ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- The Arlington International Festival of Racing featured seven stakes, including the state's only Grade One races headlined by the Arlington Million. The action took place on a mild and sunny summer afternoon, with the turf rated "firm" for the entire day.
Straight Line: FORDUBAI Stalks to Stakes Triumph
The Arlington Million Day program started with a minor stakes for three-year-olds, the Straight Line Stakes for a purse of $65,000. Contested at a one-turn polytrack mile, the Greg Geier-trained entry of FORDUBAI and STREET SPICE was made the 5/2 favorite in the wagering. When the latch sprang, MONGOLIAN SATURDAY darted out to the front and slowed the pace of the race. Despite being flanked by CAMEO APPEARANCE in the early stages, MONGOLIAN SATURDAY was able to dictate early splits of :24.19 for the opening quarter, :48.17 for the opening half, and 1:12.51 for three-quarters. Both were first and second down the backstretch run.
FORDUBAI, fourth in the early stages, moved to the rail and put in a sustained rally from a pressing position to nail MONGOLIAN SATURDAY at the finish line. The final winning margin was a neck and the final time for the one-turn polytrack mile was 1:37.97. The three-year-old son of E Dubai was ridden to victory by Eddie Castro, and paid $6.80 to win.
MONGOLIAN SATURDAY was second, CAMEO APPEARANCE was third a length behind the top pair. Another 3 lengths further behind was OTB BOB, who closed from last to round out the superfecta. The other half of the favored entry, STREET SPICE, was seventh.
Winning trainer Greg Geier chose the Straight Line, citing the race being strictly for three-year-olds and an ability to run any surface. The Illinois Derby runner-up and Straight Line victor, according to Geier, is now among the possibles for the September 8 Grade 2 Super Derby and the October 6 Grade 2 Indiana Derby.
The $2 1A-3 exacta of FORDUBAI and MONGOLIAN SATURDAY returned $41.80. The fifty-cent 1A-3-6 trifecta of FORDUBAI, MONGOLIAN SATURDAY, and CAMEO APPEARANCE yielded $32.30. Dime 1A-3-6-5 superfectas with O T B BOB in the fourth position paid $39.08.
Hatoof Stakes (First Division): I'M ALREADY SEXY Looks Good in Pucker Up Prep
An all-stakes, all-grass pick six began with the Hatoof Stakes for seventy-five grand. A local feeder to the G3 Pucker Up in a month, it was for three-year-old fillies at about a mile and a sixteenth.
LIZ PENDENS from the far outside in the field of ten broke on top and dictated terms in the early going, with early fractions of :23.26, :46.77, and 1:13.33 for the quarter, half, and three-quarters. During the backstretch run, LIZ PENDENS widened her lead to as much as four lengths. On the second turn, I'M ALREADY SEXY made an inside-outside rally to grab a lead that winning rider Florent Geroux expanded the stretch. She stopped the clock for the about 1 1/16 mile distance in 1:40.93. I'M ALREADY SEXY's final odds were 6-1, and backers collected $14.20 on the win end for her victory.
I'M ALREADY SEXY was trained by Wayne Catalano, who also trained the second place finisher BOLD KITTEN. BOLD KITTEN reported home 4 3/4 lengths behind her stablemate. She was a head in front of Arlington Oaks winner and 19-10 favorite MY OPTION. MISS SCOUT rounded out the superfecta, three-quarters of a length behind MY OPTION.
Owned by the syndicate Hit the Board Stables, winning syndicate member Anna Seitz looks to "bring fun back into horse racing", citing the wry name of I'M ALREADY SEXY, named also to maintain a link to her sire, Ready's Image. Purchased for twenty thousand dollars at Fasig-Tipton October, her Hatoof win (the winner's share of the purse is more than double the sale receipt) should keep the mission alive. The next potential spot for I'M ALREADY SEXY, according to trainer Wayne Catalano will be the September 14 G3 Pucker Up at nine furlongs on the Arlington weeds.
The $2 all-Catalano 4-3 exacta of I'M ALREADY SEXY and BOLD KITTEN yielded $86.20. The fifty cent 4-3-5 trifecta of I'M ALREADY SEXY, BOLD KITTEN, and MY OPTION paid $55.80. Dime superfectas with MISS SCOUT in the fourth position returned $138.31.
American St. Leger: DANDINO Bursts Through
The pre-race scratch of legitimate contender and G3 Stars & Stripes winner DARK COVE meant that 9/5 morning line favorite DANDINO would go off at about half that in the marathon American St. Leger. Predictably, the final odds were 4/5.
And predictably, the early lead would be set be IOYA BIGTIME and OJOS DE HIELO, with the pair dictating the terms through tepid early splits. OJOS DE HIELO had the lead on the first of the three turns with IOYA BIGTIME near to him. They traded spots on the second turn. Then on the third and final turn, OJOS DE HIELO gave way and was eased, a did not finish (DNF) at the end but a horse that would exit the course under his own power, per the chartcaller. IOYA BIGTIME still had some lead on the third turn, having been part of the tepid early pace of :26.28 (first quarter), :53.82 (half-mile), 1:18.01 (3/4 mile), and 1:42.53 (one mile).
And predictably, the closers rallied in force. IOYA BIGTIME's stablemate SUNTRACER was saving all the ground. NAJJAAR was in the picture. DANDINO and CODE OF CONDUCT were among that group, too.
For most of the stretch run, it appeared as if CODE Of CONDUCT or NAJJAAR or rallying SUNTRACER would be the upset victor, with all of them closing.
All would collect minor awards however, as DANDINO whooshed through with a quick burst that made at least a few jaws drop. DANDINO, a six-year-old by Dansili, accelerated through with a sterling second effort to wrestle victory by a half length in the second iteration of $400,000 American St. Leger timed in 2:50.78. He paid $3.60 to win. Ryan Moore was aboard for trainer Marco Botti, now the winning trainer of the first two runnings of the American St. Leger.
The second through fourth finishers were SUNTRACER, NAJJAAR, and CODE of CONDUCT, respectively. SUNTRACER was beaten a half length by the victor, and was three-quarters of a length to the good of NAJJAAR. CODE OF CONDUCT was just behind the top trifecta by only a head.
Winning rider Ryan Moore "was locked in the whole race but he was the best horse. He picked up natural. I thought I'd keep it simple, but they were on top of me the whole race."
Liz Dance, wife of winning owner Darren Dance praised Ryan Moore's ride, as he "found the gap, a magnificent ride". She further stated that "they went very hard early, hoping the two would niggle each other which they did."
Lucci Botti, assistant to the winning trainer, has plotted an Australian autumn campaign for DANDINO, with the Caulfield Cup and the Melbourne Cup on the radar.
The $2 4-5 exacta of DANDINO and SUNTRACER paid $21.00. The fifty-cent 4-5-7 trifecta of DANDINO, SUNTRACER, and NAJJAAR yielded $16.45. Dime superfectas with CODE OF CONDUCT in the fourth position returned $19.14.
Secretariat Stakes: ADMIRAL KITTEN Pulls Mild Upset
He may have a Krusty the Clown-like sales mentality with pitching his horses, but Ken Ramsey's belief in his prize stallion Kitten's Joy is wholly genuine. He truly does believe the progeny (many of them with "Kitten" in the name) can win whatever race is plucked from a condition book. Minutes after Big Blue Kitten won the G1 Sword Dancer at a grassy three-turn mile and a half at Saratoga, Ramsey won another G1 with Admiral Kitten, defeating a large field of fellow three-year-olds at a mile and a quarter on the green. Ramsey's belief is justified, the smiles are from here to Kentucky, and the sales pitch gets better. And you're a step closer to believing him.
The betters didn't buy the Ramsey message in the sophomore-restricted $500,000 G1 Secretariat, with ADMIRAL KITTEN made the 5-1 third choice in the wagering. The favorite was JACK MILTON, at 5/2, third last out in the G2 Virginia Derby.
The pace in the Secretariat was set by outsider GOLDEN JASON, darting to three length at the first quarter clocked in :24.96. The lead shortened as RYDILLUC cut in the margin down the backstretch through a half in :49.91. On the turn, STORMY LEN made the first move, three wide on the turn and nearly was able to maintain it. With three-quarters of a mile clocked in 1:14.22 and a mile in 1:38.13, STORMY LEN's lead had grown to much as three lengths. But in the stretch, ADMIRAL KITTEN made a closing rally on the outside, getting past STORMY LEN and winning in 2:02.17 for the mile and a quarter. The final margin was a length and a quarter. Rosie Napravnik was aboard for conditioner Michael Maker. The sophomore owned and bred by the Ramseys by Kitten's Joy paid $12.40 to win.
STORMY LEN's first move would have him second best. Wider than ADMIRAL KITTEN came JACK MILTON, another length and a quarter behind STORMY LEN at the finish. DRAW TWO completed the all-American top four, four and a quarter lengths behind.
Winning rider Rosie Napravnik "was able to sit back and relax [on ADMIRAL KITTEN]. We got a clear trip around the second turn and he was just finishing fast. He's a very classy horse, very laid back, very enjoyable to ride."
Winning trainer Michael Maker felt "we were due for a good trip one of these times", as he finished second four straight times, twice over the local lawn in the G3 Arlington Classic and G3 American Derby. Maker also said that "he lost ground to the winners in those races, and [winning rider] Rosie [Napravnik] saved ground on both turns here, and he came with his run."
In the flesh at Arlington International, Ken Ramsey (wife and co-owner/co-breeder Sarah Ramsey was absent) began the pitch and message of Kitten's Joy, even touting Real Solution two races later in the G1 Arlington Million to those willing to listen. Ramsey was clear on plans for Saratoga winner Big Blue Kitten, as he would be pointed to the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park in early October. He was less clear on plans for local sophomore winner ADMIRAL KITTEN, but did emphasize he'd attempt to keep them apart.
Per morning after tweets from Daily Racing Form's M. Hersh, JACK MILTON would next head to the G1 Jamaica, also at Belmont's fall meet.
The $2 5-10 exacta of ADMIRAL KITTEN and STORMY LEN paid $155.60. The fifty-cent 5-10-9 trifecta of ADMIRAL KITTEN, STORMY LEN, and JACK MILTON yielded $112.05. Dime 5-10-9-12 superfectas with DRAW TWO in the fourth position returned $112.13.
Beverly D. Stakes: DANK Ships and Shines
The early toteboard said it all: MARKETING MIX at 1-2. There was buzz off her win against males in the G3 Sunset. There was a new rider and a deeply explored Chicago connection. It was her race to lose.
But as rider Gary Stevens explained, "She was pulling and not settling like she normally does." It would not be her day, though the next day could be hers, likely to come (as per DRF) is in the G1 Rodeo Drive at Santa Anita. She'd finish fourth on this day, beaten 5 3/4 lengths.
Perhaps even on her best day she wouldn't get to the winner, a European named DANK. DANK would soundly win the $750,000 G1 Beverly D. at a mile and three-sixteenths in 1:53.38. When timed to a fifth of a second, it's 1:53 1/5, equaling the track record set in 1990 by Reluctant Guest. After the race, winning owner James Wigan was pleased at a share of a track record, noting that "she couldn't have done it more easily".
To get to perhaps the best performance (with DANDINO's burst the other in this category) of the Arlington International Festival of Racing, she would have to beat that buzz horse, fellow European shippers, and run down LA TIA; the same LA TIA that was zipping along on the firm Arlington grass in :23.62 and :48.16 for the opening half. At three-quarters LA TIA was still in front, the clock reading 1:11.76. Taken four wide by Ryan Moore on the second turn, the four-year-old Dansili mare passed the game LA TIA, the not-today MARKETING MIX, and all the others. Then she turned on the gas to win by four and a quarter lengths in an aforementioned swift clock time. DANK was the second choice in the wagering at 3-1 and paid $8.40 to win.
GIFTED GIRL was second and a length and a half to the better of G3 Modesty winner AUSUS, who checked in third, a nose ahead of 11-10 wagering favorite MARKETING MIX.
Winning rider Ryan Moore felt DANK "was in excellent condition coming into this and when she kicked it was all over. She's been real aggressive all year. She wasn't real aggressive at Royal Ascot; she wasn't at her best over the last couple."
Winning owner James Wigan chose the Beverly D., citing "she had a lot of speed, [and] she'd like the firm ground. And a nice purse!"
Upon further discussions with winning trainer Michael Stoute, owner James Wigan gave unclear plans for DANK. A return trip to America for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, to which she qualifies for automatically, is among the far-off plans.
The $2 exacta of DANK and GIFTED GIRL paid $88.60. The fifty-cent 4-5-9 trifecta of DANK, GIFTED GIRL, and AUSUS returned $223.90. Dime superfectas with MARKETING MIX in the fourth slot netted $158.97.
Arlington Million: REAL SOLUTION Wins Via Disqualification
Thirteen turf stars loaded into the gate for the richest race in the Land of Lincoln, the Grade One Arlington Million with a purse of a million dollars. And it appeared to unfold just the Million last year, when defending champion LITTLE MIKE broke on top and appeared ready to wire the field just as he did a year before.
This time, there was much more front-end pressure courtesy of MULL OF KILLOUGH. The fractions were certainly quicker this go-round, :24.34, :48.99, 1:13.00. No free lunch today, though LITTLE MIKE gamely held for as long he could, with MULL OF KILLOUGH in close attendance. MULL OF KILLOUGH even grabbed a short lead on the backstretch.
In the stretch, THE APACHE grabbed a short lead from LITTLE MIKE, with pressing SIDE GLANCE among those still around to contest the outcome. REAL SOLUTION was on the scene as well, and FINNEGANS WAKE was making a furious charge from the tail of the field. TEMERAINE as well as closing fast.
The ending to the biggest race in Illinois may not have been seen by those watching it on WGN/WGN America. What did they see was a furious stretch battle, and objection lights blinking. Those at the track or watching the in-house simulcast feed watched those tense moments as the stewards mulled over the objection, with #1 REAL SOLUTION's rider Alan Garcia having lodged a claim of foul against the rider of #10, THE APACHE, Christophe Soumillion.
Soumillon, post-race to Arlington communications, said that THE APACHE "got scared by the [video] screen [in the infield] and shifted. My horse was on the lead and got a little unbalanced."
Garcia's take was as follows: "At the top of the stretch I had plenty of horse, to go by and the other horse bumped us more than four times, made me lose my momentum. If that didn't happen we might have won by two or three lengths."
The Stewards ruled that the claim of foul was valid, and that made REAL SOLUTION the winner, even though THE APACHE was first across the line by a head. Two lengths behind the top two was SIDE GLANCE, and a half length behind in fourth was FINNEGANS WAKE.
INDY POINT, the 3-1 wagering favorite, dropped out, was eased according to his rider, and ran evenly around the track finishing last of thirteen.
Once again the winning co-owner and co-breeder was Ken Ramsey, this time decked out in a wreath of red and white flowers that matched the red and white silks of his placed-first winner of the Arlington Million that stopped the clock in 2:00.99. Ramsey is now faced with the delightful dilemma of keeping his turf charges apart, with REAL SOLUTION receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (to which REAL SOLUTION is also nominated for) by virtue of his Million win. Alan Garcia and Chad Brown were the jockey/trainer team responsible for REAL SOLUTION, a four year old son of Kitten's Joy.
Winning co-owner/co-breeder Ken Ramsey was again in his element, trumpeting the two he had in the G1 Del Mar Oaks that followed the Arlington Million (they were Emotional Kitten and Kitten's Dumplings, and they were third and fourth, respectively). He mentioned how "he's never had three had three Grade 1 [horses] before [on one day]." While REAL SOLUTION's sire KITTEN'S JOY didn't win the Million, "to have his son come back, to do what he did, is pretty gratifying."
The $2 1-10 exacta of REAL SOLUTION and THE APACHE returned $153.80. The fifty-cent 1-10-6 trifecta of REAL SOLUTION, THE APACHE, and SIDE GLANCE, netted $782.15. Dime superfectas with FINNEGAN'S WAKE in the fourth position paid $1656.91.
Hatoof Stakes (Second Division): I O IRELAND Shocks Against Fellow Sophomores
Perhaps I O IRELAND matched the feelings of those in the Chris Block barn. "A rough winter and spring," noted the locally-based conditioner. And for the trainer, the Arlington meet had been that: rough. The normally twenty-percent wins barn was only winning at half that rate. Perhaps that disregard led to I O IRELAND being dismissed at nearly 23-1 on the board in the second division of the $75,000 Hatoof Stakes for three-year-old-fillies on the sod at about a mile and a sixteenth.
The later of the two divisions of the Hatoof was the quicker of the two early, with early splits of :22.74 and :46.38 for the opening quarter and half. The early pacesetter was GREAT RED BEAUTY, with EDEN PRAIRIE a couple lengths a rear. They traded positions near the three-quarters timed in 1:12.52. On the turn, EVERY WAY started to advance from the inside whereas I O IRELAND advanced on the outside. 11-10 favorite FRIVOLOUS was closing, and widest of all was STREET OF GOLD. At the line and by a neck, it was I O IRELAND, one of two Chris Block had in this division (ALETTE the other) of the Hatoof. EVERY WAY was second, a half a length to the better of STREET OF GOLD. A nose behind her was FRIVOLOUS. Final time was 1:41.69 for the Illinois-bred victor and homebred owned and bred by Team Block. I O IRELAND is also a half sister to defending Illinois Horse of the Year Ioya Bigtime.
Winning trainer Chris Block selected the Hatoof for I O IRELAND, citing it being for strictly sophomore fillies on the sod. Predictably, he'll be back for the G3 Pucker Up on September 14, with at least two to saddle in the race, another being MY OPTION from the first division.
The $2 7-5 exacta of I O IRELAND and EVERY WAY paid $334.00. The fifty-cent 7-5-2 trifecta of I O IRELAND, EVERY WAY, and STREET OF GOLD yielded $491.70. Dime 7-5-2-9 superfectas that included FRIVOLOUS in fourh returned $446.27.
Attendance for the Arlington Million Day program was 34,222, a slight gain from last year's count, according to track publicity.
All photos courtesy Four Footed Fotos.
Update, Friday August 23: After the Arlington Million, I stopped by the "JTL Sports" show on Chicagoland Sports Radio to discuss the Arlington Million program. Thanks to host Jason Thomas for making it happen.