06/24/2010 11:00PM

Sellers returning to ride at Arlington


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Shane Sellers, who hasn't ridden steadily at Arlington Park since 1993, will move his tack here next week and hopes to begin race-riding Thursday.

Sellers has been based at Delaware Park, where he had ridden 21 winners through Thursday, a total good for sixth in the standings there. He said the chance to partner with new agent Pat Cuccurullo and return to Arlington prompted his move to the Midwest.

"It was an opportunity to get with Pat and to go to Arlington, where I wanted to go in the first place," Sellers said.

Sellers, 44, didn't ride in a race during a period spanning 2005-2008, but made a comeback at Evangeline Downs in 2009, and had immediate success. He moved on to the Fair Grounds 2009-2010 meet, and after a strong start, wound up winning a decent 49 races from 449 mounts there.

Sellers has won 4,194 races in his career. In 1991, he was leading rider at Arlington, winning 219 races that summer.

Before Sellers's long layoff, he was at the forefront of a fight for jockeys' rights and at one point was escorted from Churchill Downs in handcuffs. Sellers also fought to return to form after suffering a serious knee injury in an unlucky pre-race spill at Fair Grounds. And, after his career had reached its zenith, Sellers faced questions about his attitude and approach.

But Sellers has changed many backstretch perspectives from negative to positive since his comeback. Fair Grounds- and Delaware-based trainer Cindy Jones and her husband, former trainer Larry Jones, were highly skeptical when Sellers first came around their barn. No longer.

"He has changed completely," Cindy Jones said. "Shane has such a passion for what he's doing, he's going to do the very best he can do."

"I used him a lot at Fair Grounds," said Arlington trainer Greg Geier. "His attitude had changed, and he was like that from Day 1. He worked hard."

Cuccurullo, a former trainer, also is making a Chicago comeback. Cuccurullo, who operates a Kentucky farm that handles lay-ups, last was based here in 2004, when he trained for owner Frank Calabrese.

"When do you have a chance to pick up a rider who has won more than 4,000 races?" said Cuccurullo, who booked mounts for Scott Stevens at Turf Paradise a few years ago.

Country Flavor looking for spots

Geier would like to run Grade 3 Hanshin Cup winner Country Flavor in the Washington Park Handicap. Problem is, the Washington Park isn't until Sept. 4.

"There's not much for him here," Geier said. "It looks like we're going to have to go somewhere else."

A possible spot for Country Flavor is the $75,000 Tony Hulman Handicap over nine furlongs on dirt July 14 at Indiana Downs.

Geier also reported that Fast Alex, a promising 3-year-old prospect at the Fair Grounds meet, has resumed training. Fast Alex had been pointed to the Louisiana Derby when he was taken out of training. Geier said the horse was sore at the time, but that a bone scan and further tests revealed no significant injury. Fast Alex has been walking Geier's barn for weeks and is jogging again now. He could return sometime in late summer or early fall.

Giant Oak eyes Hulman

The Hulman at Indiana Downs also is a possible next race for Giant Oak, who came out of his fourth-place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap in good shape, trainer Chris Block said.

Free Fighter, a troubled sixth in the Black Tie Affair here last weekend after winning the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill in his previous start, is being pointed to the Arlington Handicap on July 17.

* The Sunday feature, race 5, is for third-level allowance horses, $80,000 claimers -- or horses who have not won two races in 2010. It's that last condition that gets Recapturetheglory into the race, and Recapturetheglory looks like the horse to beat in this 1 1/16-mile grass race. Just five others are entered for turf, with Brothers Nicholas, Recapturetheglory's stablemate, to start only in the event of a move to Polytrack.