Racing & Wagering

Spirit One Flies Home First For France In Arlington Million XXVI

Churchill Downs Communications | 08/09/2008 #

Air France flew first, but European runners also finished second and third when Kamel Chehboub’s French-bred Spirit One stole Chicago’s biggest racing show with an unexpected wire-to-wire win in Arlington Million XXVI.

Taking command just after the break with a cleverly rated run under Basque-born jockey Ioritz Mendizabal, Spirit One, second in France’s Group III La Coupe Stakes June 14 in his last start, beat all the road rage traffic just behind and held on willingly to post a three quarter-length courageous score for his French connections, quarterbacked by trainer Philippe Demercastel.

“I took the lead because I wanted to run my race and he responded very well for me,” said Mendizabal. “I never saw what was happening behind me (the duel of his two main rivals).”

Favored Archipenko, Hong Kong’s Group I Queen Elizabeth II Cup hero owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and Dr. A. H. Parker and trained by South-African top conditioner Michael de Kock, got clear late to finish second under his irate jockey Kevin Shea while a length and a half in front of Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier’s Mount Nelson, with Irishman Johnny Murtagh up.

“Johnny (jockey Murtagh aboard Mount Nelson) had me in (trapped) all the way around,” said South-African jockey Shea after dismounting from Archipenko. “When it was time to go, I begged him (Murtagh) to let me go and he wouldn’t let me through.”

Mount Nelson, the highly-regarded British-bred who won the Group I Coral-Eclipse in his last start July 5, was just behind the pacemaker early but to the outside of Archipenko along the rail. Mount Nelson weakened gradually in the final furlong and was passed by Archipenko late, who could not quite catch the winner.

Spirit One returned $29.40, $10.20 and $6, Archipenko paid $3.40 and $2.60, and Mount Nelson paid $4 for the show.

The winner set fractions of :24.66, :48.57, 1:12.40 and 1:37.40 before getting the mile and a quarter over the firm turf course in 2:02.17 while increasing his career earnings to $1,099,618.

Finishing fourth was Arlington’s Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap hero Silverfoot, owned by Chrysalis Stables, and he was followed in order by Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein; Fab Oak Stable, Bobby Hurley and John Goldthorpe’s Stream Cat and S J Stables’ Cloudy’s Knight.

With his Arlington Million win, Spirit One and his connections are able to take advantage of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships’ “Win and You’re In” format, receiving an automatic starting berth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Oct. 25.