3-Year-Old Turf Supremacy on Line in Grade I Secretariat
Dale Romans is unsure whether any horse can usurp I'll Have Another as leader of the 3-year-old male division, but one thing is near certain: the winner of the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes on Saturday at Arlington Park will be leader of the 3-year-old turf division.
Romans will saddle three in the Secretariat, including $125,000 Arlington Classic winner Mark Bacon & Dana Wells' Silver Max and Grade III American Derby winner Albaugh Family Stable's Cozzetti, in an attempt to become the first trainer to sweep the Mid-America Triple with multiple horses. He could do it with three different horses if Donegal Racing's Finnegan's Wake, third to Silver Max in the Grade II Virginia Derby, wins the Secretariat.
Robby Albarado will ride Silver Max while Shaun Bridgmohan is slated for the saddle aboard Cozzetti and Jose Lezcano has the call for Finnegans Wake.
"Silver Max is in such good form and is such a nice horse, he's going to be difficult to beat," Romans said Tuesday of the 9-to-5 morning line favorite for the 1 ¼-mile race. "If he stubs his toe or something goes wrong in the race, then it wouldn't surprise me if one of these two were the ones to beat him."
Outside his own shedrow, the chief domestic threat to Silver Max is Summer Front, who is undefeated in five turf tries, including consecutive wins in the Grade III Hill Prince and the $100,000 Duluth Stakes in New York.
"It's very exciting with this horse," said regular rider Ramon Dominguez following the Duluth. "Every race he has been relaxing even more and is very mature."
Christophe Clement trains Summer Front for Thomas Moore's Waterford Stable. Clement has won both the Arlington Million and Beverly D Stakes but is still looking for his first Secretariat Stakes victory in the International Festival of Racing. Summer Front is the 5-to-2 second choice on the morning line to get the job done.
With three-time Grade I and dual classic winner I'll Have Another retired, a domestic turf male could possibly challenge for an Eclipse Award in that division with a scourge of Grade I wins culminating in a Breeders' Cup score, but an Eclipse Award in the turf male division is a more reasonable pursuit.
"It'd be difficult for a turf horse to win an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male, especially when we have a horse who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown," Romans said. "[Silver Max] would have to finish the year awfully strong."
The international rivals in this year's Secretariat are His Highness the Aga Khan's Studs' Bayrir, who won the Prix Eugene Adam Group II last out in his native France, and Daddy Long Legs, fourth but beaten just two lengths in the Group I Irish Two Thousand Guineas after failing to finish in the Grade I Kentucky Derby following a win in the Group II UAE Derby to begin his 3-year-old season. Christophe Lemaire will have the mount Saturday.
Aidan O'Brien trains and Colm O'Donoghue rides Daddy Long Legs for Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier, which is the same team that won last year's Secretariat with Irish Derby winner and Arlington Million entrant Treasure Beach.
Either O'Brien or Romans would become the first trainer to win three editions of the Secretariat. O'Brien also won the race in 2000 with Ciro. Romans won in 2003 with Kitten's Joy and in 2010 with Paddy O'Prado.
Completing the Secretariat field is Jim Tafel's All Stormy (Rosemary Homeister Jr.) and J. Paul Reddam's Handsome Mike (Mario Gutierrez).
The Secretariat is one of three Grade I stakes races on the card that comprises Arlington's International Festival of Racing. The others are the 30th running of the Arlington Million for older turf stars and the $750,000 Beverly D. for distaff grass runners of international caliber. New for the 2012 Festival is the inaugural edition of the $400,000 American St. Leger for marathon turf runners at a mile and eleven-sixteenths.