ARLIGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois – Earlier this week Bradlee Rainwater answered his mobile phone while taking a break from harvesting winter wheat grown on the Rainwater property outside Wayne City (pop. 1,089 as of the 2000 census) in the center of southern Illinois. The Rainwater farming operation, which has diminished since Brad’s father, Owen, ran the place, also runs some cattle and horses. The horses have become scarce. A decade or so ago the Rainwaters kept a few broodmares, foaled and raised their offspring on the farm, and sent them over to Steve Fosdick’s farm in Indiana to be broken to race.
Owen Rainwater, who passed away in 2011, had some pretty good horses running in Chicago including Distorted Groom, a homebred foal of 2003 and a stakes-winner of almost $304,000. Brad Rainwater bred no mares this season (though he has a horse named Go Lady Jay he’ll try to get in foal during the 2020 season) and the couple 3-year-olds he’s still racing are the last horses in the stable.
One of them, Tak, runs in the first race Saturday at Arlington, and in two starts this season he has made a little name for himself. Tak, owned by Rainwater’s sister, Arlisa Payne, debuted in a low-level $12,500 maiden-claimer on May 25 and absolutely jogged, winning by nearly eight lengths at odds just shy of 8-1. Breeder and trainer Rainwater boldly stepped Tak up to a $35,000 non-winners-of-two claimer June 22 and Tak crushed his rivals there, too, winning by almost five lengths with a high-quality 88 Beyer Speed Figure. Saturday, Tak doesn’t run for a claiming tag at all and gets a chance in an open first-level allowance race.
“You could say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by him,” said Rainwater, 57. “The horse just doesn’t work very much in the morning. I had worked him with another horse one time, and he worked totally different. Take him out by himself and he couldn’t care less.”
Tak is by a horse named Fool For You and is one of three (not a misprint: three) horses to make the races sired by that stallion. His dam is Mytak, a sister to Distorted Groom who had a decent career racing for Owen Rainwater. Mytak got only one other horse to race, the useful Iker, and was taken out of service because of her radically unpleasant demeanor.
“She was mean as hell,” Rainwater said. “You could hardly get her bred. When she had a foal, you couldn’t hardly get in with her for a week. Right after she foaled you could get in there but as soon as she got her senses back, she wouldn’t let you in the stall.”
Rainwater had another nice horse named Dabo who was sold to West Point Thoroughbreds (and is still racing, scoring an Arlington win earlier this meet) after an impressive closing debut. Go Lady Jay was covered during the 2019 breeding season but didn’t get in foal, and the Rainwater runners in Illinois are growing scarce. Tak, though, is carrying on the family tradition with aplomb.
Big weekend for Boyce
The bumblebee yellow-and-black striped silks of Cherrywood Racing (Michele Boyce et al) flew proudly at Arlington last weekend.
On June 29, My Mertie ran the race of her life, scoring a 33-1 upset in the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap, where she defeated odds-on favorite and 2018 Chicago winner Hotshot Anna by 1 ¼ lengths under Carlox Marquez Jr.
My Mertie is an Illinois-bred by Magna Graduate out of Kate the Great, and a day later her half-brother, Blue Sky Kowboy, by Kodiak Kowboy broke through with a long-awaited fourth career win capturing the day’s feature.
My Mertie always has been a useful allowance type who has dabbled in Illinois-bred stakes, but in the second race of her 7-year-old season, Boyce had her tuned to a high pitch.
“My horses tend to get better with age,” said Boyce, a claim with some merit. Boyce rarely races early-season 2-year-olds and also has 8-year-old Lovely Loyree and 7-year-old Puntsville still making regular stops in stakes.
Mertie blasted home on an afternoon hot as a furnace blast but despite being “a big, heavy-bodied mare, the type you might worry about in heat like that,” she came out of the start in good condition, according to her trainer. There are no set plans for My Mertie, who campaigns for Oak Rock Racing, Terry Biondo, and Cherrywood Racing, but anything she does beyond the Chicago win is only gravy.
Five-year-old Blue Sky Kowboy, who races for basically the same connections, has shown talent from the start of his career, but his habit of falling too far behind the leaders in slow-paced races has compromised his win chance in start after start. Sunday, with Jose Valdivia Jr. riding for the first time, Blue Sky Kowboy kept the pace-setter well within his sites in an Illinois-bred allowance race rained from turf onto Polytrack, seemingly Blue Sky Kowboy’s second-best surface. This time, Blue Sky Kowboy inhaled the leaders turning for home and went on to a comfortable 1 ½-length victory.
“I thought he ran a beautiful race – was very well ridden,” said Boyce. “Since his sister won the day before, he’d have hung his head in shame if he’d come back to the barn after losing.”
Blue Sky Kowboy, Boyce said, will return to stakes competition in the Black Tie Affair Stakes, an Illinois-bred turf route, on July 20.
Emigh hits 4,000
Jockey Chris Emigh became the 70th jockey with at least 4,000 wins in North America when he guided Mr. Haney to the milestone victory in the first race Thursday at Arlington.
Emigh, 48, has 1,100 winners at Arlington, third-most at the track behind Earlie Fires and Pat Day. Emigh began his jockey career in 1989 and has ridden every meeting at Arlington since 1997.
“It feels amazing and always wanted to do it here,” he said. “It took 30 years. I said if I got to 4,000, they’d have to say I could ride a little bit. There are probably 10,000 people and thousands of horses to thank. I just go out there and do two minutes of work. Just keep working hard every year and try not to get hurt.”
Jean Elizabeth returns in Murphy, What’s Up Dude tops Cammack
Jean Elizabeth makes the first start of her 4-year-old season Saturday in the $75,000 Isaac Murphy Handicap for older Illinois-bred sprinters. Larry Rivelli, who also co-bred and co-owns the filly with Richard Ravin and Patricia’s Hope LLC, trains Jean Elizabeth, a daughter of Indian Charlie and the productive Lit de Justice mare, Rooney Doodle. Jean Elizabeth has won six of her 11 starts and has four wins and two seconds over Arlington’s Polytrack. Her chief competition is Puntsville, a previous winner of this race, and the improving Joyful Night, who makes her stakes debut.
What’s Up Dude, who already has two allowance-race wins and a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup this meet, tops the $75,000 Addison Cammack, another six-furlong Illinois-bred Polytrack sprint. Trained by Mark Cristel for Danalisa Racing, What’s Up Dude figures to have the accomplished 7-year-old Recount, speedy Richiesinthehouse, and upset candidate Wile E Peyote as worthy competition.