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Eduardo Perez wins three races at Arlington

From post parade starting gate thoroughbred racing returned ArlingtPark where hopes are high thchanges will bring strong season. | Four

From post parade to starting gate, thoroughbred racing returned to Arlington Park, where hopes are high that changes will bring a strong season. | Four Footed Fotos

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Updated: June 8, 2011 12:24AM



On one of the biggest horse racing weekends of the year, Arlington Park opened its 86-date season Friday on the same day as the Kentucky Oaks stakes race and the day before the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby. And the jockey of the day was Eduardo Perez, who won three races.

Perez won the first race on Heli­copter, the fourth on Royal Posh and the ninth on Gold Former on the turf. The purse in the ninth race was Arlington’s largest of the day at $30,500.

“My best horse was [Gold Former] and the one in the first race,” said Perez, who had 56 victories in 2010. “The main thing was to save some ground. I tried to save a little ground in the first and second turn, and I had a pretty good trip heading to home.”

Perez rode Helicopter to victory in the day’s smallest field of only four horses. It was the first time Perez rode Helicopter, who has made 11 starts at Arlington and won nine times.

The season is off to a fast start for Perez, and off the track Arlington Park chairman Dick Duchossois is optimistic the park will have a strong season despite a sluggish economy.

“We’re looking for great things this year, and we’re trying a lot of new innovative things and they aren’t all going to work,” Duchossois said. “I’m more excited about this season now than I was after the fire [in 1985] when we had the first Arlington Million. We started 23 days after the track burned down.”

One of those things Arlington is trying is changing race days in the spring to Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The park will switch to a Thursday through Sunday schedule July 1.

The change was done to attract more off-site bettors in areas of the country such as Kentucky and California, whose tracks are typically dark on Wednesdays. Duchossois said he should know by early July if the plan worked.

“Ninety percent of the wagering is done off of the track, and we want to capture some of that crowd,” Duchossois said. “We have to see how it works first. The economy hurts everyone, like your corner drugstore, and it hurts us, too, but we can’t use that as an excuse.”

Duchossois said the park is trying to reinvent itself and create an ­image as an “in” place to be to ­attract more fans.

But the key to attracting more bettors and increasing purses is having fuller fields in each race. There were only four horses in the first race and six horses in the second race. Those numbers need to improve, Duchossois said.

“The public will bet on a full field, and they don’t on a short one,” Duchossois said. “If we run a full field, the wagering is up. And that’s a major, major objective for us — to get full fields.”



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