Odd Couple in Limelight

March 23, 2011

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Post Script:  Arienza was scratched on Saturday to run in a one mile allowance race on Sunday.  Peitz feels following the progression of distances will better allow him to get his filly ready for a stakes during the Racing Festival of the South.

Dan Peitz qualifies as a "regular guy".  He is born and bred in Little Rock, Arkansas, has never had a large stable of horses since he set out on a career as a trainer and pretty much flies under the radar in his profession.

Dan has, until last year, spent a large part of his time racing on the NYRA circuit.  But a year ago he changed and spends his time primarily in the Midwest, heading to Arlington when he leaves Arkansas. 

Those basic roots and tendencies came to mind today as I read about the death of Elizabeth Taylor.  She was always a headliner.  No "under the radar" for that actress.  And on Saturday Dan Peitz may have to accept the status as "on the radar" when he saddles Arienza in the Prima Donna Stakes at Oaklawn.

While the Prima Donna, of itself, will not raise many eyebrows among racing afficianadoes, Peitz's filly, Arienza, may very well draw a lot of attention.  She is a daughter of former Horse-of-the-Year, Azeri, and international champion sire, Giant's Causeway.  Those are names which jump off the page to racing fans.  The fact that she's in Peitz's barn is what makes it fun for me.  They are racing's "Odd Couple" if there ever was one.

To be sure, Dan has had his hands on nice horses before.  The first was Capote Belle, a spectacular sprinter in the late 90's.  Not only was she successful at Oaklawn, but her other wins included the Test, Prioress and Humana Distaff along with Oaklawn's American Beauty and Spring Fever.  She tied the stakes record for seven furlongs at Saratoga in the Test Stakes, a year after sitting out with a stress fracture.

He also trained a nice three-year-old named Steppenwolfer to a second place finish in the 2006 Arkansas Derby (behind eventual champion Lawyer Ron).  Steppenwolfer finished third in the Kentucky Derby and was unplaced as the favorite for the Belmont Stakes.  There have been others of quality, but not enough to keep Peitz comfortably in the company of the Pletchers. Dutrows or McGaugheys of New York.

Dan missed some years here when his best stock were turf horses and he passed being at his "home meet" to race in New Orleans.

But times are different now.  He has a potential "big horse" and he's home where he can see his old school chums and eat some of his mother's home cooking.  I see him from time-to-time working off those mashed potatoes in a local gym.  He is in his element and it's fun to see the smile on his face.

But the pressures of big-time races could very well be on the Peitz horizon with Arienza.  She is bred to go long, although she won her maiden race at Oaklawn in 1:10 2/5 and will go six panels this weekend in the Prima Donna.  Even though Dan is striving to follow a conservative approach with this obviously talented filly, he will be pushed to stretch her out if she succeeds this weekend.  Still ahead at Oaklawn are the Fantasy Stakes or the Instant Racing, both during the Racing Festival of the South.  Peitz is unlikely to want to challenge the brilliant Joyful Victory in the Fantasy at this point.  But Arienza would certainly fit well into the Instant Racing.

As a footnote, Azeri, dam of Arienza, was undefeated in her three Apple Blossom starts at Oaklawn and is unbeaten as a broodmare.  Her first foal, Take Control, won his only career start thus far.  Now, with Arienza, not only is that record on the line, but this is the first try for an Azeri foal to win a stakes race.

Those are some heady facts for a guy like Dan Peitz.  It's been a long road under the radar for Peitz.  He can't hide this weekend.  If he wins on Saturday, he may have to change his cell phone number.  Only in England do commoners fraternize with royalty.  Let's hope it works for him.  King Dan has kind of a nice sound.   

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