05/18/2011 3:35PM

Arlington Park: Itinerant trainer lands in Chicago

Michael Burns
Pachattack wins the 2010 Maple Leaf Stakes at Woodbine.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The horses arrived safely from Newmarket, England, and five of the six of them are settled in and doing well. Now it’s time for trainer Gerard Butler to get a more definitive line on how his interesting Arlington Park experiment will turn out.

Butler, born in Kildare, Ireland, but now an England-based trainer, took out 10 stalls for Arlington’s 2011 meet. Believe this: His commute is a bear. Fortunately, assistant Andrew Morris is taking care of the day-to-day doings in Butler’s Arlington barn, but the head trainer made the seven-hour flight from London this week to supervise workouts and attend to his stable’s first starters of the meet. Burj Alzain, a promising 3-year-old, runs Friday in the second-level allowance feature, while the filly Akhmatova faces males in the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup on Saturday. Joe Le Taxi, who was entered in the Friday feature but will be scratched, also should see action, as will Maristar, who goes in a turf allowance this weekend. Beauchamp Viceroy might have run in the Hanshin but came up with “a little problem” after arrival, Butler said. Butler flies home Sunday, but will undertake another overseas journey next week for the mare Pachattack’s start in the Arlington Matron.
Butler is treading new ground with this U.S. satellite string, but he is a stranger neither to American racing nor distant operations. Butler, 45, worked as a foreman in the Wayne Lukas barn from 1991-1995, dealing with such standouts as Farma Way, Serena’s Song, and Flanders, before going back to the British Isles to set up shop. He trains about 30 horses at Newmarket and has sent a string to Dubai for winter racing for several years.

“We’ve been shipping horses all around,” Butler said. “It isn’t anything new to us.”

Butler said he considered basing at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, but chose Arlington because of familiarity with the track from past visits as well as the proximity of O’Hare International Airport.

Pachattack was here for the Beverly D. last summer, finishing sixth of nine before moving on to Woodbine, where she was a close fifth in the E.P. Taylor and an easy winner of the $186,000 Maple Leaf Stakes on Polytrack. Tentative plans call for her start in the Matron to be followed by a race in the Modesty Handicap and a return engagement in the Beverly D.

Burj Alzain, meanwhile, looks like a prime player in race 7 on Friday. Raced only on all-weather tracks in England and France, 3-year-old Burj Alzain started his career with two wins and a second last year, but his best performance to date probably was his third-place finish April 9 at Lingfield. The winner of that race, Dubawi Gold, finished third to Frankel in the English 2000 Guineas and will be among the favorites this weekend in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Butler said Burj Alzain could make his next start in the $125,000 Victoria Park Stakes on June 18 at Woodbine and could try turf for the first time in the American Derby here July 9.

Hanshin Cup coming up strong

The Butler-trained Akhamatova was one of nine horses entered in what looks like an appealing edition of the Hanshin, a one-turn Polytack mile that is the meet’s first graded stakes. The Hanshin’s likely favorite is Workin for Hops, who in his most recent start finished second to the sharp Get Stormy in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland. Also among the entries are 2010 Hanshin winner Country Flavor; Cool Bullet, second to Aikenite in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Handicap last out at Keeneland; and Pacific Ocean, who makes his stakes debut for trainer Wayne Catalano after starting his career with three wins.

Giant Oak pointing to Foster
Trainer Chris Block is settled into his regular summer quarters at Arlington, but several of his stakes horses remain stabled at Churchill Downs for now. That group is headed by Giant Oak, who remains on course for a start in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster after a close fifth-place finish in the Alysheba Stakes on May 6. Pointed to the Mint Julep over the Churchill turf course, where she won the Cardinal Handicap last fall, is the mare Askbut I Won’ttell, while Dundalk Dust, winner of the Grade 2 Falls City last fall at Churchill, might make her next start June 25 at Arlington in the Lincoln Heritage Stakes for Illinois-breds. Dundalk Dust ran poorly in her lone 2011 start, finishing last of seven in the March 12 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, but she was subsequently diagnosed with some sort of internal infection that caused weight loss. Dundalk Dust has regained her vitality and is doing well again, Block said.

Also in Kentucky is Never Retreat, who won back-to-back turf stakes, the Honey Fox and Jenny Wiley, before finishing sixth in the Distaff Turf Mile on Derby Day. Though she may start before then, Never Retreat is being pointed to the Modesty Handicap, a stamina test that, if passed, would land her a spot in the Beverly D.

◗ Trainer Danny Peitz reports that Arienza, the 3-year-old filly out of champion Azeri, came out of an eighth-place finish in the Eight Belles at Churchill with a strained hind leg. Arienza, who impressively won her first two starts before finishing second to Joyful Victory in the Grade 2 Fantasy, will need at least a month’s rest at a Kentucky farm to recover from the injury.