Welcome to Arlington Million Week.
For one week out of the year, Chicago becomes the center of the horse racing universe. Sorry, Saratoga. Step aside, Del Mar. We are where the action is.
The Arlington Million, with its one million dollar purse, was the first race to put seven digits in the purse back in 1981. From the get go, the race had national attention as NBC telecast the race live . You probably have seen the end of the race and have may never realized it. Atop Arlington's paddock is a statue that shows the outcome of the race, with John Henry (on the outside, saddlecloth 1A) winning in a tight photo over 40-1 The Bart on a marshy course. Through the magic of Youtube...roll tape!
And as for how tight that photo was?
Two years later, the Arlington Million (with sponsorship from Budweiser) would obtain Grade One status, the highest in thoroughbred racing. Two more races, on grass like the Million and both with G1 stature, would follow in more recent years, the Beverly D. for older fillies and mares and the Secretariat for strictly three-year-olds. Last year saw a new long-winded grass race, the American St. Leger, join the traditional G1 triple of Secretariat--Beverly D.--Arlington Million. All four races will command the attention of the Saturday August 17 program.
Despite the Instant Classic nature of the 1981 Arlington Million, it's been a race that's seen many quality runners and a ton of history. John Henry a second time. Teleprompter with fresh memories of a charred grandstand. Estrapade, the only female. Awad in a sizzling time. Powerscourt crossing the wire twice but winning once. The Tin Man and Little Mike all the way around.
Of course, the Beverly D. and Secretariat have provided exceptional moments of their own. For the sophomores in the Secretariat, there's Honor Glide completing the mid-America triple and Kitten's Joy in stakes record time during a sterling three-year-old year. The ladies have their own magic moments, from Reluctant Guest's track record to Gorella's wild closing rally.
So please fasten your seatbelts at this time and secure all baggage. We also ask that your seats and table trays are in the upright position for take-off.
Welcome to Arlington Million week.