2016 Secretariat Stakes Preview

Secretariat’s Triple Crown run in 1973 ensures that he will remain top of mind as a dirt horse. Even the Arlington Invitational, his first race back after his historic Belmont Stakes, was a dirt race. However, the final two starts of Secretariat’s career happened over grass. His turf debut came in the Man o’ War Stakes (GI) at Belmont. The surface change did nothing to dull his dominance. He got to the front, and scored a five-length wire-to-wire victory. His final career start came in the 1973 Canadian International (GII) at Woodbine, also over the grass. He came from off the pace this time around, but the result remained the same: Secretariat won by daylight.


Secretariat romps in the 1973 Man O’ War (GI) at Belmont Park.

The next year, Arlington Park instituted the Secretariat Stakes.  The race has been run at distances as short as a mile and a sixteenth and as long as a mile and a half over its history, but has covered a mile and a quarter for each of its runnings since 1985.  This race has recently emerged as Aidan O’Brien’s springboard for the Cox Plate (GI – AUS): 2014 winner Adelaide turned around and won it later that year, and last year’s victor Highland Reel called home third behind the top-flight racemare Winx.  The race has been a productive source of Arlington Million winners, given the Million’s international nature, as three horses who won the Secretariat Stakes have gone on to win the Arlington Million: Awad (1993, won the 1995 Million), Marlin (1996, won the 1997 Million), and Kicken Kris (2003, won the 2004 Million).

Selections are made for turf only.

Saturday, August 13: Arlington Park

Race 7: Secretariat Stakes (GI), three-year-olds, one and one quarter miles on the turf, post time 3:43pm CDT

The Secretariat is a spread race — so many of the contestants are in with a shot.  That said, sometimes the people connected to the horse can give them that extra edge, and no one knows how to win a Secretariat Stakes like Aidan O’Brien.  He has won four of them already, including the last two.  This year, he returns with another live one in LONG ISLAND SOUND.  He is one of the most lightly-raced horses in the field, with only five starts under him.  But, his last two have come against truly classy company.  He raced in the Tercentenary (GIII – ENG) at Royal Ascot, coming in third behind Hawkbill.  That was franked when Hawkbill returned to beat older in the Coral-Eclipse (GI – ENG) next out.  He finished only sixth behind stablemate Deauville in the Belmont Derby (GI) last out, but was beaten only two and a quarter lengths for all of it.  And, seeing his horse beaten as the favourite has not deterred Aidan O’Brien from coming here before — Adelaide was beaten as the Belmont Derby favourite two years ago, came here, and rolled.  The field is a bit tougher this year than in that, but he stands to improve, and he gets Seamie Heffernan in the irons.  Heffernan booted LONG ISLAND SOUND to three wins in Ireland, and got HIGHLAND REEL home in the Secretariat last year.

BEACH PATROL and AMERICAN PATRIOT also deserve a long look.  Each have taken slightly different routes to get here.  BEACH PATROL, a Chad Brown charge who gets Florent Geroux in the irons, is another coming in from the Belmont Derby.  He rallied nicely for third behind Deauville and Highland Sky.  BEACH PATROL should be able to get as cozy a trip as anyone here.  The race has little speed other than SCISSORS AND TAPE (the Ramsey rabbit, to make pace for OSCAR NOMINATED), and BEACH PATROL could draft in range behind him, and come in for first run on that pacesetter.  His class fits, and the distance should suit him well.  AMERICAN PATRIOT was a well-beaten tenth in the American Turf three back (a race in which BEACH PATROL finished a good second), but has regrouped since then.  Trainer Todd Pletcher dropped AMERICAN PATRIOT down to allowance company for his next start, and he racked up a confidence-building win.  Then, he returned in the Then, he followed that up in the Kent Stakes (GIII) at Delaware, a race he won comfortably.  This will be his first time in Grade I company, and his first try going a mile and a half.  But, he should be able to stay the trip, being by War Front out of a full sister to Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed.  AMERICAN PATRIOT also has some trip versatility, with good firm either closing or tracking the pace.  Expect the latter, however, given the fact that the pace will not likely be hot.

Selections:

#8 LONG ISLAND SOUND (5/2)

#9 BEACH PATROL (2/1)

#2 AMERICAN PATRIOT (5/1)

Longshot:  #4 ONE MEAN MAN (12/1) gets a class test here, but he is consistent, versatile, and gutsy enough to get a piece of this at a price.  He won the American Derby (GIII) over this course last out, and was second in the Arlington Classic (GIII) here before that.  ONE MEAN MAN has some versatility of pace, able to track close in range, or rally from further back.  Expect the latter here, with all of the pacemakers, but even if the pacemakers do not fire Robby Albarado will be able to carve out a trip.  He is the sort of horse you can depend on to show up and try his best.  And, though he may just be a notch below what would win this, a reasonable step forward from his current form gets him a share at a price here.

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