Young Puts Best Foot Forward
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois – When you’re a smaller-scale trainer that wins nine or 10 races a year – like Terry Young – winning on consecutive days at Arlington carries a little bit of extra weight. And when one of those two winners is a 10-year-old, well, you might just get your name in the paper.
On the May 27 card, Strike Quiet, a Quiet American gelding bred, owned, and trained by Young, scored a 13-1 upset in a $30,000 turf-sprint claiming race. The long price was reasonable based on Strike Quiet’s recent form, but none of that recent form had come turf-sprinting at Arlington.
“I raised that horse. I have his brothers and sisters in my shed-row. If he could talk, he’d be yelling, ‘Take me to Charlie Whittingham!’” Young dead-panned. Instead, Young took Strike Quiet back to the Arlington grass, which worked out well enough. “He loves the turf at Arlington and he loves 5 or 5 ½ furlongs. He was right, and he got the perfect race.”
Strike Quiet as a 5-year-old literally is half Four Left Feet’s age. At 10, Four Left Feet isn’t anywhere near the tiger he used to be, but he’s won two of three starts – including the first race on Monday, since Young claimed him for $7,500 last December.
That’s a fair bit of change to spend on a horse about to turn 10, but this was not Young’s first experience with Four Left Feet. Young and co-owner Sue Crooks claimed Four Left Feet for $40,000 on March 29, 2013, and they had the gelding, an Illinois-bred by Trippi out of Romance Dance, for 40 starts during which Four Left Feet earned more than $300,000. Young and Crooks lost Four Left Feet for $12,500 at the claim box in December 2016, but Four Left Feet ended up in the Chicago barn of trainer Mark Cristel as Young bided his time.
“You have to know the horse to get the best out of him, and I didn’t think he’d run quite the same,” Young said. “When they dropped him down to $7,500, I originally said I was going to wait til he was in for $5,000, but then I said to myself, ‘Don’t be stupid.’”
Four Left Feet still competes hard but he’s a sweetheart off the track. Young said children ride the gelding around the indoor arena at his farm in Kirkland, Illinois, during down time away from the track. “If he doesn’t run any more, I’ll just make him into my pony,” said Young.
Young was born in New Jersey, moved to Houston, went to Cornell University, and ran a hog, cattle, and dairy farm in Georgia for many years before moving to Chicagoland in great part to pursue his involvement in polo. It was polo that got Young into racing, and he’s been training since 1991. His stable now numbers 11 and two winners in two days would feel good in any circumstances, but the holiday weekend success was especially well timed for Young, who is 76.
“It was a good weekend. I just had a knee replaced two weeks ago. They say I’m doing really well, but I’m not so sure,” Young said. “Those two horses, they kind of made my knee feel a lot better. Four Left Feet, in horse years he’s about the same age as I am. We’re both hanging in there.”
Rivelli Rolling Again
Perennial leading Arlington trainer Larry Rivelli has set the barn high for himself. A 30-percent strike rate is off the charts for a typical outfit. For Rivelli at Arlington it’s what’s expected.
Two weeks into the 2018 season, Rivelli had gone 7-10-7 from 30 starters, an excellent start by most standards, but a little slower than expected by Rivelli’s. The four-day Memorial Weekend racing week set things in order. Rivelli sent out 15 starters that wound up with six wins, one second, and four thirds. Order restored.
Among the barn’s winners was Unscathed, who solidified his position as a very fast, very Polytrack-loving Illinois-bred sprinter, and a pair of 2-year-olds that won the first “baby” races of the local season.
Unscathed is a 5-year-old Illinois-bred gelding by Bring the Heat out of Rooney Doodle. Rivelli co-bred him with his owner, Richard Ravin. Unscathed never has run in a dirt race, and on turf he has finished ninth and a distant fifth. But on Arlington Polytrack, Unscathed is a tiger. He won the fifth race on May 26, an open first-level allowance, by almost five lengths, running his local record to six wins from 10 starts. Unscathed was claimed from Rivelli for $6,250 in May 2017 but after one blowout win for new trainer and owner Earl Hughes, Rivelli quickly reacquired him.
“He’s a real Polytrack specialist,” Rivelli said. “He still has an Illinois-bred two-other-than condition and an open two-other-than. Plust he’s a $6,250 starter-allowance horse. He’s got a lot of options.”
On Saturday, the 2-year-old gelding Echoes of Laughter won a five-furlong 2-year-old maiden race by 5 ½ lengths. The next day, O’Keeffe, a filly by Munnings, was probably even better. She won by only 1 ½ lengths but beat the filly Agi’s Caite, who ran well in defeat and was eight lengths clear of the third-place finisher. O’Keeffe might be bound for a stakes race at Woodbine, Echoes of Laughter for a stakes race at Prairie Meadows.
And back at Arlington, Rivelli is bound to win a bunch more races – sooner rather than later.
“The next wave we run here ought to be even better,” he said.
Pair of Jockey Milestones
More than 120 North American-based jockeys gave won 3,000 races or more, so the milestone, while clearly worthy of note, is not all that historic. But two riders winning their 3,000th race on consecutive days at the same track? That’s rare – and it happened last week at Arlington.
On May 25, Julio Felix hit the milestone when he piloted Carnoustie to a narrow victory in Arlington’s sixth race. Felix, 51, was born in New York City but grew up in the Virgin Islands with a family not involved on racing. Felix has gotten plenty out of the sport. His first mounts came in 1989 and he has become an established and well-liked fixture on the Chicago circuit since moving his tack here late in 2009.
One day later it was Carlos Marquez Jr.’s turn in the spotlight. Marquez’s milestone is more complicated than Felix’s since eight of his 3,000 victories came in Puerto Rico and Equibase, the official record-keeping body for Thoroughbred racing in America, is not counting those wins. Arlington is, though, and the celebration was on after Marquez booted home Savemethelastdance in the seventh race for long-time supporter, trainer Mike Reavis.
Perhaps Marquez’s last dance isn’t far off. Marquez, whose father was also a jockey, was a hot apprentice his first year riding on the mainland United States, 1985, winning 114 races that year and doing especially well on the New Jersey circuit. Marquez, 50, had a solid 2016, winning 110 races, but that total dropped to 68 last year, and Marquez said there's a good chance he won't be riding much longer.
"I took six months off in 2014," Marquez said recently. "I was ready to stop but my dad said, 'You can’t stop until you get 3,000.' I did it for him."