Boyce Stocked with Talen / Felix Closing In May 18, 2018 by Marcus Hersh ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois -- Like a fox lurking in the weeds waiting for a chance to strike, trainer Jim Gulick sat quietly through the winter and early spring awaiting the start of the Arlington meet. And just like he did last year, Gulick has hit the mark in May. After five Arlington racing days Gulick had started four horses and three of them won. One of those winners, Princess La Quinta, runs back Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Arlington Matron Stakes. Princess La Quinta does as well on Arlington’s Polytrack surface as Gulick has done generally early this Arlington meet and last. She has three wins from four local main-track starts and overcame trouble to post a convincing allowance-race score May 4. “She’s got a heck of a chance Saturday. She’s got to show up, and the race needs to set up like it looks like it could if everybody goes [to the lead] that should go,” said Gulick. Gulick, an Arlington fixture starting in the early 1990s, didn’t run a horse here between 2012 and last season, when he wound up with a fine 9-11-4 record from 45 starters. Gulick trains just a half-dozen older horses at the moment but has the same number of 2-year-olds in various stages of preparation. He co-owns Princess La Quinta with Al Moorehouse, and trained Rock on Tour to win last week for local owner Ed Fortino. Gulick said he was pleased to welcome an owner absent several years, Dede McGehee, back into his barn. Gulick winters in Florida, where he has a house and a farm and pursuits far beyond mere equine activities. The fox simile, for instance, is not random – not when you keep chickens on your farm, as Gulick does at his Central Florida property. Mercifully, and for no apparent reason, the local foxes – one of which once killed or dispersed nearly 20 chickens during a single afternoon attack – have stopped coming around. The chickens are happy and laying, the bees that Gulick keeps are happy and making honey, and Gulick, with his modest stable of race-ready runners, is up north winning again. “They’ve all run well, the few that I’ve run. I couldn’t be happier, really, and hopefully it will continue over the weekend,” he said. Boyce stocked with talented Illinois-breds Devileye already got his 4-year-old campaign started with an open allowance-race win at Arlington, and in Friday’s eighth race it is Blue Sky Kowboy’s turn to shake off the cobwebs and launch into his 2018 season. There will be several similar scenarios in coming week as trainer Michele Boyce’s strong group of Illinois-breds ramp up to full speed for the summer at Arlington. Also likely to see action in coming weeks are the 3-year-old filly Speed Devil as well as the older females Puntsville and Lovely Loyree, elite performers in their respective Illinois-bred divisions. Blue Sky Kowboy ended his 3-year-old campaign with a near miss last fall in the $100,000 Hawthorne Derby – not bad for an Illinois-bred whose previous race had been a statebred-restricted first-level allowance. Blue Sky Kowboy is by Kodiak Kowboy and out of the fine race-mare Kate the Great, whom Boyce also trained. He required five tries to win a maiden race but improved steadily – both in performance and attitude – through late summer and fall and should be poised for a strong season. “The last race last year was a tough defeat with the effort he put in,” Boyce said Friday morning. “We gave him the winter off. I have high hopes for this afternoon. I think he’s matured mentally as well as physically. I think there are some good opportunities out there, and I’m very anxious to see how he performs.” In addition to the older horses, Boyce said she has a promising group of 2-year-olds this summer including the first foals to make the racetrack out of the good race-mares Katie the Lady and Happy Henrietta, both of whom Boyce trained. Expectations for the present, and hope for the future. Felix closing in on milestone Veteran jockey Julio Felix enters the racing week with 2,997 wins, and on Friday’s card alone he’ll have six mounts – several that look live – to hit the 3,000-win milestone. Racing has gone a little over-board celebrating milestones these days, but 3,000 is a real one, and Felix has worked hard to get to this point. Felix, 51, is a native of the Virgin Islands, hardly a Thoroughbred hotbed, and his first North American mounts came in 1989 when he began riding in South Florida. Felix began riding regularly at Arlington in 2010 and has compiled a local record of 265 winners from 2,396 starters. Three more trips to the Arlington winner’s circle and the champagne will flow.