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ITHA News

Crafty Oak's Legacy / Winebaugh Stable / Baird Picks Right Up / Fillies

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois – The remarkable broodmare Crafty Oak died last spring at age 23 but even from the other side of life she still is producing runners. 
The 2-year-old filly Craft Show, the product of a mating between Creative Cause and Crafty Oak, foaled in 2016, made her career debut in the seventh race July 27 at Arlington. She sped to the lead under Sophie Doyle and won by two lengths. 
No great surprise. 
Craft Show is the 13th foal to race from 17 foals out of Crafty Oak. She had three that didn’t make the races, but also has another yearling, by Carpe Diem, on the farm in Kentucky. All 13 of her offspring that raced won and her brood includes three stakes winners and nine horses with six-figure earnings. 
At the top of the heap sits Giant Oak, a multiple Grade 1winner of just shy of $1.5 million and a stallion in Kentucky until his unfortunate premature demise. Ranked by earnings, the rest of Crafty Oak’s horses to race are Apple Martini ($352,581), Oak Brook ($264,066), Tall Grass Cat ($192,551), Harbor Craft ($170,633), Oak Forest ($160, 471), Cause She’s Crafty ($148,460), Crafty’s Way ($129,032 and a two-time winner this Arlington meet), A Step Ahead ($107,877), Little Star ($89,863), Sheltowee ($78,590), Market Buzz ($34,375), and now Craft Show.
The Virginia Tarra Trust, which is the husband-wife team of Virginia and Rudy Tarra, bred all these horses and owned them at least during the start of their careers. They bought Crafty Oak, a daughter of Crafty Prospector, at a 2-year-old auction for $60,000 in 1996 and the mare, trained by the late Gene Cilio, went on to win multiple stakes, including the Grade 3 Sixty Sails, and more than $442,000. 
“You talk to people about what she’s done, and they just can’t believe it,” Rudy Tarra said.
All Crafty Oak’s offspring were Illinois-bred up until Craft Show; she was bred in Kentucky, as is the yearling still down on the farm. Other changes have come. Chris Block used to be the Tarra’s trainer but now their horses are split between Brian Williamson and Jim Gulick.
“We didn’t have a falling out with Chris or anything like that,” Tarra said. “We’re still friends.” 
Gulick got Tarra-owned horses for the first time this year and trains three juvenile fillies, including Craft Show. Tarra said he sent young horses to Gulick in Florida to be broken; the racehorse training came as a natural extension.
Tarra said he knew Craft Show had speed and talent but still was surprised and impressed by her debut. “I expected her to run good, but not that good. Sophie said before she knew it she was already on the lead. We’ll probably go to the Arlington-Washington Lassie with her. That’ll be a good next step. When you have a nice horse, you have to look down the road and make a plan.”
It’s simply not how these things are supposed to work, but when you had a mare like Crafty Oak, you could plan on getting a capable racehorse – nearly every single year. 

Winebaugh stable takes root

Drinks On Me traveled like a winner from start to finish in the second race July 26 at Arlington. She came home more than five lengths best in a first-level allowance and made a wide swath of the betting public happy, paying $4 as the even-money favorite. 
Trainer Cheryl Winebaugh met her horse on the track, got her picture taken, and went on about the rest of her afternoon. Arlington winners – winners, generally – have become a regular part of the Winebaugh operation this year.
Drinks On Me was Winebaugh’s sixth winner this Arlington meet, one short of the most she’s ever won during nine seasons at Arlington. She also was the 18th winner during 2018 for the Winebaugh stable, and that already is a career-best number with five months still left in the year.
“You know how racing is – hot and cold, hot and cold. But things are going pretty well,” Winebaugh said later that afternoon after saddling a 2-year-old filly named Sami’s Car for a maiden-special-weight race on turf. 
Winebaugh, 55, grew up in Naperville, Illinois, where her family had a boarding stable and her father worked first with Quarter Horses, then Thoroughbreds. Winebaugh’s husband, Ken, was galloping for the late trainer Charlie Bettis when Mr. Bettis (who had worked closely with the great Black Tie Affair under the employ of trainer Ernie Poulos) passed away in 2013. Cheryl Winebaugh had “trained for a friend of mine” between 2004 and 2006 but moved on to raising two children and looking after proceedings at the Winebaugh’s Custer Park, Illinois farm. The Bettis horses, however, needed a trainer, and Ken Winebaugh asked Cheryl if she wanted to come back to the track. 
That was the start of the current shape of the operation, which was fueled mainly by the Illinois owner Kenneth Fishbein.
“We had a meeting with him and talked for three or four hours,” Winebaugh said. “With me, training is more like family. My kids help out, my husband, and I think Mr. Fishbein liked that. He gave me the chance with the horses and it’s worked out really good.”
The Winebaugh barn set up a string at Gulfstream Park for the first time this past winter and had a good meet, winning nine races from 42 starters. Winebaugh said folks at Gulfstream asked if she’d move permanently to the year-round venue. “They wanted us to stay but this is my home,” she said. 
Gulfstream wound up being the racetrack stop for Francois, the old gelding well known on the Chicago circuit. 
Winebaugh had taken over Francois’s training during the Bettis transition and the gelding, claimed for just $7,500 in 2012, soldiered on as a high-end allowance horse capable of hanging tough in the right stakes race. His decline began in earnest at the end of 2016 and Winebaugh, after losing the horse for $15,000 in January 2017, claimed him back for $7,500 less than a month later. By this winter Francois had fallen to the bottom of the claiming ranks. He had one final hurrah, winning Jan. 13 at Gulfstream at odds of 65-1, and was retired at age 9 following a final start on Feb. 22. 
Francois has become a riding horse in Florida. Back at Arlington, Winebaugh has younger stock like Drinks On Me and Jami Racer among the 20 in her barn. When a stable can replace productive old horses with talented new ones, they’ve put down real roots. 

Baird picks right up

Jockey E.T. Baird returned from a year-and-a-half layoff last month, required exactly one start to get back the feel of race-riding, and fell right back into the swing of things. 
From his first eight mounts, Baird rode four winners and two second-place finishers. Not bad for a 51-year-old who hadn’t ridden at all for the better part of two years. 
“It’s actually amazing, you know. I feel way better than I did before I quit. Nothing’s hurting now,” Baird said.
Baird had pain from various nagging problems but especially persistent sciatica when he took a hiatus that seemed to people not named E. T. Baird like it might well be permanent. Now Baird is back in a familiar position – breaking his mounts on top in Arlington races and leading wire to wire. His personal finish line has been pushed back down the homestretch.

Top local fillies in Saturday allowance

There are no stakes races this week at Arlington – but there is a stakes-class allowance carded as the fifth race on Saturday.
The one-mile grass race brings out the best older Illinois-bred mares currently in training, including the Grade 1-placed Streamline, who is set to race on turf for the first time since November 2015. Streamline found a home racing over Oaklawn’s dirt track during the winter and spring and won the Grade 2 Azeri there, placing in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom. 
Streamline, bred by Nancy Vanier, owned by Vanier and Cartwright Thoroughbreds, and trained by Vanier’s son-in-law, Brian Williamson, is a 6-year-old by the Vanier stallion Straight Line and out of the Vanier mare Love Handles. She’s likely in the waning months of a long productive career – and will need a top performance to win Saturday.
The opposition includes Lovely Loyree, fresh off a win at Indiana Grand in the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly Distaff, and One Liz, who was beaten less than three lengths in her most recent grass start, the Grade 1 First Lady last fall at Keeneland. 
In addition to that tri of Illinois-bred standouts the race also drew high-level Illinois-breds Babybluesbdancing (who starts only if the race is rained onto the main track), Go Lady Jay, and My Mertie. And that powerhouse lineup doesn’t even include the 2-1 morning-line favorite, Daddy’s Boo. But she is Florida-bred and not part of this Illinois party.