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Kirby gets his chances in Festival at Arlington
By John Leusch | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/7/2008 3:31 PM

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Not too many trainers can say they won titles at the same race track 30 years apart.

But that's exactly what Frank Kirby did at Arlington Park in 1974 and 2004.

Not too many trainers can say they saddled a horse for the Arlington Million.

Kirby can now say that, too.

The 71-year-old conditioner will start longshot Cloudy's Knight (20-1 morning line) in Saturday's Million.

And there's frosting on his Festival cake.

He will also give a leg up to John Velasquez, who will pilot outside Ciao (30-1) in the Beverly D.

"It's a great challenge to be in these two races," said Kirby, who began training in Chicago in 1974 and made it his home in 1979. "It's a great thrill to be in the Million and Beverly D.

"Every race is exciting to me. The ones I win and even the ones I don't win. I'm still really interested in racing. It's been wonderful to me."

Kirby, the son of a rancher, got his first taste of horse racing when he went to the old Phoenix Fair Grounds at the age of 15, He grew up around horses and cattle.

Going into this summer, he's won 368 races at Arlington at Arlington Park, two of them in stakes wins. He also has six training titles at Hawthorne Racecourse in Stickney.

"Like they say, you can't win big races like the Million or Beverly D. if you're not in them," Kirby added. "It's the owners of these horse who wanted to give it a try. They're great owners and I'm very thankful to them."

Kirby said Cloudy's Knights, who won the Grade I Canadian International last October, is training quite well.

The 8-year-old gelding, owned by longtime Illinois residents Dr. Jerrold and Shirley Schwartz (S J S Stables) has had two starts this year.

"It may have been premature on my part to run him in May in Kentucky (seventh in the Opening Verse Handicap)," Kirby said. "He didn't seem up to the task. Then he ran a good fourth here (Stars and Stripes in July 4). He lost quite a bit of ground that race. Hopefully, he'll have a better trip this time"

Cat man too: Like Frank Kirby, Arlington's leading trainer, Wayne Catalano, sends out two Festival starters - his for owner Frank Calabrese.

Dreaming of Anna (Beverly D) and Prime Realestates (Secretariat) both drew the rail for the track's top owner-trainer connection.

Ready to roar? Bobby Frankel is certainly no stranger when it comes to visiting the winner's circle.

He's been there twice already with Possibly Perfect in 1995 and Heat Haze in 2003, and now the veteran trainer is going for his third, and it looks like he's got a pretty good shot with 9-5 morning-line favorite Precious Kitten.

Despite a quarter crack that has kept her away from competitive racing since winning the Grade I Gamely Stakesat Hollywood Park in late May, Frankel said the daughter of Catienus is raring to go.

"The quarter crack is fine now, and she has been working super," said Frankel, who also has Sudan primed for a run in the Million. "I just hope she didn't work a little too fast the other day (6-furlong turf breeze in just over 1:14 at Saratoga on July 28). That's how good she's doing."

New life: Possibly one of the lowest-priced favorites in Saturday's Festival will be Tizdejavu in the Secretariat Stakes on the Arlington Park turf course.

And to think the son of Tiznow only began running on grass in May when he won the Grade III Crown Royal American Turf as part of the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Since then, the American-bred won the Jefferson Turf Cup at Churchill and the American Derby at Arlington.