08/17/2012 7:02PM

Arlington Park: James Graham scores one for the 'Fab Five' in Legends race

Four Footed Fotos
A group shot prior to the Fab Five vs. Legends race at Arlington on Friday. James Graham (left in front row) defeated Larry Melancon (third from right in back row).

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Larry Melancon thought he was headed for the 2,858th victory of his riding career, but then some young whippersnapper came along to narrowly beaten him.

Still, Melancon couldn’t help but sport a huge grin as he weighed in from the eighth race Friday at Arlington Park, the third annual “Arlington Fab Five vs. Legends” event on the Arlington Million eve program. Melancon, riding 13-1 shot Dominant Suh, held the lead past the furlong of the one-mile turf race, only to have Jake Will Gallop and jockey Jimmy Graham surge past him in the final 100 yards.

“I had some horse left,” said Melancon, one of the five retired jockeys who rode against their five active counterparts. “But I knew they’d be coming. My horse ran a real good race.”

Melancon, 57, retired in July 2010 and has continued working in racing as an exercise rider, currently for Al Stall Jr. at Saratoga. The other retired jockeys to participate (and where their mounts finished Friday) were Zoe Cadman (fourth), Frank Lovato Jr. (sixth), Patti Cooksey (seventh), and Earlie Fires (eighth).

This was the third year for the Legends event, which is held in conjunction with fund-raising activities for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The retired jockeys are now 0 for 3 in those runnings, although a retired jockey has finished second each year. Fires, the ever-popular 65-year-old Hall of Famer who received the most cheers leaving the paddock Friday, rode the runner-up the last two years.

With ontrack patrons enjoying sublimely cool August weather, the field for the Legends race was strung out early before they began bunching after the turn for home. Dominant Suh clung grimly to the lead before Jake Will Gallop, the co-third choice, made his winning run from farthest out on the course to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths. The winner returned $11.80 after finishing fourth in 1:41.88 over a yielding course.

A number of racing luminaries were on hand for the related events and to watch the race from the winner’s circle, including Hall of Fame jockeys Pat Day and Chris McCarron.