06/14/2010 11:00PM

Sheppard rethinking Arlington stakes


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Reductions in Arlington Park stakes purses has trainer Jonathan Sheppard thinking twice about his participation in upcoming stakes here, Sheppard said Monday.

While the July 4 Chicago Breeders' Cup remains a possible destination for Informed Decision, champion female sprinter in 2009, Sheppard has not committed her to a Chicago trip. The same holds for Just as Well, a potential runner in the Arlington Handicap on July 17. With the recently announced purse reductions, necessitated by a steep drop in handle on Arlington races, the Chicago Handicap is worth $100,000 instead of $150,000, while the Arlington Handicap is down to $150,000 from $200,000.

"I'm concerned that they've lowered the purses," said Sheppard, who trains Informed Decision for George Strawbridge, and Just as Well for himself.

It would be a shame if the Sheppard trainees stayed home. Informed Decision was an odds-on favorite in the 2009 Chicago Handicap, but put on a memorable show here, winning by almost five lengths. Informed Decision, who has finished third in her two 2010 starts, posted three quick May workouts at Presque Isle Downs, and shows no workout activity since May 21, but Sheppard said all is well with the mare. There was a chance Informed Decision might have started in a Presque Isle allowance race, but when that race never came to fruition, Sheppard had Informed Decision sent back to his farm in eastern Pennsylvania.

"I don't like to keep them in any one place too long because of the ground that they're training on," Sheppard said. "There's a lot of talk about conventional dirt, synthetic, and stuff, but it's probably all the best if you don't have any long spells on one particular surface."

Just as Well won the 2009 Arlington Handicap before finishing second in the Arlington Million, but could be pointed to the $750,000 United Nations at Monmouth rather than awaiting the Arlington Handicap this year, Sheppard said. Just as Well had a troubled stretch run when he finished fifth in the Manhattan Handicap on June 5 at Belmont.

Another Sheppard-trained horse, the promising 3-year-old Bushwhacked, won't be racing at Arlington or anywhere else the rest of this summer. Bushwhacked finished second in the Lexington Stakes and was being pointed to the Preakness when he fell ill.

"He got pneumonia which came to colitis, and he nearly died," Sheppard said.

Bushwhacked spent three weeks at an equine clinic at the University of Georgia, but was released on June 1, and presently is stabled in Camden, S.C.

"He lost quite a bit of weight, but he didn't look as bad as I expected him to," said Sheppard.

It's possible Bushwhacked could return to the races sometime this fall.

Dawnie Macho may be moving on

The latest fast Wayne Catalano-trained filly, Dawnie Macho, might not be trained by Catalano much longer.

Dawnie Macho set an Arlington Polytrack record for 4 1/2 furlongs when she zipped the distance in 51.19 seconds winning her career debut by five lengths on Saturday. The performance, which earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90, caught the eye of bloodstock agents across the land, and Dawnie Macho was in the process of being privately purchased on Tuesday, Catalano said.

"She's still in my barn, but I believe she's going to be leaving," Catalano said late Tuesday morning.

Dawnie Macho, a daughter of Macho Again out of the Montbrook mare Blush of Dawn, is owned by Wayne Granger, and has an interesting auction history. She was purchased as a yearling in Florida for just $5,000 in 2009 by Michael Costanzo, who bought her back at a Florida 2-year-old auction this past April after the filly failed to meet a $49,000 reserve.

After running out of the screen Saturday, Dawnie Macho figures to be worth considerably more than that.

Newcomer Jaen far from a rookie

The name Abdiel Jaen was a new one to most everyone on the Chicago circuit this summer. But if Jaen was a newcomer, why didn't he show an apprentice weight allowance when he began riding races at Arlington? Because Jaen is no apprentice.

A native of Panama, the 30-year-old Jaen has spent the last five years riding in Saudi Arabia, where, according to Jaen, he was leading rider four years in a row. Before landing in the Middle East, Jaen had ridden in the U.S. during 2003-2004, winning 22 races while riding in Florida and Louisiana. His five-year contract up this past spring, Jaen was looking to return to the U.S., a situation conveyed by Panamanian contacts to Laffit Salazar - the son of Panamanian-born trainer Marco Salazar - who is serving as Jaen's agent at Arlington.

"I always wanted to ride in the States," Jaen said, with Salazar interpreting. "I watched Rene Douglas [another Panamanian] at Arlington, and this was a place I always wanted to be with Rene winning all those races."

Jaen's business has been limited so far, but he has managed 2 wins and 2 seconds from just 13 mounts.

* King Ledley has won just once in 13 career starts, but several of those losses came in group stakes competition overseas, and King Ledley should be tough to stop in the featured third race Thursday, an entry-level allowance carded for about five furlongs on turf.