The biggest name in the 27th annual running of the Arlington Million Sunday turned out to be Gio Ponti, as the favorite recovered from an early stumble to take the lead at the final turn and win the legendary race.
The 4-year-old colt overtook two long shots, Just As Well and Stotsfold, to carry jockey Ramon Dominguez home the winner.
But while those were the most prominent names at Arlington Park Saturday, they weren't the only ones with roles in the historic event.
It's not easy to attract attention in a crowd of 28,141, but almost everyone at the race Saturday noticed Jean Laurenz of Mount Prospect.
The 22-year-old Northwestern music and education student is the track bugler, and when she plays the call to post, it's time for a race to start. She had that honor for the Million too.
It's a dream job for Laurenz, one she coveted ever since she performed several years ago at Arlington Park with the Prospect High School Marching Band. Last year in a tryout, she won the chance to replace the legendary Bonny Brown, who left after five years to follow her husband to Texas.
"It doesn't get any better than this," said Laurenz, refusing to complain about the heat, which topped 90 degrees Saturday.
Track Veterinarian Kent Martin is responsible for the health of the horses, so he had to pay attention to the weather, and he was grateful for the 22-mile per hour winds.
"We're always careful, especially with a dramatic change in temperatures from cool yesterday to very hot," he said.
Horses are in more danger after the race because their temperatures can rise from the normal of 100 degrees to as high as 106 during the exertion, Martin said. His solution is hoses and buckets of ice water everywhere so grooms can cool their horses off quickly.
He also carries quick-working steroids that he can administer to any horse showing signs of heat shock.
The staff selling food from a tent at the park's picnic area was the concern of Ron Krivosik, vice president of culinary for Levy Restaurants, which provides food and staff for all the track's restaurants.
"We have to make sure they take enough breaks inside the air-conditioned building and drink enough water and Gatorade to replenish their systems," he said.
The Elgin resident said members of his team stocked 10,000 bottles of water and knew how to get more if necessary.
They also had a ton of prime rib, 500 pounds of large shrimp and 500 pounds of crab legs for the Million Room and other sit-down areas and 1,000 pounds of brisket for the lower-level food court.
The Million Room turned out to be a good venue for Rosemary Kotowski of Kildeer and two of her friends
"We're having the time of our life," she said. "We're having a million laughs."
She was with Phyllis Coduto of Arlington Heights, who had won the dinners at the Northwest Community Hospital fashion show.
One fan with an unusual way to keep cool was Joe Seger of Bartlett. He was lying on a bench in the grandstand under an umbrella that his girlfriend, Niki Laske, had brought because she was afraid it might rain.
For Laske, it's a family affair. The 25-year-old has attended almost every Million, including one her father talked her mother into going to the day before Niki was born.