Arlington Million

Barn Notes: Sunday, August 18, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/18/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: After Going Two for Four, Euros Depart; Home Team Festival-placed Shadwell Duo Come Back Well; Team Block Pleased with Performances on Illinois’ Biggest Day

The European contingent at Arlington’s International Festival of Racing enjoyed another productive visit in 2013.  Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock’s England-based Dandino outclassed and overpowered five Americans and one fellow European in the $400,000 American St. Leger.  James Wigan’s Dank, also based in England, razed a good field that included two other well regarded Europeans and six Americans in the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes.

Eleven of the 14 European horses began the long journey home Sunday morning from Barn 28 on the Arlington backstretch.  They will take a KLM flight to Amsterdam and continue on to their respective destinations abroad. 

There are three horses that did not leave Sunday morning. Team Valor’s First Cornerstone came over with a one-way ticket from Ireland.  He will now be trained by Rick Mettee, the retained conditioner for Team Valor’s American horses.  His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visiyani will depart on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. for a departure in the early hours of Monday morning on an Air France flight to Paris.  Flaxman Holdings’ Duntle will be the last to leave the grounds of Arlington.  The Group I-placed filly will depart on Tuesday around 7:00 p.m. for an overnight Cargolux flight to Prestwick, Scotland, and then proceed across the Irish Sea to her native Ireland. 

Shadwell Stable’s locally based homebred duo of Ausus and Najjaar exited their respective third-place finishes in good order, according to conditioner Danny Peitz.  “I think they both look good this morning.  I am not sure where we’re going next.  People have asked about the Breeders’ Cup, but I honestly haven’t looked past this race.”

Ausus, an overlooked 21-1 in the betting, ran a late-closing third after a troubled trip that saw her drop out to the rear of the field in the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes.  Racing farther back than her usual style, she rallied boldly under jockey James Graham to pass all but the Europeans Dank and Gifted Girl.  The race was her first Grade I placing and greatly pleased her connections.

Equally as gratifying for those involved was the performance of Najjaar in the $400,000 American St. Leger.  Taking the lead briefly around the eighth-pole, the son of Belmont Stakes winner Jazil fought hard to finish third under Graham behind heavily favored European import Dandino and the hard-charging Suntracer at odds of 5-1.  In the end, the bay colt finished just over a length from the win in what was only his second try at a marathon distance.

Trainer Chris Block reported that he was pleased with the three performances in the Saturday stakes of their homebreds Suntracer, Ioya Bigtime and I O Ireland.

In the $400,000 American St. Leger, Suntracer ran a strong second to favored Dandino.  “It looks like he came out in good shape.  It was a very gutty performance.  At this point, it looks like we’ll aim toward the (Grade III $400,000) Kentucky Turf Cup (on Sept. 14),” reported Block. 

Also in the St. Leger for Team Block was Ioya Bigtime, who was entangled in a pace duel before finishing sixth.  “He came out in good shape.  Early on in the race it looked like it was going how we wanted it go.  Then (Ojos de Hielo) in the lead slowed down and my horse just galloped up.  It wasn’t the best scenario, but it is what it is,” explained Block.  “He ran a gutty game race, but maybe the distance is a little too far.  He is not running like he was last year, but he’s still trying.  We might look at dropping down in distance, but I don’t know where yet.”

While the venerable Ioya Bigtime looks to be within the twilight of an awesome career, his younger half-sister is just showing true promise in hers.  I O Ireland, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway, showed great tenacity when taking the second division of the $81,050 Hatoof Stakes.

“I knew she was coming in in good order.  She had a good tune up last time and I was expecting her to run well.  The pace was hot and (jockey Eddie Castro) got her in gear at the right time.  Luckily, she held off (runner-up Every Way),” Block said.  “It was a solid effort and we’ll go to the (Grade III) Pucker Up (Stakes on Sept. 14) with her.”