It was an odd afternoon at Arlington Park.
It began when track officials sent out a press release stating that "the positive development of the Horse Racing Equity (HRE) Trust Fund money to the Arlington Park purse account has led to a purse increase at Arlington effective Friday, Aug. 12."
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Arlington GM Tony Petrillo indicated that once the horsemen sign on to the agreement, 10 percent of the HRE Trust Fund ($25.9 million total) would be used to bump purses up to around $200,000 daily, up from about $165,000.
"We anxiously await the distribution of the money to the horsemen," Petrillo said.
There was only one problem, however: the horsemen weren't on board with the proposal.
"We have not agreed to anything," said Mike Campbell, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
In a nutshell, Arlington wants to use 10 percent of the $26 million to increase purses for the remainder of the meeting and allocate the remainder to purses for the next three years.
But the ITHA claims the proposal doesn't conform to the stipulations contained in the contractual agreement between the horsemen and the track.
Earlie's the man ... again:
With the defection of 72-year-old Jean Cruguet from Friday's Arlington Jockey Challenge, former riding legend Earlie Fires graduates to a role he really wasn't looking forward to: oldest rider on the Legend's team.
"Yeah, that's a shame," Fires, 64, said with a laugh.
Fires was really looking forward to riding with Cruguet, who was set to return from retirement for one race but was knocked out with a case of bronchitis instead.
"It's too bad," Fires said. "He wanted to ride last year too and something happened to him.
"He's fitter than any rider, even now. I've never seen a guy in better shape. I saw him at the Kentucky Derby -- he looks younger, looks good."
The same could be said for Fires, who looks as fit and trim as he did during his decades riding on the Chicago circuit.
"I've gotten on four or five horses the past week or so, and I've been working on the StairMaster, so I should be pretty good," Fires said.
He will be riding Avantibdancing in Friday's fifth race, a 1-mile affair on the turf.
"I really haven't looked at the horse; they say he's got a little bit of speed, can lay up close," Fires said. "I just have to ride him where he's at anyway."
And maybe pick up victory No 6,471 at age 64?
"I'm competitive to win, yes, but in the past I was so into winning so much that I would do anything to win," Fires said. "No, this time I'm just going to ride really as clean as I can and hope I'm on the best horse and win."
Horses entered in Saturday's Festival of Racing went through tune-ups of varying intensity Thursday morning during training hours and the most impressive of the bunch was the South African-bred Beverly D. runner River Jetez, who went 5 furlongs in 51 flat and got the last eighth in 12 seconds on a yielding turf course.
"She looked to me like the best one out there today," said Arlington Park clocker Bobby Belpedio. "She was all business and seemed to know exactly what she was doing."
She said it:
"My horse kept up for a little ways. He was running underneath me. He just wasn't running fast enough."
-- Retired jockey Patti Cooksey, on her experience in last year's Arlington Jockey Challenge.