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ITHA News

Chris Emigh / Prado's Sweet Ride / Baird / Handle

Chris Emigh has ridden professionally since 1989. Friday, July 6, was not one of his best days. 
Emigh, who is 47, was working an unraced horse out of the gate Friday morning when the beast decided to do things its own way. 
“He took the gap, started bucking, and I came off,” said Emigh. 
That wasn’t fun. Neither was race 5 later that afternoon at Arlington. 
The horses in this Polytrack claiming race neared the eighth-pole with Emigh close to the back of the pack while riding a horse named Soloist. Up ahead, he saw Joseph Berrios on Bar Ryder come over on Connor Christopher, who was being ridden by the apprentice jockey Elizabeth Thurman. Connor Christopher clipped heels and fell. 
“I saw what was happening and I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ I tried to go outside but when the horse went down and bounced it kind of fell to the outside,” Emigh said. Soloist struck the Connor Christopher, fell, and sent Emigh to the ground for the second time that day. Not a lot of fun for a 47-year-old. “I landed on my tail bone. Thinking about it, I don’t think I’d ever hit the Polytrack til that day. The last time times I fell it was on turf. In the morning I was thinking, ‘Wow, the Polytrack hurts bad!’ And then I go down again that afternoon.”
All’s well that ends well. Horses and riders walked off the course. Emigh had a bruised tail-bone and a bruised knee. He took Saturday and Sunday off, had the three dark days to heal, and rode five on the Thursday card. All in the life of a veteran jockey.

Modesty second again for Prado’s Sweet Ride

Prado’s Sweet Ride did it again – it being finishing second in the Grade 3, $100,000 Modesty Handicap. 
It was another fine race for the Illinois-bred 6-year-old mare, bred and owned by Darrell and Sadie Brommer and trained by Chris Block. But in a way, Prado’s Sweet Ride deserves better. 
Last summer she was beaten in the Modesty by Dona Bruja, a star in her native Argentina who went on a month after the Modesty to dead-heat for second in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Last Saturday the only horse in front of Prado’s Sweet Ride was Daddys Lil Darling, a Grade 1 winner who had held her own this year with some of the very best turf mares in North America. 
In a fairer world both Dona Bruja and Daddys Lil Darling would’ve been running in more important races than a Grade 3 for a hundred grand, thus leaving the glory to Prado’s Sweet Ride. No matter – the mare acquitted herself well, and if all continues as it seemed late this week – with Prado’s Sweet Ride in fine fettle, according to trainer Chris Block – she herself will get another chance in the Grade 1 Beverly D. Prado’s Sweet Ride finished 10th in the race last year but was beaten just five lengths in a creditable performance.
“All the signs with her so far are pretty good,” Block said. 
Prado’s Sweet Ride is by Fort Prado out of Excellent Idea, by General Meeting. She’s had a sweet ride through a five-season racing career, but her swan song now is not that far off. 
Block, meanwhile, is likely to have a second Grade 1 starter in the Aug. 11 Arlington Million card. He said Captivating Moon, who was second last Saturday in the Grade 3 American Derby, was likely to come back in the Secretariat Stakes.

Baird is back

E T Baird rode his first sanctioned race in 1985. There were plenty of subsequent ups and downs but Baird rode every year through 2017. Saturday, after a break of a year-and-a-half, Baird is set to ride again at Arlington. 
Baird, a winner of 2,400 career races, and for years one of the most talented (and mercurial) riders on the Chicago circuit, had one mount Dec. 16, 2016 at Hawthorne and hasn’t ridden in a race since. Baird is 51 now but said his body is in better shape than he can remember.
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time,” Baird said Thursday. “Before I quit, I had a lot of things going on. The worst was the sciatica – compressed discs. I was lucky to sleep three hours a night. I ended up getting inversion boots and hung upside down every morning for about five minutes. For about eight months my back sounded like fireworks – all of a sudden it popped back in, and no more sciatica.”
Baird has taken several months off during the winter and spring in the past but given the long break since he rode in a race he has prepared differently than usual for this comeback.
“I started working horses the fourth of July. Normally I’d just come back and work one horse or I wouldn’t work any – just show up in the jock’s room to ride,” Baird said. “I had a big smile getting back out there. It feels like home.”

Million Preview Day handle skyrockets

Betting on the Million Preview Day card last Saturday was surprisingly strong. Handle increased more than 38-percent compared to Million Preview Day 2017, rising to $5,249,744 from $3,791,636. 
There were 10 races on both cards but 98 starters this year compared to 84 in 2017. Arlington added the Hatoof Stakes to the 2018 program, replacing an allowance race that was run in the middle of a four-stakes sequence last year, and handle on the stakes races this year crushed last year's totals.
Betting was about the same during the middle of both cards but really picked up this year during the stakes sequence, and gamblers then stayed engaged through the end of the card. Handle on the last race, spurred by an appealing pick four sequence, was up more than $300,000 compared to 2017. 
So, while out-of-towners left with a lot of purse money coming out of five $100,000 stakes, at least their presence helped generate more purse money through handle this year. 

Lovely Loyree tries Indiana again

Lovely Loyree lost any chance of winning the Lady Canterbury Stakes on June 23 at Canterbury Park when she got buried behind horses and shuffled back on the far turn. The Illinois-bred standout turf mare’s connections will hope for better luck Saturday at Indiana Grand, where Lovely Loyree starts in the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Stakes, a race she won in 2016. Michele Boyce trains Lovely Loyree, a 7-year-old daughter of Cactus Ridge and Lil Cora Tee, for a partnership.