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Winchester, Plan 1-2 Secretariat Finish Kicks Off Big Day For Foreign Horses At Arlington's International Festival
A dominating 7¼-length victory by Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Winchester – with a second-place run by IEAH Stables and Michael Tabor’s Plan – in the Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes Saturday before 31,463 at Arlington Park set up a windfall for horses shipping from overseas for Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing.
Less than ninety minutes later, Spirit One, Archipenko and Mount Nelson became the first 1-2-3 finishers under the wire in the Grade I Arlington Million. Between those two races, the English-bred but French-raced filly Toque de Queda finished third in the Grade I $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes.
A lightly raced son of Theatrical, Winchester was making his North American debut in the Secretariat after a seventh-place run in the Group I Irish Derby in last start. Rated along the inside fence in the mile and a quarter race, the Dermot Weld charge blew by pacesetter Tizdejavu at the top of the stretch and opened up for the easy score in 2:01.76 over firm turf with Arlington Park’s leading rider, Rene Douglas, who notched his first victory in the Secretariat.
“I had no idea about this horse,” Douglas said. “I watched his races and I know Dermot Weld is one of the top trainers in Europe. He told me he liked this horse and that was good enough for me.”
It was the first win in the Secretariat Stakes for Weld, who has two second-place finishes in 10 previous attempts in the race. On the other hand, Weld is a three-time winner of the Grade II American Derby here. The American Derby serves as a prep race for the Secretariat.
“I put the blinkers on him and that helped,” said Weld, a frequent visitor to Arlington Park. “Rene has beaten me a couple of times in other races so when I had the chance to get him on this horse, I took it. Don’t be surprised if you see (the horse) back for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The horse will be going back to Ireland and will have a race there before going to Santa Anita.”
Winchester earned $232,800 to boost his bankroll to $274,684 while improving his overall record to two wins from six starts.
Tizdejavu, winner of the American Derby here four weeks ago and riding a three-race win skein into the Secretariat Stakes, set the pace for more than a mile through fractions of 25.38 seconds, 49.64 seconds, 1:13.84 and 1:37.39 before getting overtaken by the European invaders.
“I was in a little tight around the five-eighths,” said John Murtagh, who rode Plan. “It all opened up for me at the top of the stretch. The best has yet to come from him and he ran well today.”
“Everything went as planned until I had to call on him,” said Garrett Gomez, who was aboard the even-money beaten favorite. “He was dull today. He just didn’t respond when I asked him. He’s had a hard campaign and he’s run some good races for us. Greg (trainer, Fox) is going to do what is right by him and regroup a little.”
“He’s had a long year and didn’t have quite the punch he had in previous races,” Fox concurred. “Garrett thought he felt great but the last punch wasn’t there. I’m sure we’ll be fine. We’ll probably just skip the next race cycle – he’s run every month – and we’ll save him for the first week in October, and hopefully regain the punch by the fall. He certainly didn’t disgrace himself. The two European horses ran great. He was never able to shake free completely, maybe that softened us up a little bit early.”
Prime Realestate finished fourth in the nine-horse field followed by Strait of Mewsina, Your Round, Snoose Goose, Secret Getaway and Sr. Henry.
Winchester paid $17, $7.60 and $3.80. Plan returned $5 and $2.80. Tizdejavu paid $2.20.
Arlington Park – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run a 96-day meet in 2008 from Friday, May 2 through Sunday, Sept. 21. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates 11 off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities – Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Chicago, Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Rockford, Trackside Waukegan, Fat Sam’s Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in Lockport, Lucky’s featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin, Nicolino’s featuring Trackside OTB in McHenry, Tad’s Sports Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in South Beloit, Rookies featuring Trackside OTB in Homewood and Salerno-Pincente Ristorante featuring Trackside OTB in Hodgkins. Information on Arlington Park can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com.