Bittersweet goodbye: Final chapter closes on Arlington Park
As Sister Ruler turned for home in the final race ever at Arlington Park on Saturday evening, the horse and jockey Constantine Roman got a great vision of the sun setting in the west.
The Illinois-bred Sister Ruler crossed the finish line in the red glare of the sunset to close the final chapter of thoroughbred racing at Arlington Park.
Sister Ruler will now join Luxembourg, the winner of the first race ever run at Arlington Park in 1927, as trivia answers.
"It is unbelievable," said Keith Hoffman of Hoffman Farms Racing, the owner of Sister Ruler. "It really is. It is surreal, it really is. If we have to go down here at Arlington, this is the way to go."
Roman said he knew his seven-year old mare had a solid chance at history.
"I was waiting for this race," Roman said. "I trained with her. All I was worried about was the trip. We broke out in front in a big field. When I got to the three-eighth pole I knew I got it."
It was a sad, but still joyous day for the 7,500 fans, jockeys, trainers, owners and staff as Arlington Park ran its final race. All that remained to close out the track, was the grand finale of the fireworks show about an hour after Sister Ruler crossed the finish line.
Trainer Larry Rivelli, whose horses won three races on Saturday, set the record for most wins in a season with 83. That gave Rivelli, 833 for his career at Arlington, making him the third all-time leading trainer.
"This is home and I do hate to leave it," said Rivelli, who has won 9 consecutive training titles at Arlington.
"I am going to miss it, that's for sure. This is one of our better years. But it is a little bittersweet because we are probably not coming back again. Let's hold out a little hope. But I doubt it."
Jockey Jareth Loveberry, who won four races on Saturday, won the jockey title this year with 87 wins. He was also the racing jockey champion last year and was doused by his fellow jockeys with shaving cream when he received his award.
"It is an honor and humbling to ride here," said Loveberry, who still smelled of shaving cream. "There are so many emotions. It is Arlington Park. There are so many great jockeys and trainers here now and before me. I am going to miss being here."
Bugler Jered Montgomery brought the horses out for the final race with traditional call to post. He then followed with "America the Beautiful."
I just wanted to do the job and keep the emotions until the last note," Montgomery said. "It is really bittersweet because it is such a beautiful day. This is such an American institution that I wanted to send it off in a great way."
For many horseplayers, it is all about the names. For the record, the final winning horses were Splash for Gold, Andreas, Stopshoppingamy, Maid of Honor, Will Knows, Lizy D, Souper Highvoltage, Cosmic Treasure and finally Sister Ruler.
Looking out into the grandstands, Arlington President Tony Petrillo was filled with memories.
"I am running into a lot of people I know," Petrillo said. "That's what Arlington is about. Creating memories, revisiting memories. We have a lot to be thankful for. This is a magnificent facility."
Gail Socki brought her son Brandon and daughter Megan out to the track for the final time and sat in the grandstand right near the winners' circle. The Schaumburg resident brought her children with her and had them dressed in red T-shirts with the numbers "1" and "1A" on each of their shirts.
"I'm the owner of 1 and 1A," said Socki with a smile. "My kids used to come out here with my father, Frank Keane, who passed away two years ago. He would be very happy that we were here today.
Brandon, who is 11, said he loves horse racing.
"It is so great, Brandon said. "I remember grandpa when I am here."
Megan said she is sad that Saturday was the last day at Arlington.
"Our grandpa loved horses," Megan said. "That's why we came here. I am going to be sad and heartbroken because it is closing."