Dandino Invades As American St. Leger Favorite
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (Aug. 14, 2013) – In last year’s inaugural running of the American St. Leger, it was the globetrotting Jakkalberry owned by Darren Dance’s Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock and trained by Marco Botti that took home the top prize in the $400,000 race. That team returns this year with the British-bred Dandino in hopes of a repeat score in Saturday’s mile and eleven-sixteenths marathon turf event at Arlington International Racecourse.
Entering the St. Leger off a solid second-place finish in the Group II Hardwicke Stakes at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting in June, the 6-year-old Dansili horse also owns a second-place finish in the Group II Qatar Bloodstock Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket a month previous. A Group II stakes winner in his native country in 2011, Dandino was just a half-length shy of a Grade I tally when competing in last fall’s Canadian International at Woodbine Racetrack. Three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore will be astride the 9-5 morning line favorite for the first time Saturday.
The main threat to Dandino is likely to come from Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Dark Cove. The 6-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro carries a three-race win skein into the St. Leger off victories in a trio of mile and a half turf tilts – the Grade III Stars and Stripes at Arlington on Million Preview Day July 13, the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs in May and the Grade II Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland in April. Joel Rosario picks up the mount aboard the Mike Maker-trained horse.
Mark Hawtin’s Wigmore Hall returns to Arlington’s International Festival for the fourth straight year. The High Chaparral gelding has yet to leave Chicago with a victory but the Michael Bell trainee did finish second to Paddy O’Prado in the 2010 Secretariat Stakes. In two tries in the Arlington Million, the Irish-bred runner finished fourth in 2011 and seventh last year. However, his trips to North America have not been for naught as he has twice captured the Grade I Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine. In his most recent effort, Wigmore Hall ran third in the Group II Sky Bet York Stakes in England. Jamie Spencer, who won the 2011 Million aboard Cape Blanco, has the mount.
Shadwell Stable’s Najjaar, who was a mere half-length by Dark Cove in the Louisville Handicap, is part of a large local contingent of runners entered in the St. Leger. A 4-year-old son of Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, Najjaar was most recently fourth in the Grade III Arlington Handicap at a mile and a quarter over the local lawn. The Danny Peitz-trained colt, though winless is six attempts on turf, has been competitive over the surface. James Graham will be in the saddle.
The Team Block-owned duo of Ioya Bigtime and Suntracer, both trained by Chris Block, were entered in the inaugural St. Leger last year. The former, a 6-year-old Dynaformer horse, made much of the pace before being overtaken by Jakkalberry to finish second. Following the St. Leger, the eventual Illinois Horse of the Year, won the Grade III Kentucky Cup Turf at Kentucky Downs and has since hit the board in a number of graded turf stakes. Fourth last out in the Stars and Stripes, Ioya Bigtime will be ridden for the first time Saturday by 2012 Arlington riding champion Francisco Torres.
The latter, rather than run back on what would have been only one week’s rest, was scratched the morning of the race. He returned a month later to win the $100,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne Race Course. Eddie Castro has been named to ride the 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, who finished a good second in the Stars and Stripes last time out.
The other locally based runners in the St. Leger are: Gary and Mary West’s Code of Conduct (Florent Geroux), a come-from-behind allowance winner from the barn of perennial leading trainer Wayne Catalano; and Richard Ravin and Patricia’s Hope LLC’s Ojos de Hielo (Quincy Hamilton), a Group I stakes-placed in Panama who recently joined the Larry Rivelli stable and finished second in a restricted stakes race at Lone Star Park last time out.
The St. Leger, one of four major turf races that comprise Arlington's International Festival of Racing, will kick off a $200,000 guaranteed Pick-4 that will include the Secretariat, the Beverly D., and conclude with the Arlington Million.
Arlington International Racecourse – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run an 89-day meet in 2013 from Friday, May 3 through Sunday, Sept. 29. Arlington International Racecourse, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates 11 off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities in Arlington Heights, Aurora, Chicago, East Moline, Waukegan, Villa Park, Rockford, South Elgin, McHenry, Orland Hills and Hodgkins. Information on Arlington International Racecourse and Trackside OTB can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arlingtonpark and www.facebook.com/tracksideotb, and on Twitter at @Arlington_Park for the latest happenings, @arlingtonracing for the latest racing news and @tracksideotb for all things pertaining to off-track wagering.