ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- Arlington Million season is upon us. The Arlington International Festival of Racing is just five weeks away. Today's card at Arlington featured the four local prep races for the Festival races. It gave the horses a chance to get a feel for the local course. And, for anyone seriously considering a trip to Arlington on Million day, the top three horses in each of the prep races earned a guaranteed berth to the corresponding Festival race, complete with a waiver of the entry and starting fees.
American Derby: ONE MEAN MAN Continues the Family Legacy
Stop me if you've heard this one before: a three-year-old by Mizzen Mast out of the Grand Slam mare Abbeyville Miss wins a graded stakes at a mile and an eighth over the Arlington grass...no, we are not writing an extremely untimely recap of the 2015 Pucker Up Stakes, which Mizz Money won. But, after she won that race, Bernard Flint suggested keeping an eye on her full brother.
That horse, ONE MEAN MAN, joined his full sister in the ranks of Arlington graded stakes winners today.
The American Derby, the local prep for the Secretariat Stakes (GI), drew a well-matched field of eleven. The betting reflected that. OSCAR NOMINATED, getting a class break from the Kentucky Derby (GI) and the Penn Mile (GII), went off the lukewarm 5/2 choice. But, several others took significant interest at the windows: J R 'S HOLIDAY and TEQUILA JOE both went off at 7/2, SWAGGER JAGGER left the gate at 9/2, and ONE MEAN MAN went off just shy of 6/1.
As expected, WEAVERS ICE COLD motored to the front, and had the lead going into the far turn. TEQUILA JOE, who broke far more alertly than he did in the Arlington Classic, prompted the Ohio-bred longshot in second through an opening quarter of 23.83, and a half in 48.88. OSCAR NOMINATED and SWAGGER JAGGER settled into the next flight, with the rest further back. Little changed until the field hit the far turn. Carlos Marquez, Jr. finally asked TEQUILA JOE to run; he eased right past WEAVERS ICE COLD. SWAGGER JAGGER took aim as well, and OSCAR NOMINATED wound up from his tracking spot.
In the meantime, ONE MEAN MAN -- who had been sitting half a dozen lengths off the pace for most of the race -- unleashed one mean run. He swallowed ground easily along the rail. Approaching the turn for home, to avoid the fading WEAVERS ICE COLD, he angled all the way out to take aim on the leaders.
Turning for home, SWAGGER JAGGER briefly overtook TEQUILA JOE. But, the latter was not finished, and rerallied along the rail. OSCAR NOMINATED angled out, and despite bumping with SWAGGER JAGGER, kept gaining ground. ONE MEAN MAN, was moving even better. The grey son of Mizzen Mast, with clear sailing on the outside, found his best in the final half-furlong. ONE MEAN MAN swept past the rest, and hit the wire half a length ahead of OSCAR NOMINATED. TEQUILA JOE, along the rail, stayed on for second another length back -- and a neck better than SWAGGER JAGGER, who faded to fourth. TWO STEP TIME, ITSNOTEZBEINBREEZY, J R's HOLIDAY, LOMCEVAK, WEAVERS ICE COLD, THE ROUGE DIESEL, and MONGOLIAN HOLIDAY completed the order of finish.
ONE MEAN MAN was bred in Kentucky by Bernard Flint and Ron Hillerich, and races for owners L. T. B., Inc. and Hillerich Racing LLC. Co-breeder Flint trains ONE MEAN MAN, and Robby Albarado had the call to ride. Albarado had ridden ONE MEAN MAN to victory once before, in an N3L allowance at Churchill Downs on June 25th of this year. ONE MEAN MAN has now won four times in thirteen starts. The American Derby was his first graded stakes triumph. But, ONE MEAN MAN also won the Keith Gee Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds on January -- by a neck over OSCAR NOMINATED. The $70,500 winner's share of the purse brought his career earnings up to $214,772.
Though ONE MEAN MAN spent much of the race well off the pace, rider Robby Albarado had faith in his mount. "He was content being back there," Albarado recalled. "I kind of hand-checked him to ask him if he was there for me, and he was. Every step of the way, he instilled a lot of confidence in me." There was no plan to keep him that far off the pace, rather, Albarado noted that "The plan was to get him comfortably, try to get him the mile and an eighth, be as conservative as possible."
ONE MEAN MAN's pedigree gave trainer Bernard Flint confidence that he could get the distance: "His sister [Mizz Money] did. I knew the breeding was there, and I thought I could do it." Still, even with that, Flint acknowledged the uncertain nature of horse racing. "I knew the post would hinder him, because of the start. And, hey — if he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it. Today, he was the best horse here. Tomorrow, he might not be. But, today, he was able to handle it."
As for ONE MEAN MAN's next plans, Flint was ebullient about the prospect of running his horse in the Secretariat next. When asked if he would, he exclaimed, “Sure! I love this place! I make money here! All my friends are around here, too!”
ONE MEAN MAN finished the one and one eighth miles over firm turf in 1:48.86, and returned $13.80 to his backers. The $1 exacta over OSCAR NOMINATED (9-1) paid $32.70. The $0.50 trifecta with TEQUILA JOE in third (9-1-5) came back with $80.70. A superfecta with SWAGGER JAGGER beneath (9-1-5-2) returned $53.43 for each dime on the combination.
Arlington Handicap: After a Rough Season, a Smooth Trip for KASAQUI
Since shipping stateside for his six-year-old season, KASAQUI has seen his ups and downs. After a fourth-place allowance finish behind Pepper Roani at Turfway, he rebounded to upset a stakes-quality allowance at Keeneland at 30/1. That was enough for trainer Ignacio Correas, IV to send him against top-class foes in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI). He fell on the far turn. His fortunes reversed again the next month with a strong second-place showing in the Wise Dan Stakes (GII) at Churchill, and he hoped to keep the pendulum swinging in that direction in the Arlington Handicap.
KASAQUI has gained a lot more respect from bettors than he had at Keeneland in the spring, but he was by no means the only logical contender in this local prep for the Arlington Million. KASAQUI did settle as the slight 3.2/1 favourite, but GO AROUND and MESSI each left the gate at 3.3/1, and 4/1 ROMAN APPROVAL had his share of backers as well.
Proven frontrunner GO AROUND broke well, and put himself on the front end. Though ROMAN APPROVAL had been rallying from off the pace more often frequently, he has a long and successful history as a front-end horse as well, and went to keep GO AROUND honest. KASAQUI settled in behind that pair, a clear third, with the others farther back. GO AROUND led the field through comfortable fractions: the quarter in 24.90, the half in 50.15.
Through the far turn, ROMAN APPROVAL began to escalate the pressure on GO AROUND. KASAQUI, too, angled out from his cozy tracking spot to mount a move around the top two. MESSI, near the rear for much of the race, had also begun a run between horses. Outside the furlong pole, it was KASAQUI moving clearly best. Though ROMAN APPROVAL had done his part to put GO AROUND away, KASAQUI moved smoothly past. No one mounted a serious stretch challenge to KASAQUI, who hit the wire 1 1/4 lengths clear of ROMAN APPROVAL. MESSI found enough late to get third, a length behind ROMAN APPROVAL and 3/4 length in front of pacesetting GO AROUND. R. GREAT ADVENTURE, FIVE GREEN STARS, PEEJ, defending champion QUIET FORCE, and PYJAMA PARTY completed the order of finish. ONLY IN AMERICA, GREENGRASSOFYOMING, and PUMPKIN RUMBLE were trainer scratches.
KASAQUI is a six-year-old horse by Lasting Approval out of the Alysheba mare Kemosheba. He was bred in Argentina by San Francisco de Pilar, Diane Perkins's farm in Argentina, and raced by Wimbourne Farm, Perkins's United States operation. He is trained by Ignacio Correas, IV, and was ridden today by Robby Albarado. Today's victory was KASAQUI's fifth in 19 career starts, and his first in stakes company. The $72,000 winner's share of the purse brought his earnings up to $196,434.
Trainer Ignacio Correas, IV raved about KASAQUI's trip. "In a dream you cannot get it better than that." Jockey Robby Albarado concurred, "It couldn't have been a better trip...every step of the way. When I eased to the three-eighths pole, he was in my hands, and he took off turning for home."
Albarado's history with Wimborne Farm stretches well into the past. KASAQUI's sire, Lasting Approval, was a Winbourne homebred who Albarado piloted to a pair of stakes wins in 1997 and 1998. He even had some history at Arlington: "Twenty years ago, I won the Arlington Oaks for Ms. Perkins in these silks, a filly named Cuando Puede. It’s been that long."
Winning the Arlington Handicap for these connections was likewise special for Correas. "I am very proud of him, especially for Mrs. Perkins -- that is like family." Correas indicated that the Arlington Million was KASAQUI's next planned start.
KASAQUI stopped the clock in 1:55.62 for the mile and three sixteenths over firm turf, and returned $8.40 to win. The $1 exacta over ROMAN APPROVAL (9-3) paid $21.50. A trifecta with MESSI slotted third returned $43.80 for each $0.50 base bet. The dime superfecta with GO AROUND placed fourth came back with $17.83.
Stars and Stripes Stakes: In a Blanket Finish, the Grass is Greenest for GREENGRASSOFYOMING
Trainer Mike Maker has a reputation of being shrewd in the high end of the claiming game. Last year it was QUIET FORCE, a horse he claimed for $40,000 in 2014, who found the winners' circle in the Arlington Handicap. Farther afield it has been DA BIG HOSS, a $50,000 claim last June at Churchill, who has become a multiple graded stakes winner in the turf marathon division. This year, he returned to Million Preview Day with a slew of horses, including a horse he claimed just last out: GREENGRASSOFYOMING. He had tried stakes company a few times, and won the Remington Green Stakes in 2014, but was in for a tag at Churchill Downs on June 26th. Maker and owner Michael M. Hui dropped $62,500 in the claim box, GREENGRASSOFYOMING won by daylight, and he promptly made his way from the barn of Michael Tomlinson into Maker's.
That move had a quick return on investment.
Despite Maker's strong record with horses he claims, the public let GREENGRASSOFYOMING out of the gate at 9/1. Popular Illinois-bred THE PIZZA MAN, two-time winner of the Stars and Stripes and last year's Arlington Million winner, opened at 1/5 and went off at 1/2 for this local prep to the American St. Leger (GIII). BULLARDS ALLEY and O'PRADO OLE took attention at the windows as well, each going off at 5/1.
Longshot local CHIP LEADER was keen to have the lead; O'PRADO OLE was content to settle in second, with BULLARDS ALLEY and PUMPKIN RUMBLE in the next flight. CHIP LEADER led the field through a reasonable enough opening quarter of 25.29, then rushed ahead to do his best Shining Copper impression. He clicked off the half in a stiff 48.04, and continued winging it through a mile in 1:37.86.
Into that final half-mile, the field closed in on CHIP LEADER. Into the third turn, O'PRADO OLE swept easily past the pacesetter on his outside. Approaching the top of the stretch, GREENGRASSOFYOMING joined him. PUMPKIN RUMBLE angled out to make his bid. Even wider, THE PIZZA MAN made his bid.
GREENGRASSOFYOMING struck the front entering the final furlong, but O'PRADO OLE fought back along the rail. THE PIZZA MAN steadily closed up ground, and PUMPKIN RUMBLE edged along almost in tandem with the Illinois-bred. By the time the wire came, just a head separated the foursome. But, GREENGRASSOFYOMING had enough to best O'PRADO OLE by a nose. It was another nose back to PUMPKIN RUMBLE, and another nose yet back to THE PIZZA MAN. BULLARDS ALLEY came home fifth, six and a half lengths behind the blanket finishers. BIRDSONE and CHIP LEADER completed the order of finish. FIVE GREEN STARS, QUIET FORCE, and ROMAN APPROVAL were all trainer scratches.
GREENGRASSOFYOMING is a six-year-old chestnut gelding by Quest out of the Dehere mare Flick. Bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm, he is now owned by Michael M. Hui. He is trained by Mike Maker, and rider Shaun Bridgmohan had the leg up. GREENGRASSOFYOMING won for the eighth time in his 36-race career. It was his second career stakes win, and his first triumph in graded company. The $58,800 winner's share of the purse brought his career earnings to $383,526.
Rider Shaun Bridgmohan had never ridden GREENGRASSOFYOMING, but he knew exactly what to do. "From the one-hole, I thought I would have a good, ground-saving trip. It worked out very well. And, around the three-eighths, I started looking for a way out for him, and it worked out, unfolded pretty good." Bridgmohan continued, "I was waiting to pull the trigger, and when I did, he gave me what he had."
Trainer Mike Maker, who cross-entered GREENGRASSOFYOMING in the Stars and Stripes and the Arlington Handicap, claimed his horse specifically to run in longer turf stakes. However, the decision of where to run him came down to field depth. “I thought in this race, obviously, like everybody else, The Pizza Man was the horse to beat. In the Handicap, I felt that five or six horses wouldn’t be a big surprise.” As for a next start, staying at Arlington for a race on Million Day is not out of the question, but Maker indicated that he may take GREENGRASSOFYOMING to Saratoga to run in the John's Call Stakes. Maker won the John's Call last year with Da Big Hoss.
GREENGRASSOFYOMING stopped the clock in 2:27.74 for a mile and a half over firm turf, and returned $20.60 to his supporters. The $1 exacta with O'PRADO OLE second (1-4) paid $53.10. A $0.50 trifecta with PUMPKIN RUMBLE in third came back with $173.85. The superfecta with THE PIZZA MAN in the lowest rung returned $71.48 for each dime on the combination.
Modesty Handicap: FAUFILER Carries Her Class in the Modesty Handicap
Though the progeny of Galileo are famous for being able to stay, FAUFILER had mainly been running at a mile. After all, she is a daughter of none other than Six Perfections: the Niarchos Family's multiple GI-winning mare who won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2003. FAUFILER herself had won the Sand Springs Stakes at a mile at Gulfstream earlier this year.
The public figured FAUFILER would take well to the stretch-out, and bet her down to 8/5 favoritism in the local tune-up for the Beverly D (GI). AL'S GAL, the Mike Maker charge who won the Keertana Stakes last out, went off at 5/2. That was just shorter than the 3/1 on MARYPOP, a last-out Group III winner in France who now runs for trainer Mike Stidham.
It was SECRET SOMEONE, the longer-price horse from the Mike Stidham barn, who got to the front early. AL'S GAL tracked in second early, a couple of lengths back, with NO FAULT OF MINE and FAUFILER in the next flight. SECRET SOMEONE dictated terms as slowly as she pleased: 24.79 for the quarter, 50.66 for the half. SECRET SOMEONE played follow-the-leader all the way through a mile of 1:39.25.
The pace, however, was quickening. SECRET SOMEONE kept rolling, but AL'S GAL began to make up ground, and FAUFILER angled off the rail to get between the top two. FAUFILER kicked on best of all. She found her next gear approaching the sixteenth pole, sprinted away from her two closest challengers, and crossed the finish line safely in front. It was a length and a half back to AL'S GAL, who edged a neck in front of pacesetter SECRET SOMEONE by the time they hit the wire. NO FAULT OF MINE, MARYPOP, SEQUIOTA, and SMILING GAMBLER completed the order of finish. AMERICA MON AMIE was a trainer's scratch.
FAUFILER is a five-year-old daughter of Galileo out of the Celtic Swing mare Six Perfections. She was bred in Ireland by the Niarchos Family, and owned by their racing operation Flaxman Holdings, Ltd. Trained by Graham Motion, he was ridden for the first time today by leading local rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. The race was FAUFILER's sixth victory in fifteen lifetime starts, but her first triumph at graded or group level. The $73,500 winner's share of the Modesty purse brought her lifetime earnings up to $359,760.
Rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. raced aboard FAUFILER for the first time today, but came prepared. "Graham told me to watch her races and he said, listen, she shuts off really quick. You put her behind another horse, French style, they fall asleep. So, do whatever you think is right." Motion's description held true for Valdivia. "On the backside, when Robby opened up a little bit and Corey kind of spread out from them, she saw a little bit of daylight, and she started pulling. She just gave me the feeling that all I need to do was find her a line down the lane and she’ll be there for me."
FAUFILER's classiest form before the Modesty had come going well shorter than today's trip. "Her mother won the Breeders’ Cup going a mile," explained trainer Graham Motion, "so I’ve always had in the back of my mind that she’d be a great miler. And, she won so impressively at Gulfstream that day, going a mile." Still, Motion figured there was a chance she would make this trip as well. "This was in the back of my mind that she’d handle it, but you don’t really know until you try." Motion indicated that the Beverly D. was under consideration for FAUFILER, but had not set a decision about her next start.
Motion began training US-based horses for the Niarchos Family after their previous stateside trainer Bobby Frankel passed away in 2009. They are the connections behind 2014 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Main Sequence, the Champion Main Sequence. "For me, growing up in England, it’s kind of a dream to train for somebody like that," reflected Motion.
FAUFILER stopped the clock in 1:56.12 for a mile and three sixteenths over firm turf, and returned $5.40 to her backers. The $1 exacta with AL'S GAL in second (3-2) paid $9.20. A $0.50 trifecta with SECRET SOMEONE in third came back with $26.10. The superfecta with NO FAULT OF MINE fourth (3-2-5-7) returned $13.47 for each dime on the combination.
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