Sportsman's Race Report: Chicago Six Sets Track Record

Published in the April 28 issue of The Blood-Horse
The National Jockey Club Handicap (gr. III) was a puzzle just waiting to be assembled by Guided Tour at Sportsman's Park on April 22. The out-of-town star was supposed to ship in, overcome the challenge of invading speedster Duckhorn, add another $120,000 to his earnings, and leave everybody else in the field of five to cash their checks. Puzzle solved.

All the pieces were in place -- until a stout-hearted Illinois-bred named Chicago Six scattered the preordained solution all over the drying-out racetrack.

Richard Trebat's 6-year-old horse improved his record over the Sportsman's layout to six-for-six with a trip perfectly designed by trainer Jere Smith Sr. and executed to perfection by jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. But before anybody applies for a name change to Sportsman's Six, it should be pointed out that Chicago Six is more than a horse for a course. He has now won at three different tracks in 10 of his last 13 starts, and earned high praise from Guided Tour's trainer, Niall O'Callaghan.

"I'm a student of the Ragozin sheets, and he ran some good numbers," O'Callaghan said. "He's a good horse. Sometimes when you start categorizing an Illinois-bred as just an Illinois-bred, you lose sight of their ability. My horse runs good numbers, and I think the numbers would say my horse ran one of his best races today. My horse ran a great race, as good as he can run. That horse is just faster."

Guided Tour had shown versatility in winning the Louisiana Handicap from off the pace, then stalking quick fractions to win the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) in his next start. After running fifth to Horse of the Year Tiznow in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), Guided Tour appeared to tower over his four Sportsman's foes. The even-money favorite was never more than 1 1/2 lengths behind second wagering choice Duckhorn through early fractions of :23.14, :46.95, and 1:11.13. Then jockey Larry Melancon pushed the button and Guided Tour shot to the lead on the backstretch. Melancon later admitted he considered Duckhorn the horse to beat.

"Yeah, he was the only speed in the race," the veteran rider said of Duckhorn. "But he (Guided Tour) is not a one-dimensional horse. He stalks, he's won in front, and laid off. He was anywhere I wanted him to be. This other horse just outran him."

Chicago Six, kept just outside the flank of Duckhorn and Guided Tour on the backside, rallied outside Guided Tour in the stretch after Duckhorn had called it a day, drawing off to a three-quarter-length win. It was another 10 1/2 lengths back to Glacial in third, followed by Smilin' Slew and Duckhorn.

The 86-year-old Trebat, who claimed Chicago Six from Chris Block for $18,000 on Sept. 2, 1999, at Hawthorne Race Course, will attempt to duplicate the National Jockey Club-Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) double on May 19. Trebat enjoyed that accomplishment with another Smith trainee, Recoup the Cash, in 1994.

Trebat said he had never seen another horse improve so dramatically late in his career as Chicago Six has, but pointed out, "When I had Recoup the Cash, I claimed him for $15,000 (as a 3-year-old), and he went on to win nearly a million dollars."

Explaining the claiming system he has worked out with Smith, with whom he now has 14 horses in training, Trebat said, "I follow bloodlines closely. When I saw this one running in claiming races, I told J.R., 'You'd better check out this horse and see how sound he is,' because he'd been running as a sprinter and he's a route horse. All the Wild Again horses have been known to run best in route races, anywhere from a mile to a mile and a quarter, and Wild Again won the Breeders' Cup (Classic, gr. I) at a mile and a quarter, so hopefully this guy (who's out of the Secretariat mare Secretaridge) can run a mile and a quarter (the Gold Cup distance) with no trouble."

Smith, who has won six trainer titles at Sportsman's, has done masterful work with his third National Jockey Club Handicap winner. After choking back his emotion over the victory, the trainer explained his contribution to Chicago Six's improvement.

"We have a program that we put him him right, feeding him right. When we claim one, we go through a whole process--teeth, blood, worm him, there's a list we go through. And he really started coming around."

The owner, who still puts in an occasional appearance at his Richard's Menswear in Des Plaines, said he has owned five stakes winners so far, and all have come from the claiming ranks. Chicago Six, who was bred at Richard L. Duchossois' Hill 'n Dale Farm, has now earned $548,983 in his 30-race career. Trebat hopes Chicago Six will be producing future stakes winners as a stallion when his racing career is over. Just when that will be "depends on how he's doing," Trebat said. "If he shows he's slipping a little bit, then we'll have to quit."

(Chart, Equibase)