Arlington Million Week is Upon Us

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?

1981 Arlington Million win photo. Courtesy Eye in the Sky Photo Finish.

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.

And Picks and Ponderings will be there every step of the way.  Coverage will be here at ChicagoNow, on Twitter, and at other points that might arise along the way.

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.


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  • fb_avatar

    Dream on. Most horseplayers would rather see a Maiden-claimer at Saratoga than a Stake race at Arlington. Let's see: a week in Chicago, or a week in Saratoga? You cannot be serious.

  • In reply to ML NJ:

    ML NJ,

    For thirty-nine of the forty days Saratoga is running I'd agree with you. Saratoga is the August Place to Be, and for good reason.

    However, there's more international flavor to the Million than to your long distance event, the Sword Dancer (and it's a shaky Grade 1, as opposed to the hickory G1 of the Million). And the Arlington Million is one of the few races out there spelled with a capital first letter, just like the D in Derby.

    After the Million is over and Arlington goes back to normal, Saratoga can go back to being the summer racing destination. But for this weekend, Arlington is the star of the show.


  • fb_avatar

    God bless John Henry. Didn't always win but he took on all comers and never ducked anyone by running in races like the Fourstardave.

    BTW, give me Del Mar any day over sweltering, rainy Saratoga.

  • In reply to Nick Arden:

    Nick Arden,

    Some like Del Mar, some like Saratoga. Nothing wrong with that. But the action and emphasis will go back to San Diego when Million Day is through.

    Oooo, and a shot fired at defending HotY Wise Dan, too. ;)

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    I've bored my friends all year with my opinion that Wise Dan had no business winning Horse of the Year (should have been I'll Have Another 4-4-0-0 with 3 GI wins and two classic wins) or Turf Champion (should have been Little Mike who won the 3 biggest turf races of the year). I'll give Wise Dan older male but I would have voted for Fort Larned.

  • In reply to Nick Arden:


    I wasn't among the group that voted for Horse of the Year last year, and I felt that the Eclipse awards was anticlimatic and I was begging for Fey/Poehler to save it.

    I do agree Little Mike > Wise Dan for Turf, Wise Dan > Fort Larned for older male. As for HotY I'd probably vote for Wise Dan although I'll Have Another makes a strong case. But it's a lot like 2011, where choosing the award is more to the least flawed rather than to the most worthy.

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