That little 9-year-old boy you used to see wearing a suit and tie in the early 1990s at Arlington International Racecourse hasn't changed his wardrobe.
And he is still coming to the Arlington oval.
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Except now, instead of following every move of his grandfather, Craig Bernick is following in his footsteps.
Elite thoroughbred owner Leonard Lavin, the founder of Alberto-Culver Co., used to bring his grandson to the races to watch his star thoroughbreds race in the 1990s.
In 2008, the 93-year-old Leonard turned his operation over to his grandson. Bernick is now president and chief executive officer of Glen Hill Farm in Ocala, Fla. But the River Forest native still spends his summers in Chicago and he will be at Arlington International Racecourse with stable hero Marketing Mix, the 2-1 morningline favorite in the 24th running of the Grade 1 $750,000 Beverly D.
"It's fun," Bernick said. "I still talk to my grandpa almost every day. We have a horse (Wishing Gate) running in a Grade I Del Mar Oaks (today). He's (Lavin) in charge of Del Mar today and I'm in charge of Arlington. We'll see who's more lucky."
Bernick has seen the 5-year-old Marketing Mix enjoy plenty of success in two previous trips to Arlington. As a 3-year-old, her 3¼-length local victory in the Grade III Pucker Up Stakes was a significant triumph.
"That was her first graded stakes win," Bernick said. "She had won a turf race in the start prior, but that ace (Pucker Up) was when we kind of knew she was a very good horse because it was a decent group of horses and she beat them rather impressively. So it was exciting."
Marketing Mix, trained by veteran Tom Proctor, had an exciting finish in the 2012 Beverly D. when she came charging late under jockey Julien Leparoux to just miss by a head to I'm A Dreamer.
"It's her third time now on the turf here and we know she likes it," Bernick said of the 10-time winner from 18 starts with $1.8 million in earnings. "It's a very good field. If she runs well and doesn't have traffic problems, I think she has a good chance."
The international competition for Marketing Mix will come from Dank (7-2 morningline) and Duntle (3-1) -- both Group II winners -- as well as the improving Gifted Girl (12-1).
Dank won the Group II Kilboy Estate Stakes after finishing third behind Duntle in the Group II Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot. Gifted Girl has raced just once at the group level, finishing third in the Group III Princess Elizabeth Stakes, but her 2-length win over Ladys First in a listed stakes on July 9 is noteworthy.
Another contender with local ties is Shadwell Stable's homebred Ausus (jockey James Graham), who won the local prep by 2¼ lengths over Artemus Kitten and La Tia in the Grade III Modesty Handicap on July 13.
Rounding out the Beverly D. field are Artemus Kitten (30-1), La Tia (20-1), Solid Appeal (10-1) and Starformer (8-1).
"We'd love to win this race in Chicago," said Bernick, who attended Oak Park-River Forest High School. "It takes a top-class horse to win these races, and hopefully ours gets the job done. She's going great and we're excited to run her."
Bernick's grandfather bought the Ocala 400-acre farm in 1966 after starting his personal-care products empire. Bernick, who had his own success owning and racing thoroughbreds, said taking over the family farm was a natural step for him.
"My grandfather had some pretty good horses when I was young and through my high school years he raced One Dreamer (1994 Breeders Cup Distaff champion)," Bernick said. "With her and all his other good horses, it made it fun to come and watch them run."
Bernick is hoping Marketing Mix keeps them on the run today.