Waupaca Back to Defend Title in Saturday's Connecting Terms Stakes at LSP

(May 18, 2006) - With not a drop of rain in sight and a firm course practically guaranteed this weekend, five-time stakes winner Waupaca is finally ready to come out and play at Lone Star Park. The 9-5 morning line favorite in a field of eight older horses for Saturday's $40,000 Connecting Terms at 1 1/16-miles on turf, Waupaca was scratched twice this season when showers forced turf races to an "off" main track. After seeing Waupaca train in recent weeks while waiting for the right conditions, rival trainers in Saturday's feature might want to start doing their best rain dance.

The Connecting Terms is the featured live race on a special 12-race program complementing the Preakness Stakes Day simulcast from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. Runaway Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, still unbeaten and looking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, is favored against previous foes Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint, plus a six-pack of new shooters that includes Aqueduct Grade III winners Bernardini and Like Now.

The Preakness is scheduled to go off as Pimlico's 12th race at 5:14 p.m. CT, between Lone Star's eighth and ninth live races. Local festivities include the return of Margarita Madness in the Courtyard of Champions, courtesy of Jose Cuervo, with live music by Panamania from noon to 4 p.m. The Post Time Pavilion simulcast center will open early at 8:30 a.m., one hour before the first simulcast race from Pimlico. Grandstand gates open at 11:30 a.m. and the first live race is set for 1:35 p.m. CT (the 12th and final race is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. CT). Drive-Thru Wagering off Gate 2 will be open all afternoon starting at 8 a.m.

The Connecting Terms will be run as the 11th race at 6:40 p.m. The 6-year-old Waupaca enters the race off a fourth-place finish in last month's John B. Connally Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap at Sam Houston. The son of Forest Wildcat is heading down a path identical to the one he has traveled the past two seasons, pointing to the Grade III, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup in June and the Independence Day Handicap at Louisiana Downs on the Fourth of July. Last year Waupaca earned his first win of the season in the Connecting Terms, then ran fourth in the Dallas Turf Cup and won the Independence Day.

"He was doing well this time last year and he's doing well this year," trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said. "There's not a lot of difference between five years old and six years old. He should be very competitive in there."

Saturday's forecast for Grand Prairie, Texas, on The Weather Channel's weather.com calls for sunny skies and zero chance of precipitation.

In lieu of racing on wet main tracks he doesn't like, Waupaca has trained aggressively in anticipation of a clear day. Horses from Von Hemel's barn do not typically post flashy workout times in the mornings, which makes Waupaca's recent breezes all the more impressive. He breezed four furlongs in :49 on Sunday, five furlongs in a bullet :59 4/5 on May 8 and four furlongs in :47 4/5 on May 1. "The one time we worked him in company, but the rest of them have been on his own," Von Hemel said. "He's been on his toes."

Each of the three times Waupaca has breezed over the main track this month, he's outworked Von Hemel's other charges going the same distance by at least two seconds, or a minimum of ten lengths.

The Challengers

Not that anyone has been scared off by the presence of Waupaca. The seven challengers are an accomplished group in their own right, including stakes winners Courtly Jazz, A R Crakers and Agrivating General.

Courtly Jazz, the 5-2 second choice, will make his second start for the hot trainer and jockey combination of Cody Autrey and Cliff Berry. The Dixieland Band gelding was third in the allowance prep for this race that was washed off the turf. Last summer he won the $100,000 Ralph Hinds Invitational at Fairplex in Southern California.

A R Crackers, the 6-1 third choice, ran fifth in the Connally, just a nose behind Waupaca. The 5-year-old son of With Approval ran fifth in last year's Connecting Terms.

Agrivating General, a multiple Lone Star Park stakes winner, enters this race off a second in the $40,000 Gold Nugget Stakes on May 6. The 7-year-old Texas-bred gelding, 8-1 on the morning line, has but one win on the turf but is stakes-placed on four occasions trying the sod.

The field is rounded out by the top two finishers from the May 5 off-the-turf allowance prep, Toratora (15-1) and Seainsky (5-1), as well as other recent allowance winners Nobodywantmetilnow (10-1) and Kanata Ridge (20-1).

Von Hemel Has High Hopes for Altimeter on Friday

Donnie K. Von Hemel will send out a filly he thinks could be a future stakes horse in Friday's sixth race, a $28,000 second-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs. Altimeter, the 6-5 favorite, has won both her starts this meeting in impressive fashion. The daughter of Monarchos won a maiden special weight by two lengths opening weekend, followed by a 3 1/2-length entry-level allowance score on May 4.

"Watching her last two races it'd be hard not to think she's stakes-caliber," Von Hemel said. "We'll see what she does [Friday] night, but she's pretty talented."

Altimeter will have to deal with Elliecat, a Cole Norman trainee who passed her first-level allowance condition in a 1 1/4-length romp on opening weekend. The daughter of Crafty Prospector worked four furlongs well off the rail on May 7 over a muddy surface in :47 2/5, a sign that she should be ready to run another big one Friday.

Altimeter was one of three fillies owned by Pin Oak Stable that Von Hemel nominated to the $100,000 Stonerside Stakes at seven furlongs on Memorial Day, May 29, but will not take on her more accomplished stablemate Brownie Points, third in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

"Since I've got another filly of Pin Oak's that's going to run in the Stonerside, that gave me the opportunity to go ahead and run this filly in the allowance race," Von Hemel said.

Pin Oak and Von Hemel's third Stonerside nominee, Ever and Anon, is the 7-2 morning line second choice in Friday's seventh race, a first-level allowance at one mile on turf.

Preakness 131 Souvenir Wristbands to Benefit Disabled Jockeys

Lone Star Park will help raise money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund through the sale of Preakness 131 golden souvenir wristbands beginning Saturday, the day of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. The wristbands are similar to those used by other charitable organizations to raise awareness through a display of unity, as first popularized by the Lance Armstrong Foundation's yellow LIVESTRONG armlet.

Wristbands will be available for a $5 donation at the East Grandstand entrance through June 10. All Magna Entertainment Corp. facilities, including Pimlico, will participate in the "Taking the Reins" fundraising effort.

The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fun was established by a consortium of racetracks and racing organizations-including Magna, Churchill Downs Inc. and the New York Racing Association-with the goal of raising $1 million by June 15. All proceeds will go toward healthcare and living expenses for the 60 permanently disabled riders in the United States.

Those unable to visit a MEC facility are encouraged to send donations to: NTRA Charities, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, c/o NTRA, 2525 Harrodsburg Road, Suite 500, Lexington, Ky., 40504.

DOWN THE STRETCH: Quincy Hamilton won two races Wednesday night to move into a tie with Cliff Berry atop the jockey standings with 35 wins each...Sunday is Senior Citizens' Day at Lone Star Park with free general admission for fans 62 and over with valid photo identification...Dr Pepper can month continues through May and June. Redeem a Dr Pepper can each live race day to receive $1 general admission, a free large Dr Pepper and the opportunity to win a night at the races in a private suite...The Lone Star Park qualifying tournament for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship has been scheduled for June 17-18. The early-bird entry fee is $150 per person through June 2 ($250 after). To enter contact Kristen Foster at 972-237-1134 or kristenf@lonestarpark.com.

By Jim Mulvihill
Additional reporting by Darren Rogers

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