Road To The Million Vol. I: Wednesday, June 09, 2010
French-born trainer Christophe Clement hit the Big Apple with a 1-2 punch worthy of Marcel Cerdan on Belmont Stakes Day when he saddled the first and second place runners in New York’s Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap run over that Long Island lawn.
The Manhattan – an annual stepping stone to the Grade I Arlington Million – boasted six millionaires and six Grade I winners among its 11 contestants, and was easily the strongest field of turf-favoring Thoroughbreds assembled this season in North America. Consequently, the Manhattan’s Clement-conditioned exacta each added interesting long-range storylines to this summer’s 28th running of the showcase event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season.
Winning last Saturday’s Manhattan Handicap was Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Winchester, who captured Arlington’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes in 2008. Finishing second, beaten a half-length in the Manhattan, was Castleton Lyons Farm’s Gio Ponti, the Arlington Million’s defending champion from 2009.
Concerning Winchester, it should be noted that a strong link between one season’s Secretariat results and subsequent finishes in the Arlington Million has been established. Five years ago, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Kitten’s Joy finished second in the Arlington Million after winning the Secretariat one year earlier. Six years ago, Brushwood Stables’s Kicken Kris was declared the winner of the Arlington Million after winning the Secretariat the previous year.
In 1997, Michael Tabor’s Marlin won the Arlington Million after annexing the Secretariat in 1996, and when James Lewis Jr.’s won the Million in 1996, it was after he had finished second in the Secretariat in 1995.
When Ryehill Farm’s Awad won the Million in 1995, it was two years after his Secretariat score in 1993, and when Masayuki Nishiyama’s Paradise Creek won the 1994 Arlington Million, it was one year after he finished second behind Awad in the 1993 Secretariat.
As for Gio Ponti, last year’s Arlington Million winner, it should be noted that – somewhat surprising – no horse has ever been declared the winner of the Million in back-to-back years. Ralph and Aury Todd’s The Tin Man won the Million in 2006 and had the lead in mid-stretch in 2007 before being run down in the final furlong by Kingfield Farm’s Jambalaya to finish second by three-quarters of a length.
Mrs. John Magnier’s Powerscourt crossed under the wire first in 2004 but was subsequently disqualified and placed fourth. However, the British-bred came back to be first again under the wire in the 2005 Million, and that result was allowed to stand.
Finally, almost all fans of Thoroughbred racing can remember that Dotsam Stable’s John Henry won the inaugural Arlington Million in 1981, and came back to become the Million’s only two-time victor in 1984, but that was after a gap of three years.
Arlington Million XXVIII – signature event of the 2010 Chicago Thoroughbred racing season – will go to the post late in the afternoon of Aug. 21, preceded by the 20th renewal of the Grade I Beverly D. for the world’s best grass-favoring fillies and mares. Completing Arlington’s International Festival of Racing on that day will be the 34th running of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds of international turf caliber. Together, that trio of top-tiered turf tests are the only three Grade I events offered in Illinois on an annual basis.
Also contested at Belmont Park on the turf last weekend was the Grade I Just a Game Stakes for fillies and mares, and that eight-furlong event serves as the prep for the Beverly D. British-bred Proviso, owned by Juddmonte Farms, was no disappointment as the choice of the fans, and finishing second a half-length back was George Saufley, J. J. Pletcher, and Graydon and William Patterson’s Phola. Both are original nominations to this summer’s Beverly D. Down at Churchill Downs last Saturday, Nelson McMakin’s Hot Cha Cha and Helen Alexander’s Acoma, also original nominations to the Arlington Million’s sister race, finished first and second respectively in the Grade III Early Times Mint Julep Handicap at eight and a half furlongs over the Louisville lawn.
At Belmont last Friday, Harvey Clarke and Ron Winchell’s Krypton and Ammerland Stud’s Nordic Truce ran one-two in the Grade III Hill Prince as Secretariat candidates. Both are original nominees to Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, which concludes with the Secretariat.