04/28/2009 11:00PM

Perennial leaders may find success apart


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Who knows? Wayne Catalano may wind up as leading trainer at Arlington this year, just like he has the last four seasons, and seven out of the last nine years. And Frank Calabrese could easily continue his four-year run as Arlington's leading owner. It's just that Catalano and Calabrese won't be working on the same team this year.

Calabrese fired Catalano over the winter at Gulfstream Park. The two have split up and gotten back together before, and at first, the racetrack gossip mill in Chicago had a pre-Arlington reunion set at low odds. But now Arlington is upon us, and here is Catalano with 35 stalls, and Calabrese with 45-odd of his own. The Calabrese horses will start for trainers Rick Slomkowski and Danny Miller, while Catalano has mixed new clients with some old ones since going public. Undoubtedly there will be some private rivalry between the two camps, but Catalano expressed nothing but respect for his time with Calabrese.

"Me and Mr. Calabrese had a great run," Catalano said. "We did a lot of things that are untouchable. I'm not looking to compare things. I'm going to apply my horsemanship to the horses that I have now."

Catalano said he didn't expect to be especially active early in the Arlington meeting. "We're going to run a few early, and look to gather some more up. It's a long meet, so we're not going to get too anxious."

Catalano has horses for longtime clients Darrell and Evelyn Yates, but has picked up stock for Four Roses Thoroughbreds, as well as Gary and Mary West. He has a 2-year-old half-sister to Jose Adan, disqualified from first to third in the 2008 Arlington-Washington Futurity, and a mix of some allowance horses and maidens. Catalano has made his deepest Arlington mark masterfully playing the claiming game, and there will be some of that happening. And no one is going to be too surprised if Catalano keeps winning, even if his jockeys are not adorned in Calabrese's white and black silks.

Arlington 'better fit' for Von Hemel

Not since 1996 has trainer Donnie Von Hemel had a stable at Arlington Park, but Von Hemel is back with a full barn for the 2009 season. It was the opening of Lone Star Park in 1997 that drew Von Hemel away from Arlington, but now Von Hemel feels the time is right to head in a different direction.

"Well, it was a really difficult decision," Von Hemel said of the move. "There were a number of factors involved; you weigh them all out, and Arlington came up first. It just seemed like a better fit for us right now."

This will be Von Hemel's first meet based on a Polytrack surface, but he stabled at a track with a synthetic surface long before the current synthetic wave rolled over the sport.

"I was at Remington when they had Equitrack," Von Hemel said. "There are some similarities between the two products, but this will be my first Polytrack. We've had a lot of rain, and one of the good things about it is you don't have to alter your schedule, and we've been able to go right on."

Von Hemel said it would take him 30-45 days to fully evaluate the surface, but that he planned to enter race-ready horses from the start of the meet. "If we have one ready to go, we'll enter it," Von Hemel said.

Von Hemel said seven 2-year-olds soon would be bedded down in his Arlington barn, and at summer's peak, his stable could house 15 2-year-olds. Semaphore Man, winner of the Count Fleet last out at Oaklawn, just breezed at Arlington, but does not race well on Polytrack and probably will have to leave town to find a race. Not so the talented and still-promising Euphony, who has won four straight races and 7 of 9 over the course of her career. Euphony has won short and long, on dirt and on turf, and will make her synthetic-track debut in the May 23 Matron here, Von Hemel said.

Jara returns to U.S. riding

Rene Douglas is a strong favorite to win another Arlington riding title this summer, and it so happens that the most interesting new face in the local jockey colony, Fernando Jara, is represented by none other than Douglas's own agent, Dennis Cooper. Jara rode in Dubai this winter, and despite a promising start to his career, has not ridden at all in the U.S. since 2007.

With one mount on opening day is another new edition, a seven-pound bug boy named Michael Straight. Straight is the twin brother of Matthew Straight, who also is an apprentice rider.

Stonehouse could try Hanshin Cup

Stonehouse, impressive winner of the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap over Illinois-breds last weekend at Hawthorne, is a possible starter in the May 23 Hanshin Cup here, trainer Spanky Broussard said. Stonehouse now has won three straight stakes races, but all came on dirt, and Stonehouse might not be quite as effective on a synthetic racing surface.

"I don't think he handles it real well," said trainer Spanky Broussard. "Right now we're just playing it by ear, but he could run in the Hanshin."

Track adds new wagers to menu

Arlington has made changes to its wagering menu this year. First is the introduction of a $1 place pick nine, usually beginning with the first race on a program. Additionally, Arlington and two other Churchill Downs Inc. venues, Churchill Downs and Calder Race Course, will have multi-track carryovers for the High-5, or Z-Bet. For instance, if a High-5 at Churchill Downs is not hit, the carryover pool transfers to the next High-5 bet at Arlington or Calder, and so forth. The High-5 requires a bettor to select the first five finishers in a given race.

The multi-track Z-Bet will begin May 9. Until that time, Arlington will offer a stand-alone High-5 wager that will have a day-to-day carryover at Arlington Park should nobody correctly select the top five finishers in order. There will be a mandatory payout of the Arlington-only High-5 wager on May 8.