Jockey E.T. Baird started the day needing 8 wins to reach 2,000 for his career.
The 1984 Rolling Meadows graduate and former tennis player rode Saturday at Arlington Park on Million Preview Day like he wanted to get to the milestone mark in one day.
Baird won five of the seven races he rode, capping it off with a 1-length victory aboard Just As Well in the Grade III $200,000 Arlington Handicap, the final local prep for the Aug. 8 Arlington Million.
Owner and trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who saddled Informed Decision to a pace-setting victory in last week's Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington, said the stretch-running Just As Well will return to his stable at Presque Isle in Pennsylvania to prepare for the Million.
"I'm happy for E.T. because he was a big part of teaching this horse to settle last year," Sheppard said. "He needs a longer run like this race (11/4 miles on the turf)."
Sheppard acquired Just As Well a few years ago from previous owner George Strawbridge, who also owns Informed Decision.
The 6-year-old son of AP Indy, who captured the first stakes win of his career, has 4 wins in 17 career starts for earnings of $360,325.
Baird also won $200,000 Arlington Sprint aboard Yankee Injunuity and the $53,300 Diamond Ring Stakes astride Romacaca.
"I rode this horse (Just As Well) for Jonathan at Keeneland, and he wanted him to settle in and make just one run, a fluid run," said Baird, who leads all riders at the meet with 51 victories. "He learned how to do that and it's paying off. It was a great day and I am grateful."
Modesty Stakes: Lewis Laken, a native of Chicago's Humboldt Park area, grew up watching thoroughbreds run at Arlington Park, Hawthorne and Sportsman's Park.
Years later, he is watching his own thoroughbreds run, and on Saturday he was one very happy owner.
Laken's Pure Clan, trained by Robert Holthus, showed why she was the 4-5 Modesty favorite as she made a terrific stretch run under jockey Julien Leparoux to win the $200,000 stakes by 21/2 lengths.
Her next stop is the Beverly D. on Aug. 8.
"That's what been our focus all along," said Laken, a Lane Tech High School graduate. "This is by far the best filly I've had."
Laken has a tire recycling company in Chicago and has owned horses the past 15 years, the majority trained by Holthus and Bill Mott.
After a 3-year campaign in which she earned $763,207, Pure Clan has run only once since last October after suffering a bruised right foot in January.
"We wanted to make sure and take our time with her coming back," Holthus said.
The daughter of Pure Prize now has won 7 of 12 career starts for earnings of more than $1.9 million.
American Derby: The hero of the second leg of the Mid-America Triple was a rebel with a cause.
For the third straight time, Reb got up in the nick of time to reach the winner's circle.
After a head victory for his maiden win at Keeneland on April 17, Reb won by a nose in a $50,000 allowance race at Churchill on May 29.
Saturday, the 3-year-old colt put on a dazzling surge in the stretch to catch the pace-setting No Inflation by a nose and give owner Glenn Bromagen another heart-stomping victory in the 95th running of the Grade II American Derby.
"When Glenn was working at the Chicago stockyards and Chicago Mercantile Exchange, there was a man who could never get his last name right," said Bromagen's wife, Sandi. "So he said your name is Rebel because you are from the south (Kentucky). Then his nickname became Reb. That's why we named this horse Reb."
Reb's victory pushed his career earnings to more than $244,000 as the son of Stormy Atlantic now has 3 wins from 5 starts.
"We don't know how good he is yet," said jockey Julien Leparoux. "He's still very green."
Giant Oak, sent off the 3-to-5 chalk, placed fourth.
"I'm not going to make any excuses," said trainer Chris Block, whose colt won the Arlington Classic on May 23. "We just got beat."
Arlington Sprint: In 2002 at Arlington Park, James McMullen's uncle (Phil Johnson) was the trainer of 43-1 Breeders' Cup Classic hero Volponi.
On Saturday at Arlington, it was McMullen who saddled Yankee Injunuity to a neck victory over favored Chamberlain Bride in the $200,000, 51/2-furlong sprint.
"I followed in my uncle's footsteps," said McMullen, who attended Hinsdale South High School. "I started working with mu uncle when I was 12 years old and I tagged along to Chicago-area tracks with my dad."
"Jim has done a great job with this horse," said winning jockey E.T. Baird. "I rode him a long time ago before he became what he is right now. He's a different horse than he was then."
The 5-year-old son of Yankee Victor rebounded from a fifth-place finish in the Highlander at Woodbine Race Course to earn his first win in 4 starts this year and his seventh in 30 starts overall. His earnings increased to $308,451.