The 90-day meeting at Arlington Park ended Sunday, with trainer Wayne Catalano earning his 10th Arlington crown while jockey Francisco Torres and owners Midwest Thoroughbreds of Richard and Karen Papiese each took down their first Arlington title.
One month into Arlington's 2012 session, the Chicago oval's normally prolific Catalano had only registered four wins at the meeting, but by the end of July he had assumed his traditional position atop the standings. By the time the curtain fell on Sept. 30, "Cat" had won 63 races, nearly double the victories of his closest pursuer Chris Block (38 wins).
Block was top trainer in purses earned with $1,921,998 topped by victories with Leading Astray in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes on September 15 and Ioya Bigtime in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes on Million Preview Day.
The prolific operation of Richard and Karen Papiese's Midwest Thoroughbreds adds Arlington Park to the long list of racetracks where the couple has taken home a title.
The 2011 national champions in races won with 418 victories as well as in money earned with more than $6.3 million in purse earnings, the Papieses have already surpassed those figures in 2012 with 436 wins and more than $8 million in purses.
With 26 victories from 125 starts, Midwest Thoroughbreds outpaced last year's leading owner William Stiritz, who had 18 victories here in 2012.
Though their horses earned a solid $756,492 in purses here, that was only good enough for second behind the Team Block operation of David, Patricia & Ryan Block whose starters banked $899,609.
Despite the fact that Torres was atop the jockey standings for nearly the entire meet, it wasn't until the final week that he was able to put away last year's champion James Graham with the final count being 100-90. Torres also led all riders in purses earned with $3,090,654.
This year's Grade 1 Arlington Million, won by Little Mike, again was televised nationally by WGN-America, which is available in more than 72 million homes.
In addition, Arlington boasted an aggressive promotional calendar in 2012 that included a special days saluting Northwestern University, the Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox; fireworks on July 4 which were enjoyed by a crowd in excess of 36,000; and events such as Girls Day Out, College Day and Binny's Taste of the Track which helped expose Arlington to a wider audience.
On the track, Priscilla Vaccarezza's Little Mike defeated Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum's British-bred Afsare in Arlington Million XXX on August 18 before a crowd of 34,022. The five-year-old son of Spanish Steps is trained by Dale Romans and gave jockey Ramon Dominguez his second win in the race.
European invaders dominated the remaining International Festival races with Andrew Stone's Irish-bred I'm a Dreamer, trained by David Simcock and ridden by Hayley Turner, winning the Grade 1, $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes; His Highness the Aka Khan Studs' French-bred Bayrir, trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre and ridden by Christophe Lemaire, taking the Grade 1, $500,000 Secretariat Stakes; and Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock's Irish-bred Jakkalberry winning the inaugural edition of the $400,000 American St. Leger Stakes for trainer Marco Botti and jockey Colm O'Donoghue.
Other impressive on-track performances were turned in by Mark Bacon and Dana Wells' Silver Max in the $125,000 Arlington Classic; Albaugh Family Stable's Cozzetti in the Grade 3 American Derby; Stone Farm et al's Upperline in the Grade 3Arlington Matron; Swifty Farms' Pataky Kid in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity; Dolphus Morrison's Gold Edge in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie; Frank Calabrese's Romacaca in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap; and a second victory in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap by Robert Courtney Jr.'s Rahystrada.