08/14/2012 3:05PM

Arlington Park: Trainers Livesay, Miller carry local hopes on Million Day

Four-Footed Fotos
Romacaca (right) wins the Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park on July 14. She will make her next start in the Beverly D.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Arlington rolls out the red carpet for overseas connections that travel for Million Day, tirelessly trumpeting the event’s “international” character. But on a quiet Tuesday morning here, not much in the way of pomp adorned a couple local operations that will be in action in Saturday’s big races.

Trainer Charlie Livesay was helping fix screens in his barn office while watching over his 4-year-old granddaughter. And trainer Danny Miller, morning training complete, had dozed off sitting in the sunshine at a table outside his shed row in Barn 7C.

“It’s not that I got up too early, but that I went to sleep too late,” Miller said, roused from light slumber by a visitor. “I had no night watchman last night, so I was at the barn until 1 watching that mare.”

That mare is Romacaca, and when she starts in the Beverly D., it will be Miller’s first runner in a Million Day race. Miller, 59, has been training in Chicago since 1979 and has seen every Million in the race’s 29-year history. But his operation has long been geared more toward claiming runners than stakes horses. A couple years ago he had a good turf filly named Dade Babe who finished fourth in the 2010 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, the only Grade 1 race in which Miller has previously participated.

Miller trains 22 horses, six fewer than when he began the meet, the decline due to claims and injuries. Ten of those, including Romacaca, are owned by Frank Calabrese, who virtually abandoned the Chicago circuit two years ago, but who recently has been building up his Arlington string with Miller. Romacaca is the best of the Calabreses, having won the Modesty Handicap here in her most recent start.

“I don’t see how she could be coming into this race any better,” Miller said. “These are the kind of races where everything is supposed to mean a little bit more. I’m excited about it.”

The 78-year-old Livesay, trainer of a nine-horse string at the moment, is in the Million for the first time in a decades-long career. His hopes ride with Cherokee Lord, who actually finished a very good fourth in the 2010 Secretariat, but who might be 50-1 Saturday. If Livesay thought he were a no-hoper, Cherokee Lord wouldn’t be running.

“He ran good in the Secretariat, but I didn’t have him as tight as he needed to be,” Livesay said. “I think I do this time.”

Livesay began training in Chicago in 1990 after wandering the Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico circuits for years. He saw John Henry, the winner of the first Arlington Million, race at Evangeline Downs long before the gelding became a star.

Livesay has sent out 30 starters in graded stakes without winning such a race. Cherokee Lord could only finish fifth behind fellow Million runners Rahystrada and Boisterous in the Arlington Handicap, but the gelding still was racing his way toward total fitness then, Livesay thinks. Saturday, Livesay will put on his dressiest sport coat and head to the track, lining up next to the internationals in the crowded Arlington paddock late in the afternoon.

“Heck no, I’ve never been in a race this big,” Livesay said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

◗ Dark Stranger, who was pre-entered in the Secretariat, did not ship here as planned after coming up lame Saturday, trainer John Gosden told International Racing Bureau officials. His absence leaves the Secretariat with a prospective field of eight, three of whom – Silver Max, Finnegan’s Wake, and Cozzetti – are trained by Dale Romans.

◗ Ryan Moore, who had been scheduled to ride Crackerjack King in the Million, Jakkalberry in the American St. Leger, and I’m a Dreamer in the Beverly D.,will not be in Chicago this weekend. Colm O’Donoghue has picked up the mounts on Crackerjack King and Jakkalberry, while Hayley Turner will ride I’m a Dreamer.

◗ Mirco Demuro, who scored a memorable victory winning the 2011 Dubai World Cup on Victoire Pisa, has picked up the mount on the German filly Kapitale in the Beverly D. Demuro rode sporadically in the United States in the early 2000s, but hasn’t ridden a race in this country since 2005.

◗ Entries for Saturday’s four stakes were due Tuesday, but the races won’t be drawn until noon Wednesday. The post position draw is being held in Chicago at the studios of WGN, which will broadcast the Million on Saturday and briefly show the post position draw during its noon newscast Wednesday.

◗ Vertiformer was pre-entered in the Million and American St. Leger and has been entered in both races, as well, trainer Wayne Catalano said, but if the Arlington turf remains on the soft side, Vertiformer won’t run in either race Saturday.

“We need a fast course,” Catalano said.

Suntracer was entered in the American St. Leger, but would only run if something prevents his stablemate Ioya Bigtime from starting, trainer Chris Block said.

◗ The eighth race here Friday is billed as the Arlington Fab 5 vs. Legends race, and pits the top five jockeys in the current Arlington standings against five retired jockeys. The former jockeys participating are Earlie Fires, Patty Cooksey, Larry Melancon, Frank Lovato Jr., and Zoe Cadman.

The race coincides with the third annual Dining with the Dynasty, an event where the public can mingle with a number of famed former jockeys. Tickets for the event, the proceeds of which benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America, are available for $600.