Arlington Million

Tajaaweed Set to Try Arlington Million XXVIII

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/24/2010 #

In Today's Notes: 

  • Tajaaweed Set to Try Arlington Million XXVIII
  • Mason Saddles Winning Pair Friday at Arlington

Could Shadwell Stable's Tajaaweed be the "chosen one" to pose in the winner's circle following the 28th running of the Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 21?

After the way the 5-year-old son of Dynaformer closed to finish third in the Grade III Arlington Handicap July 17, beaten only a length and a half for all of it, a Million win by the Shadwell colorbearer would certainly seem to be a strong possibility.

"We drew a terrible post (in the Arlington Handicap) last week," said trainer Danny Peitz during training hours Saturday morning on the occasion of his 53rd birthday.  "We were in a difficult spot on the outside like that and I told Michael (jockey Baze), ‘You figure it out as best you can.  I do know we can't be five wide against these kinds of horses turning for home and have any chance.'

"Michael did a pretty good job considering what he had to do," Peitz said.  "After they broke, he wanted to move our horse quickly to the inside to save ground but one of the horses inside of him stayed wide, so we had to take up to get to the inside and by that time we had dropped back to last.

"I don't consider (Tajaaweed) to be a real closing kind of horse," Peitz said.  "Although he closed well in that race, I really prefer to see him as the kind of horse that runs his best staying kind of midway back in the field and then start picking up the leaders in the stretch."

Although bred in Kentucky, Tajaaweed made his first seven starts in Europe, winning once in Group III company at Chester before finishing eighth in the Group I Epsom Derby in the spring of 2008, fifth in the Group II Sky Bet York Stakes later that summer, and once again eighth in the Group I Prix Ganay at Longchamp in the spring of 2009.

"The horse came to me directly while I was still in New York last fall, and I could see right away he had some physical problems," said Peitz.  "I could tell he was not a very happy horse behind.  He had some issues with his stifle, so I sent him to Rood & Riddle (Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky).  It took them a long time to get him going right and then he went to Camden (Shadwell's South Carolina farm) and eventually he rejoined me at Oaklawn last winter.

"When he came to me at Oaklawn he had turned the corner," Peitz said.  "He was a different horse - a pretty nice horse all muscled up and everything.  I didn't want to run him on the main track down there, I wanted to wait until we came up here to the grass course, and when he did run, he ran like I thought he could (a one-length win May 16.)

"For his next start I took him down to Churchill," Peitz said.  "I didn't really want to, but the race I wanted for him up here didn't fill and I needed to get a race into him before the Arlington Handicap.

"It was about 100 degrees down there in Louisville that day, and he had a wide, rough trip," said Peitz.   "I would much rather have been able to run him here.

"But (Tajaaweed) has come out of that race the other day very well," said Peitz, "and I am looking forward to the chance to run this horse in the Arlington Million.  If we get to go in the Million, and draw inside a little better, it could be a great experience, to win a race like that right here on the home grounds during my first summer in Chicago.

"My move here to Arlington this summer has helped me," Peitz said.  "It allows Shadwell another place to operate while leaving most of their horses in New York with Kiaran McLaughlin.  Also, it allows my wife Sandy to spend more time near her family in Iowa."

Peitz, born in Conway but raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, has wintered at Oaklawn and spent his summers on the New York circuit since taking out his own trainer's license in the late 1980s after serving as an assistant to Joe Cantey.  He has had some Shadwell horses in his barn almost from the beginning.

"Things couldn't have gone any worse for me with my first Shadwell horses," Peitz said.  "One broke down before he ever got to the races, another got colitis and another put his eye out when a blinker cracked and gouged his eye out in a freakish training accident.

"But Sheikh Hamdan knows stuff like that happens and he's always stuck by me," said Peitz.  "Naturally, I'm very grateful to him and (Shadwell general manager) Rick Nichols for all they've done for me.  I also have the good fortune to have other really wonderful owners like Robert and Lawana Low (for whom Peitz saddled Steppenwolfer to run third in the 2006 Kentucky Derby behind the ill-fated Barbaro.)

"The easiest thing for an owner to do when things aren't going well is to change trainers," Peitz said.  "I don't have many owners, but I've been very lucky to have owners that have always stuck by me."

Trainer Ingrid Mason saddled Greco Racing Stable's Cataguska to win Friday's second race under jockey Inosencio Diego, and posed in the winner's circle again after saddling George Ditola's Valise to win the seventh race with E. T. Baird aboard