2014 Secretariat Stakes Preview

In 1973, Secretariat followed up his Belmont win in the Arlington Invitational.  Arlington Park created the race to attract Secretariat, and Big Red galloped to an easy nine-length victory at a mile and an eighth.  Though that race was on dirt, he was no slouch on the grass, either.  His final two wins, the Man o’ War (GI) and the Canadian International (GII) were both on the grass, and Secretariat was voted the American Champion Turf Horse in 1973 on the strength of those victories.

Starting in 1974, Arlington has commemorated the Invitational by running the Secretariat Stakes.  The race is restricted to three-year-olds, and this year it is a $500,000 affair at a mile and a quarter on the grass.  The race began as a Grade II event, but was upgraded to Grade I status in 1984.  It has been run at distances ranging from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles, and has been at its current 1 1/4 mile distance since 1985.  This year’s edition drew a talented field of nine, though only eight will run.  Trainer Graham Motion announced Wednesday night that Can’thelpbelieving was not feeling a hundred percent, and therefore did not ship out for the race.

At publish time, the rail will be set to sixty-two feet (lane 5 position) from zero.

Secretariat Stakes (GI), three-year-olds, 1 1/4 miles on the turf, post time 4:15 CDT

As of publishing time, the rail will be set to lane 5, 62 feet from zero. Selections are for turf only.

In this field, the only one who has shown an affinity for the early speed is Tourist.  This Tiznow colt started on the dirt, but never quite got there.  Since switching to turf, he has been undefeated.  Of his career wins, two have been wire-to-wire, and the other still had him close to the pace early. Thus, his style looks rather dangerous in this field: either he is going to end up lone speed, or he can still rate in case anyone else in the field decides to try something new and gun for the front early.  The most likely suspect for trying that is Belisarius, who has previously been a more mid-pack type but is trying blinkers for the first time in his career.  This race will be the toughest competition Tourist has faced to date, and only his second career stakes attempt.  It will also be the longest race of his career to date.  However, it is encouraging that Tourist’s best attempt on the dirt was also his longest, a 1 1/8 mile maiden attempt in which he missed by three quarters of a length.  If he can stay another furlong, especially if he gets away with easy early fractions, he will be dangerous.  Adelaide races stateside for the second time, having finished just a neck behind Mr. Speaker last time out in the Belmont Derby (GI).  He seems, on paper, the one to beat.  His speed is the best of the field, and he won the Gallinule Stakes (GIII – IRE) at this distance back in May.  He also has two second-place finishes in Group II events at longer distances.  The pace will not be optimal for this son of Galileo; he tends to come from mid-pack, so jockey Ryan Moore will have to make sure to leave him without too much work to do if the likely slow pace develops.  With respect to surface, Adelaide has done his better work to date on softer going.  Firm to good turf may be a detriment.  However, Saturday’s forecast contains some chance of rain: the more that falls, the stronger he gets.  Divine Oath won American Derby (GIII) last out, the local prep for this race.  He stretches out to a mile and a quarter here, half a furlong longer than the American Derby.  He came from off the pace in that outing, taking advantage of Our Channel having expended energy to press Ghostly Wonder’s early pace.  However, he showed in both his maiden win and his second-place finish behind Mr. Speaker in the Lexington Stakes (GII) that he can succeed from closer to the front as well.  He will have to progress from his last time out to to beat the likes of Adelaide and Tourist, but his affinity for the course and his pace adaptability give him a strong chance to take the forward step he needs.

Selections:

#9 TOURIST (5/2)

#6 ADELAIDE (8/5)

#7 DIVINE OATH (8/1)

Longshot:  #2 HIGHBALL (15/1) broke his maiden in his second start, and went straight from there into the American Derby (GIII).  Far back early, he was charging well late and able to catch everyone but Divine Oath and Our Channel.  This time out, he stands to show a bit more early speed: trainer Wayne Catalano puts the blinkers on for the first time.  He tends to be sharp with horses wearing blinkers for the first time, winning 23% of the times he makes that move.  With the lack of early pace in this race, this could not be a better time to try blinkers.  This will be the longest race of Highball‘s career, but he handled the stretch from his nine furlong maiden win to a nine and a half furlong Grade III last out with aplomb.  If he progresses from last start to this one, this lightly-raced son of strong route sire Lemon Drop Kid could hit the board at a big price.

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