Inaugural $400,000 American St. Leger Draws Worldwide Cast of 12 for Marathon Event
With the dearth of true marathon distance events in North American racing, Arlington Park took the initiative in 2012 to enhance its International Festival of Racing program by inaugurating the $400,000 American St. Leger at a mile and eleven-sixteenths (1m 5 1/2f) on the turf. Judging by the response of horsemen locally, domestically and world-wide by jamming the entry box for Saturday's race with 12 runners, the new race looks to be a hit.
The American St. Leger joins a star-studded 12-race card that includes a troika of Grade I turf races – the 30th running of the Arlington Million for older turf stars, the $750,000 Beverly D. for fillies and mares and the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-old grass runners of international caliber.
Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock's Jakkalberry has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite for the American St. Leger. The 6-year-old horse finished third in his first two races of the year – the Group III Nad Al Sheba Trophy and the Group I Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March before reporting home fifth in his most recent race, the Group II Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot.
Trained by Marco Botti, the son of Storming Home will have Colm O'Donoghue, who won last year's Grade I Secretariat aboard Treasure Beach, in the irons.
Team Block's Illinois-bred Ioya Bigtime, winner of the Grade III Stars and Stripes here on Million Preview Day July 14, is the shortest price of the American-based runners at 9-2. The son of Dynaformer is trained by Arlington mainstay Chris Block and will be ridden Saturday by Jeffrey Sanchez, who is competing at Arlington for the first time this season.
Suntracer, Ioya Bigtime's stablemate, would be returning on one-week's rest should he start in the St. Leger. The Illinois-bred son of Kitten's Joy won last Saturday's $100,000 Illinois Owners Stakes over this course and before that was third to his stablemate in the Stars and Stripes. Eduardo Perez would ride.
German-bred Zuider Zee, owned by H. R. H. Princess Haya of Jordan, is another European invader likely to command some respect at the betting windows. The John Gosden-trained son of Sakhee is a long-distance specialist who is turning back from a race at two and eleven-sixteenth miles in his last start in June at Ascot. Earlier this year, the 5-year-old gelding was second in a 1 ¾-mile race at Nottingham and then finished in a dead-heat for fourth in the Group III Henry II Stakes at Sandown. William Buick, who won the 2012 Arlington Million aboard Debussy for these same connections, has the mount.
Italian import Lake Drop, a recent purchase by Team Valor International and now trained by Graham Motion, will be making his first start stateside in the American St. Leger. The son of Lemon Drop Kid won his final start overseas when he captured the Group III Premio Carlo d'Alessio at Capannelle in May. Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Lake Drop for the first time Saturday.
One other European invader – Eastwind Racing & Robert Trussell's Bridge of Gold - is slated to start in the St. Leger. The Mikael Magnusson-trained son of champion Giant's Causeway was third in a Group III race at Newbury in April but has finished unplaced in two subsequent starts. Kieren Fallon gets the call.
The remainder of the field is America-based: Dorothy Gentner's New York invader Game Ball (Jose Espinoza); Richard Raven & Christine Wagner's local favorite Helicopter (Brandon Meier); Richard Otto's Lemonade Kid (Francisco Torres); Eagle Valley Farm's Lethal (James Graham); Joel Meredith & T. C. Stable's Lumberyard Jack (Mario Gutierrez); and Joseph Allen's Vertiformer (Julien Leparoux). The last named is cross-entered in the Arlington Million.