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Belle of the Hall Has Some Visitors After 2nd Place Finish at Saratoga Last Week

August 05, 2011 · By Erin Birkenhauer · Share

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Belle of the Hall got a special visit - and more than her fair share of peppermints -- from West Point Partners Mike and Linda Gurlen on Tuesday morning. Our 4-year-old daughter of Graeme Hall turned in a lights-out second-place finish in Monday’s Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Saratoga, her best effort since winning Catinca Stakes at Belmont last fall.

The Gurlens, residents of Fort Smith, Arkansas, heard about West Point opportunities through the old handicapping seminars at Siro’s Restaurant, and bought into Belle of the Hall in 2009 as a 21st wedding anniversary present to each other.

“Linda’s always loved horses, and I like to bet them,” Mike Gurlen said. “We enjoyed coming up to Saratoga Springs for vacation about seven or eight years in a row and ended up picking up a flier with the West Point information. We had talked to a guy back home at Oaklawn Park about potentially claiming some horses for us, doing it on our own, but figured we’d rather own part of one nice horse at the highest level of racing than all of several claimers.”

Belle of the Hall certainly provided that thrill and, fittingly, has done well at the Spa (she finished third here in the 2010 edition of the Grade I Test Stakes). The first time the Gurlens watched her run, however, was in last year’s Jostle Stakes at Philadelphia Park - a race she took by a three-quarters of a length as part of the three race win streak that kicked off her career (a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park and an allowance race at Belmont preceded).

“The Jostle was the first time we got to see her in person, and of course that was a wonderful result,” Mike remarked. “This year was a little tough until yesterday, but she ran great and it looks like she’s got a little life this morning after the race.”

Mike, who is an avid golfer, pointed out that the circular marking above a narrowing white blaze on the filly’s forehead looks like a golf ball on a tee, while Linda mentioned that she traces her roots back three generations to the great Secretariat. Meanwhile, Belle of the Hall charmed her visitors as usual, kindly accepting all treats offered and craning her neck for more. The Tom Albertrani trainee is known for her sweet nature.

“She’s a good ambassador,” Linda said.

And so are the Gurlens, who recently introduced another Fort Smith couple - Rick and Cathy Alexander, now partners with WPT runner Grip Hands - to the West Point team.  
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