Arlington Million History
A million dollars. In 1981, the number turned racing on its ear. Arlington announced that thoroughbred racing would have a million-dollar turf race, ideally placed in the summer so that European horses would be attracted to it before their year-end championship events in the fall. But money alone could not secure the success of the race that was known as the Arlington Million. John Henry took care of the rest.
The race received instant creditability when John Henry entered and then won the inaugural Million. The race has grown in stature from that day, still attracting the best grass runners in the world, still having a pivotal outcome on the Eclipse Awards.
The Million has been graced by winners such as John Henry, Manila, Tight Spot, Estrapade, Perrault, Steinlen, and Paradise Creek, champions all. Hall of Fame trainers Charlie Whittingham and Ron McAnally have each won the race three times. It truly is one of America's premier events.
The Million has had to overcome several hurdles to reach its present status. There initially had to be the daring and bravado to put on a million-dollar race. That, however, was the easy part.
The Million could have been interrupted in 1985, when, just 25 days before the race, a fire burned the original Arlington to the ground. But a dedicated team worked around the clock, and 35,651 fans turned out to watch the race in tents and temporary facilities. The "Miracle Million" endures as a triumph of people overcoming enormous odds.
Three years later, while Arlington was being rebuilt, the race was moved to Woodbine Race Course, near Toronto, Canada, underscoring yet again the race's international flavor.
A two-year hiatus in live racing at Arlington meant that there was no Million held in either 1998 or 1999. When the race returned in the year 2000 as a part of the Emirates World Series Racing Championship, it had a $2 million purse, ensuring its premier status among North American turf races.
John Henry's thrilling victory over The Bart in the inaugural Million remains one of the greatest races in the history of the North American turf. Over a soggy turf he did not like, John Henry appeared beaten a quarter-mile from the finish.
Yet the gallant gelding, under the world's winningest rider, Bill Shoemaker, somehow summoned enough strength to rally in the final furlong and nail the Bart right on the wire. That never-to-be-forgotten finish is immortalized in a bronze overlooking the Arlington paddock.
John Henry was back for the 1983 Million but he was stunned by Tolomeo, who slipped through the rail to beat John Henry by a neck and provide Europe with its first Million triumph.
At age nine, John Henry should have been marking time in a retirement home. But the summerof 1984 provided another chapter in the storied history of both John Henry and the Million. John Henry-en route to an unprecedented Horse-of-the-Year title at age nine-motored past the champion filly Royal Heroine to win the Million for the second time. The roar from the crowd when John Henry returned after the race was deafening, and McAnally, his trainer, was left practically speechless.
With John Henry out of the way in 1985, the Europeans struck again, this time with Teleprompter. Teleprompter, also a gelding, streaked to the front right out of the gate and led every step of the way over a tiring, yielding course. Greinton, who encountered traffic trouble at a critical stage in the race, was an unlucky runner-up.
Whittingham, Greinton's trainer, may have been grumbling after the 1985 Million, but he wore a devilish smile in 1986 when the mare Estrapade outran the boys for a five-length win under Fernando Toro.
Manila, the Eclipse Award-winning turf horse of 1986 confirmed his position as one of the best turf runners in history with his victory in the 1987 Million. Manila carried Angel Cordero Jr., to career win No. 6,032, equaling the former record held by John Longden.
Mill Native provided the biggest Millionshocker in the 1988 running, when he returned an $83.20 mutuel for his upset win at Woodbine. His victory was the third for the Europeans in the Million.
No one thought Steinlen, a tried-and-true miler, could carry his speed 10 furlongs. No one, that is, except trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who sent out Steinlen to a win in the 1989 Million, the first run at the newly-rebuilt Arlington Park. Steinlen would go on to win an Eclipse Award that year as the best male grass runner in North America.
The man with the golden touch, Bruce McNall, and hockey star Wayne Gretzky were at the Million in 1990 to watch their Golden Pheasant defeat an outstanding field that included With Approval and Steinlen.The win was the third for Whittingham.
The 1991 Million featured a four-horse photo finish, with Tight Spot prevailing under an aggressive ride from Pincay.Tight Spot gave McAnally his third win in the Million-tying him with Whittingham-and both Tight Spot and McAnally were honored at year's end with Eclipse Awards.
The 1992 Million was no less thrilling.In fact, many consider the race year's most exciting. Sky Classic, the heavy favorite, looked the sure winner until Dear Doctor charged up the rail to nip him at the wire as Golden Pheasant flew through the stretch on the outside.
Sky Classic wasn't good enough to win that day, but he was voted champion male turf horse at year's end.
Nothing could stand in the way of the 1993 Million. Not an outbreak of EVA. Not even the weatherman.
When the dreaded equine disease was reported on the backside in July, it seemed the Million would be threatened. But Arlington officials' swift and decisive action, which curbed the spread of the disease and established an industry-wide standard for dealing with the epidemic, saved the race and encouraged the participation of archrival turf stars Lure and Star of Cozzene.
Who would prove best? The answer was never found, for the rains came on Million eve and turned the turf course soft. Lure, who had expressed a preference for firm going, was scratched on Million Day morning.
Star of Cozzene was left alone to shine, and that's exactly what he did.
Prior to the 14th running of the Million in 1994, Hall of Fame rider Pat Day had gone winless in nine previous tries. But Paradise Creek was talented enough to end Day's dry spell, and he did so in convincing fashion. The Bill Mott trainee would go on to win the Eclipse Award as the nation's top turf performer of 1994.
Awad became the first horse to win both the Secretariat Stakes and the Arlington Million when the 1993 Secretariat hero burst through in the stretch to annex the 1995 Million, giving trainer David Donk and jockey Eddie Maple their first Million triumphs.
Awad attempted to become the first back-to-back winner of the Million in 1996 but had his repeat bid thwarted by the Florida-based Mecke, who won the race for trainer Manny Tortora and jockey Robbie Davis.
Hall-of-Famers jockey Gary Stevens and trainer D. Wayne Lukas earned their second Million triumphs with a front-stepping victory by Marlin, who became the first horse to win the Secretariat and Million in consecutive years.
The Arlington Million returned in grand fashion for the 2000 season. With its status as part of the World Series Racing Championship, the Million attracted a stellar international lineup. Chester House, under a masterful ride by Jerry Bailey, wedged his way through a narrow opening mid-stretch and drew clear to win by 31/4 lengths giving trainer Bobby Frankel his first Million victory in 13 tries.
The 2001 edition saw the first two Million starters from Germany enter the gate with one of them, Silvano, coming home the victor. Jockey Andreas Suborics, riding his first ever race in the United States, led the crowd in an enthusiastic return to winner's circle.
Battling with insurmountable courage, Beat Hollow justified the odds-on confidence of the fans in 2002 and responded with a neck victory in the 20th running of the Million. The British-bred but American-based 5-year-old proved narrowly best among six horses involved in a blanket photo finish that capped
off one of the most competitive races of the year. Frankel and Bailey combined for their second Million score in three years.
In 2003, the most bizarre Arlington Million in its 21-year history, favored Storming Home came home first under the wire but ducked out sharply in the last strides to eventually unseat jockey Gary Stevens past the wire and be disqualified for his erratic late run. The incident resulted in Sulamani being declared the winner of Arlington Million XXI. Stevens sustained multiple injuries in the race including a collapsed lung but returned to riding in less than a month.
In 2004, for the second straight year, the first horse under the wire in the Million was disqualified from first and placed fourth following a less-than-pristine run. Powerscourt, ridden by Irish jockey Jamie Spencer, came from far back to take command in mid-stretch and draw clear for a 1 1/2 -length tally. However, he drifted in during his impressive mid-stretch surge to initiate trouble for others in the field.
Following a stewards' inquiry into the stretch run, Powerscourt was disqualified for interference and Brushwood Stable's Kicken Kris, second under the wire, was declared the 2004 Million's official winner.
In 2005, Powerscourt, with Kieren Fallon replacing Spencer in the saddle, avenged his disqualification by powering to a three-length score in Million XXIII.
Three years after his unsuccessful first Arlington Million run in 2003, Ralph and Aury Todd's 8-year-old gelding The Tin Man proved he got better with age by capturing the 2006 Arlington Million with a wire-to-wire one-length tally.
The Tin Man's repeat bid was denied when Kingfield Farms' Jambalaya closed resolutely with a bold late surge to win the 25th running of the Arlington Million in 2007. Jambalaya and his connections provided plenty of firsts in Arlington Million history. Among them, the 5-year-old gelding became as the first Canadian-bred to win Chicago's showcase test. Jambalaya's trainer Catherine Day Phillips became the first female conditioner to win the Arlington Million, and jockey Robby Albarado became the first jockey to be based at Arlington when winning the Million.
European runners finished first, second and third when Kamel Chehboub's French-bred Spirit One stole Arlington Million XXVI with an unexpected wire-to-wire win. Taking command just after the break with a cleverly rated run under Basque-born jockey Ioritz Mendizabal, Spirit One beat all the road rage traffic
just behind and held on willingly to post a 3/4-length courageous score for his French connections, quarterbacked by trainer Philippe Demercastel.
Castleton Lyons' Gio Ponti brought the Million trophy back to the United States as the 4-year-old colt captured his fourth straight Grade I score with his 1 1/4-length victory. Arlington Handicap winner Just as Well ran second and Stotsfold helped the European contingent avoid a Million shut-out with his third-place finish. Gio Ponti was later named Eclipse Champion Turf Male and Champion Older Male.
HRH Princess Haya of Jordan's Debussy—a 4-year-old Irish-bred son of Diesis trained by John Gosden and ridden by William Buick—scored an unexpected victory with a crescendo of a late run in Arlington Million XXVIII. Just moments earlier Castleton Lyons' Gio Ponti appeared to have designed a second straight tally in the centerpiece race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season with his patented last-to-first run, but could not withstand the winner in the last strides.
Arlington guests and fans of Thoroughbred racing all over the globe got the race they might have expected to see in 2011 when the Irish-bred Cape Blanco, owned by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor and trained by Aidan O'Brien, defeated Castleton Lyons' 2009 Arlington Million champion Gio Ponti in Arlington Million XXIX. Jockey Jamie Spencer was able to vanquish his disqualification aboard Powerscourt in 2004 with this victory.
Priscilla Vaccarezza's frontrunning Little Mike was left loose on the lead in the 2012 renewal and posted an easy score for trainer Dale Romans and jockey Roman Dominguez. The son of Spanish Steps would go on to win the Grade I Breeders' Cup Turf later that year.
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Chad Brown both earned their first Million title with Real Solution when elevated to the top spot via disqualification in the 2013 edition. The son of the standout Ramsey sire Kitten's Joy crossed the wire a head behind The Apache, but the stewards ruled he was interfered with by a The Apache, who drifted out in deep stretch.
The 2014 Million brought a feel-good story in the form of Andrew Bentley Stables' Hardest Core. A longshot making his first start against Grade I company, he had previously survived a dangerous battle for his life owing to a hernia. Eriluis Vaz rode the winner for trainer Edward Graham.
Since its inception, the Million has always pitted the home team against the away team in a battle between American horses and their European counterparts, but at no point was the home team better represented than in 2015 when Midwest Thoroughbreds' The Pizza Man became the first Illinois-bred to capture the state's biggest race. Jockey Florent Geroux rode the winner for trainer Roger Brueggemann to thunderous applause in deep stretch.
The 2016 edition of the Million produced one of the most wide-open runnings in the history of the event. In the end it wasa pair of necks separating the top three with Geoff and Sandra Turnbull's Mondialiste proving that he was capable of running beyond a mile, when holding off a tough-luck Kasaqui at the wire for jockey Daniel Tudhope and trainer David O'Meara.
Facts And Figures
|2016||Mondialiste||Geoff and Sandra Turnbull||David O'Meara||Daniel Tudhope||2:01.87|
|2015||The Pizza Man||Midwest Thoroughbreds||Roger Brueggemann||Florent Geroux||2:02.20|
|2014||Hardest Core||Andrew Bentley Stables||Edward Graham||Eriluis Vaz||2:01.51|
|2013||Real Solution||Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey||Chad Brown||Alan Garcia||2:00.99|
|2012||Little Mike||Priscilla Vaccarezza||Dale Romans||Ramon Dominguez||2:02.44|
|2011||Cape Blanco||Mrs. F. Hay, D. Smith, Mrs. J. Magnier & Michael Tabor||Aidan O'Brien||Jamie Spencer||2:05.39|
|2010||Debussy||HRH Princess Haya of Jordan||John Gosden||William Buick||2:03.01|
|2009||Gio Ponti||Castleton Lyon||Christophe Clement||Ramon Dominguez||2:04.19|
|2008||Spirit One||Kamel Chehboub||Philippe Demercastel||Ioritz Mendizabal||2:02.17|
|2007||Jambalaya||Todd Phillips||Catherine Day Phillips||Robby Albarado||2:04.76|
|2006||The Tin Man||Ralph and Aury Todd||Richard Mandella||Victor Espinoza||2:01.35|
|2005||Powerscourt||Mrs. John Magnier||Aidan O'Brien||Kieren Fallon||2:03.38|
|2004||Kicken Kris**||Brushwood Stable||Michael Matz||Kent Desormeaux||2:00.08|
|2003||Sulamani (IRE)*||Godolphin Racing Inc.||Saeed bin Suroor||David Flores||2:02.29|
|2002||Beat Hollow||Juddmonte Farm||Bobby Frankel||Jerry Bailey||2:02.94|
|2001||Silvano||Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof||Andreas Wohler||Andreas Suborics||2:02.64|
|2000||Chester House||Juddmonte Farms Inc.||Robert Frankel||Jerry Bailey||2:01.37|
|1997||Marlin||Michael Tabor||D. Wayne Lukas||Gary Stevens||2:02.54|
|1996||Mecke||J. Lewis Jr.||Manny Tortora||Robbie Davis||2:00.49|
|1995||Awad||Ryehill Farm||David Donk||Eddie Maple||1:58.69|
|1994||Paradise Creek||M. Nishiyama||William Mott||Pat Day||1:59.78|
|1993||Star of Cozzene||Team Valor Stable||Mark Hennig||Jose Santos||2:07.50|
|1992||Dear Doctor-Fr||H. Chaloub||John Hammond||Cash Asmussen||1:59.84|
|1991||Tight Spot||R. Corrodini, V. Winchell, F. Anderson & F. Whitham||Ron McAnally||Laffit Pincay, Jr.||1:59.55|
|1990||Golden Pheasant||Summa Stable & Wayne Gretzky||Charles Whittingham||Gary Stevens||1:59 3/5|
|1989||Steinlen||Wildenstein Stable||D. Wayne Lukas||Jose Santos||2:03 3/5|
|1988||Mill Native||C.N. Ray||Andre Fabre||Cash Asmussen||2:00|
|1987||Manila||B.M. Shannon||Leroy Jolley||Angel Cordero||2:02 2/5|
|1986||Estrapade||Allan E. Paulson||Charles Whittingham||Fernando Toro||2:00 4/5|
|1985||Teleprompter||Lord Derby||J. Watts||T. Ives||2:03 2/5|
|1984||John Henry||Dotsam Stable||Ron McAnally||Chris McCarron||2:01 2/5|
|1983||Tolomeo||C. d'Alessio||Luca Cumani||Pat Eddery||2:04 2/5|
|1982||Perrault||Fradkoff & Baron Von Zuylen||Charles Whittingham||Laffit Pincay, Jr.||1:58 4/5|
|1981||John Henry||Dotsam Stable||Ron McAnally||William Shoemaker||2:07 3/5|
** Powerscourt (GB) finished first, but was disqualified and placed fourth for interference in the stretch.
* Storming Home (GB) finished first, but was disqualified and placed fourth for interference in the stretch.
Run at Woodbine Racecourse in 1988; not run in 1998 and 1999.