16 entrants over the weekend and a 31% strike rate (five winners).  Four of those winners (in only seven starts) were owned or co-owned by Richard Ravin, giving him the lead for owners over the weekend.

Last year Rivelli struck at 19%, on his way to a fifth-place finish in standings with 30 wins.  This year things look even better – “we just have a lot of horses that fit; cheap horses, good horses – there seems to a space for all of them,” Rivelli stated on opening day.  After only three days, he has already cut into that 30-win number by 20%.  It goes without saying that his meet looks promising. 

Jimmy DiVito, Rivelli’s uncle and fifth in the 2012 standings, kept the momentum in the family by getting off to an equally as encouraging start.  Winning with three of his six starters, and a third with another, DiVito ended the weekend with a solid 67% in the money.  Worth noting, though, is that his average earnings per start of $10,401 thwarted any other trainer with multiple wins.

Mike Stidham, third in the 2012 standings, also got his 2013 meet off to an excellent beginning with three winners in 12 starts.  Included in those was romping maiden special weight 3-year-old Card.  Stidham’s opening weekend 25% winning percentage is on par with his 22% in 2012.  Interestingly, three of his four top two finishes came with promising apprentice Emmanuel Esquivel.

Apprentice Emmanuel Esquivel made his presence known this weekend with five wins to lead the standings.  After what had to be a frustrating opening day, hitting the board with four of six rides on a winless card, Esquivel won two on Saturday and pulled an impressive hat trick on Sunday. 

In only his second career meet, first being this winter at Hawthorne Race Course, Esquivel’s five victories put him at 35 on the year – only five from becoming a single bug (five pounds).  His impressive 26.3% strike rate over the weekend improved his career average to a solid 19.4%. 

“I’m really happy and feel really good about the meet so far.  I’m really excited,” said Esquivel with a visibly calm demeanor after his hat trick. Such a down-to-earth carriage should only help this rising talent.

It is still five weeks away, but the Black Tie Affair Stakes is shaping up to be a superb showcase of Illinois-bred talent.  This year the $100,000 restricted stakes, which in the past has led to starters in the Grade III Arlington Handicap and Grade I Arlington Million, is the focus of Team Block’s multiple graded stakes-placed homebred and 2012 runner-up Suntracer.

According to leading national owner Midwest Thoroughbreds’ website, their 2012 Illinois-bred Champion 3-year-old The Pizza Man has the Black Tie Affair penciled in as his next start.  The 4-year-old gelding will enjoy a six-week freshening, following a cataclysmic trip in an optional claiming/allowance on the Kentucky Derby undercard for the son of Eclipse Champion Turf Horse English Channel.

“In the lane, as The Pizza Man was making his move, he was squeezed badly, stumbling and nearly going down.  Jockey (Leandro) Goncalves did a fine job keeping The Pizza Man on his feet,” Midwest stated on its site.

After being examined by trainer Tom Amoss, The Pizza Man is reportedly no worse for the wear.  Now, the winner of last year’s Tex’s Zing Stakes at Arlington hopes to order up a victory in a race that has been won by such quality horses as Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Buck’s Boy, Illinois favorite Mystery Giver and four-time victor Fort Prado.