Looking Back: 2018 Arlington Million Day

The skies were blue and clear, the turf was good (and later firm), and Arlington's biggest race day was a success. (Photo: Coady Photography)

The skies were blue and clear, the turf was good (and later firm), and Arlington’s biggest race day was a success. (Photo: Coady Photography)

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL –The Arlington summer meet reached its crescendo with the International Festival of Racing on Saturday.  The card was anchored by a trio of Grade 1 turf races: the Arlington Million, the Beverly D. Stakes, and the Secretariat Stakes.  Supporting that was another pair of stakes for three-year-olds, the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes for turf fillies, and the Bruce D. Memorial Stakes for polytrack milers.

It was a banner day for trainer Chad Brown, who trains both Arlington Million winner Robert Bruce and Beverly D. winner Sistercharlie.  His finishes in those races were as deep as his barn, as he trains the exacta in the Arlington Million and the trifecta in the Beverly D.  In the Secretariat, trainer Tom Morley had his first winner with his first starter at Arlington, sending out former claimer Carrick to a game upset victory.

The Pucker Up went to Secret Message for trainer Graham Motion — who won the local prep for the race, the Hatoof Stakes, with Colonia but was vindicated in his choice to keep Secret Message pointed to the race.

The Bruce D. Memorial, which so often goes to local runners, went to a Chicago-based horse once again.  Illinois-bred Sir Anthony, a 35/1 surprise, kicked clear between horses to take top honours.

Arlington Million: Robert Bruce Rebounds From Lone Defeat

Robert Bruce is unlucky not to still be undefeated.  A perfect six-for-six in Chile, he won his American debut in the Fort Marcy (G3) at Belmont on May 5.  In his eighth race, he was shut off twice down the stretch, finishing sixth — but beaten only a length for top prize, and tenaciously gaining despite his troubles.

In Chicago, nothing could stop him.  A smart late rally carried him to a half-length victory over stablemate Almanaar, bringing him back to his familiar winning way.

Century Dream quickly cleared to the lead, with Oscar Performance and Money Multiplier tracking in closest range.  Almanaar settled on the inside, a bit rank early just as he had been in his last-out allowance win.  Robert Bruce, bumped early, settled kindly near the rear.

Heading into the backstretch, Robert Bruce took closer order, settling just outside of stablemate Almanaar. But, it was Almanaar who bid first, shifting out for a three wide bid on the far turn.  Robert Bruce waitied patiently, but jockey Irad Ortiz knew exactly what he had.

Into the stretch, Century Dream turned back Oscar Performance and Money Multiplier, daring the field to catch him, drifting out as he did so.  Almanaar headed him first, to his immediate outside.  But, Almanaar had company.   Robert Bruce was coming to his outside — and doing the better work late.  He edged past to win by a length with Almanaar, who came home two lengths clear of a tiring Century Dream, who crossed the wire third.

Catcho En Die was next home, another three quarters of a length back, but he had trouble.  He had been rallying through horses, but checked near the sixteenth pole when Century Dream drifted into his way.  Jockey Jose Valdivia claimed foul against Century Dream and jockey William Buick; after the stewards’ review, Century Dream was disqualified from third to fourth, elevating Catcho En Die to the show spot.

Money Multiplier, Deauville, Twenty Four Seven, and Circus Couture completed the order of finish.  1.9/1 favourite Oscar Performance was pulled up in the lane.  The track veterinarian detected no clear signs of distress at the time, and he was vanned off as a precaution.  Spring Quality and Divisidero were stakes scratches.

Robert Bruce (10) kicks past Almanaar to win the 36th running of the Arlington Million. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Robert Bruce (10) kicks past Almanaar to win the 36th running of the Arlington Million. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Robert Bruce is a four-year-old son of Fast Company out of the Orpen mare Lady Pelusa.  He was bred in Chile by Haras Convento Viejo, who campaigns him as Convento Viejo LLC.  Robert Bruce has now won eight times in nine career starts; the Arlington Million is his fifth at the top level, as he also won four Group 1 races at Club Hipico de Santiago in Chile.  The $582,000 winner’s share of the Arlington Million purse brings Robert Bruce’s career earnings to $942,457.  The victory also earned Robert Bruce a spot in the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In program.

Robert Bruce is the third Arlington Million winner for trainer Chad Brown, and the second in a row.  He won in 2013 with Real Solution, and then again last year with Beach Patrol.  Brown had a pair of top-level winners with sharp late runs who had live chances to be his third winner — both Robert Bruce and Almanaar.

He’s got an unbelievable kick, but so did the losing horse. They both ran tremendous.”  Brown indicated that Robert Bruce would possibly run once more before the Breeders’ Cup Turf, identifying the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on September 29 at Belmont as a possibility for his next outing.

Robert Bruce’s late-running style made his connections bite their nails, but that’s nothing new.  “The jockey was fantastic,” remarked Carlos E. Lavin, owner of Convento Viejo LLC, after the race.  “When he entered the straight and he was in last place, I said, ‘Oh, maybe he’s too far back.’ But, this horse has a change of speed that is incredible. He always starts the same, he makes us suffer.”

Robert Bruce paid $7.20 to win.  The $1 exacta over Almanaar (10-3) came back with $18.60.  A trifecta with Catcho En Die third (10-3-6) returned $150.45.  The dime superfecta with Century Dream in the lowest rung (10-3-6-5) paid $150.45.

Beverly D. Stakes: Sistercharlie leads Chad Brown Trifecta

Trainer Chad Brown has been a force in the top echelon of the turf division this decade.  Fittingly, his success has carried to the Beverly D.: leading into Saturday’s 29th running of the race, he had won the last three editions with Watsdachances (2015), Sea Calisi (2016), and Dacita (2017).  He came loaded in this year’s edition of the Beverly D. as well: in a field of nine, four horses hailed from his barn, including the two shortest prices on the board.

He made it four in a row on Saturday in commanding fashion.  Brown swept the trifecta with a pair of the leading lights in the filly and mare turf division, 1.6/1 favourite Sistercharlie and Fourstar Crook.  Thais, whose best finish since relocating from France to the United States was an allowance win at Belmont in May, rounded out the trifecta.  And, if it weren’t for Daddys Lil Darling getting up for fourth by a nose over Inflexibility, Brown would have had the superfecta.

As expected, it was Thais who sent to the front, with Inflexibility tracking just behind to keep the pace honest.  Sistercharlie chased two wide near the rear, with Fourstar Crook chasing just in front of her, also two wide.  As Athena made an early move into the backstretch, Sistercharlie joined inside of her, improving three wide past Fourstar Crook.  She inched forward even farther, two and then three wide, through the far turn, coming for home in striking range of Thais, who still made the running on the rail.

John Velazquez asked, and Sistercharlie answered.  She pushed her head in front of Thais just past the furlong pole.  Sistercharlie’s early move made all the difference — Fourstar Crook was rolling late, gaining, but Sistercharlie had the jump.  She crossed the wire a half-length clear of Fourstar Crook.  It was another length and a quarter back to Thais, who held by a neck over late-rallying Daddys Lil Darling, who had nipped Inflexibility by a nose for the last spot in the superfecta.  Nyaleti, Athena, Oh So Terrible, and Dona Bruja completed the order of finish.

sistercharlie-the-beverly-d-g1-29th-running-08-11-18-r10-ap-head-on-1Sistercharlie is a four-year-old daughter of Myboycharlie out of Starlet’s Sister, by Galileo.  Sistercharlie is the second Beverly D. winner by her sire; 2014 winner Euro Charline is also a daughter of Myboycharlie.  Bred in Ireland by Ecurie Des Monceaux, Sistercharlie now bears the green silks of owner Peter Brant.  Her victory was her sixth in ten career starts, and her third in Grade 1 company.  All of her Grade 1 scores have come this year; she won the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April, and the Diana at Saratoga last month.  The $349,200 winner’s share of the purse brought her career earnings up to $1,475,603.  The victory in the Beverly D. also earns Sistercharlie a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf through the Win and You’re In program.

According to jockey John Velazquez, the race could not have unfolded better.  “It was a perfect trip. We broke a little slow like always. As soon as we went past the wire I looked for the position I wanted and I got it. Then I sat there and I saw Ryan Moore move on the outside into the backstretch and kind of pushed him out and he came in, and I kind of followed him from there. From the half-mile pole there was just one horse to beat so I put her right behind that one and when I asked her she responded really well.”

The horses in the exacta, Sistercharlie and Fourstar Crook, have faced each other three times this year — with Sistercharlie now winning twice to Fourstar Crook’s once.  Even though they are stablemates, Brown has no qualms about running them where they fit, even if they have to face each other.  “So fortunate to have them in the same stable and when they run against each other neither of them deserves to lose. That’s the bad part. But, both of them deserve to be in the race and that’s why we run them.”

Brown gave credit to his mentor, Bobby Frankel, who won the Beverly D. in both 1995 with Possibly Perfect and in 2003 with Heat Haze. “It’s very rewarding for my staff and my owners and my mentor, I’m thinking about him right now, Bobby Frankel. He loved this race. He loved coming to Arlington, a big supporter. He taught me so much and to be able to come back and use his training techniques, everything he taught me, to come here and have success in this race is really special.”

Sistercharlie rewarded her numerous, confident backers with $5.20 to win.  The exacta over Fourstar Crook (3-7) paid $8.90 for each $1.  A $0.50 trifecta with Thais third (3-7-5) came back with $99.45.  The dime superfecta over Daddys Lil Darling (3-7-5-1) paid $97.87.

Secretariat Stakes: Carrick Rises from the Claiming Ranks to Arlington’s Biggest Day

On May 12 at Belmont Park, you could have purchased Carrick out of his debut for the modest sum of $40,000.  After Saturday you’re unlikely to be able to buy Carrick for that sum: after outslugging Analyze It in the lane in the Secretariat Stakes, he is now a Grade 1 winner.

American Derby winner Real Story sent to the lead from the rail, and got company from outside-drawn Hunting Horn.  Bandua and Analyze it tracked in the next flight, with Carrick loping along just behind.  The scrum began into the far turn, as Analyze It ranged up three wide on the leading flight, Carrick began to improve outside Bandua, and the rest of the field behind them took closer order.  Approaching the turn for home, Carrick kept on coming, swinging four wide into the lane.

Hunting Horn and then Real Story faltered into the lane, leaving Carrick and Analyze It to run to the wire clear of the rest.  4/5 favourite Analyze It briefly led on the inside, but Carrick would not let him kick away.  He continued hounding him all the way down the lane, wedging his head in front.  Analyze It stayed on, but could not battle back.  Carrick crossed the wire a neck in front of Analyze It.  Though Bandua could not match the top two, he kept on well enough to hold third over Platinum Warrior, who was last for most of the race but found a belated rally.

Captivating Moon, Ming, Untamed Domain, Hunting Horn, Real Story, Sniper Kitten, Dubby Dubbie, Lucius Tiberius, and Pont Du Gard completed the order of finish.

Carrick (4) holds Analyze It (9) at bay in the 2018 Secretariat Stakes. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Carrick (4) outslugs Analyze It (9) down the lane in the 2018 Secretariat Stakes. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Carrick is a three-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway out of the Distorted Humor mare How Far to Heaven.  Bred in Kentucky by Patricia Pavlish, owner Donegal Racing purchased him for $75,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2016.  The victory is Carrick’s third in four career starts; his only defeat came in the Kent Stakes (G3) at Delaware Park, where he was third beaten two and three quarters lengths by Golden Brown.  The $223,200 winner’s share of the purse brings Carrick’s career tally to $302,800.

Jockey John Velazquez rode Carrick for trainer Tom Morley.  It was Velazquez’s second time taking the leg up on him; he also rode in the Kent.  “He broke well and going past the wire for the first time he settled really well.  By the backstretch I was in a perfect position and I was very happy with the way he was doing things,” Velazquez said. “After that, really, I was just waiting for the stretch run to see how he would respond for me and he responded right away.”

The victory is Donegal Racing’s second triumph in the Secretariat Stakes; they also won the 2010 edition with Paddy O’Prado.

“We knew he’d run well, but to beat this field is really extraordinary,” said Jerry Crawford, managing partner of Donegal Racing. “I said before we started today that you get to be world champion for a day if you win this race. Thank you to Arlington, one of the classiest places in the world, and thank you to Mr. Duchossois, who has meant so much to this sport.”

Carrick finished in 2:01.04 for a mile and a quarter over good turf, and paid $78.20 to win.  The $1 exacta over Analyze It (4-9) returned $118.90.  The $0.50 trifecta over Bandua (4-9-3) came back with $1,044.65. A superfecta with Platinum Warrior in the lowest rung (4-9-3-2) paid $1,419.09 for each dime on the combination.

Pucker Up Stakes: Well-Meant Secret Message Redeems a Tough Day for the Motion Barn

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan.  Graham Motion trainee Spring Quality, last-out winner of the Manhattan (G1), was scratched from the Arlington Million after not feeling a hundred percent after shipping from Fair Hill.

Other times, things go exquisitely.

The week after Ride to the Million Day, when his charge Colonia won the Hatoof Stakes, Motion made it clear that Colonia was not pointed to the Pucker Up Stakes.  Instead it would be Secret Message, most recently fourth in the Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs, who would bear the standard for the barn.

Motion knew best, as Secret Message uncorked a sharp late rally to win today’s Million Day finale.

Off near the rear, Secret Message dropped inside and settled patiently as In the Mood and Beyond Blame made the running.  She drew closer as the field approached the far turn, and then kicked into gear to make a circling run through the far turn.

Into the lane she came to the far outside, as the throng inside of her swarmed the leading pair.  Madame Milan led for a moment; then, Cosmic Burst inside and Pamina outside emerged as threats.  Secret Message was rolling best of all, sweeping past on the outside  to seize the lead into the final furlong.  She kicked away to win over Pamina, who held well safe from the late rallies of Princess Warrior and Dark Artist.  2.2/1 favourite (and Regret Stakes winner) Beyond Blame, Madame Milan, Cosmic Burst, A. A. Azula’s Arch, Smart Shot, Deadline, Kabella, and In the Mood completed the order of finish.  Diamondcoat was a stakes scratch.

Secret Message flies clear in the 2018 Pucker Up Stakes. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Secret Message flies clear in the 2018 Pucker Up Stakes. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Secret Message is a three-year-old dark bay or brown daughter of Hat Trick out of the Gone West mare Westside Singer.  Bred in Kentucky by Allen Tennenbaum, he is owned in partnership by Madaket Stables LLC, ERJ Racing LLC, Elayne Stable 5 LLC, and Bouchey Thoroughbred Ventures LLC.  Secret Message is the second starter, second winner, and first stakes winner out of her dam Westside Singer (Gone West).  The $55,800 winner’s share of the purse brought her career earnings to $104,317.

Today’s race was Secret Message’s second try in graded company.  With weather that was temperate by Chicago summer standards and a bit more experience under her belt, this race went better than her tilt in Kentucky.  “We really took our time after her last race at Churchill,” Motion said. “It was a crazy night, it was very hot that night and she got very upset in the paddock. She behaved great today and just showed up. I think she’s going to get better and better. I think she loved the distance today and I think there’s room for improvement.”

Jockey Irad Ortiz, who rode her for the first time two months ago in the Regret Stakes, felt confident about what to do.  “Last time she broke so bad and got beat by two lengths,” Ortiz said. “She came from way back and we didn’t want to change anything, we just wanted to break well. She broke well and then I was patient. We let her relax and finish and she was great.”

Secret Message stopped the clock in 1:50.01 for a mile and an eighth over firm turf, and paid $14.40 to win.  The $1 exacta over Pamina (10-3) returned $35.80.  A trifecta over Princess Warrior (10-3-2) returned $286.05 for each $0.50 on the combination.  The dime superfecta with Dark Artist placed fourth (10-3-2-1) paid $389.89.

Bruce D. Memorial Stakes: Sir Anthony Rises from the Illinois-bred Ranks

To his friends, he’s Tony the Pony.  But in the 2018 Bruce D. Memorial Stakes, Illinois-bred Sir Anthony proved himself to be all racehorse.  Defying his 35/1 odds, the chestnut son of Mineshaft won his first attempt in open stakes company, and did so in commanding fashion.

1.1/1 favourite The Tabulator shot out of the gate as usual, though was soon joined to his inside when rider E. T. Baird hustled Navy Armed Guard up behind them.  The pace battle was soon joined by a keen Chief Oakie Dokie, who would not settle in the stalking flight next to Nobrag Justfact, and instead pulled to join between the pacesetters.  Sir Anthony waited on the inside, letting that play out in front of him.

Under the hands of Florent Geroux, Sir Anthony took closer order approaching the far turn.  Through the bend, he raced just behind the trio battling for the lead, waiting to pounce.  He got that room approaching the furlong pole.  Once Chief Oakie Dokie faded out of contention in shallow stretch, room opened between Navy Armed Guard and the Tabulator.  Sir Anthony knew what to do: he sliced through that opening, launched off to the wire, and came home two lengths clear.

Nobrag Justfact, tracking behind the leading line throughout, stayed on to hold second by three quarters of a length over 68/1 longshot P R Radio Star, who overcame a slow break and mustered a late outside rally.  It was another head back to Navy Armed Guard in fourth.  The Tabulator, Nottoway, Strollin the Bayou, Wile E Peyote, and Chief Oakie Dokie completed the order of finish.

Sir Anthony strides to victory in the 2018 Bruce D. Memorial Stakes. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Sir Anthony strides to victory in the 2018 Bruce D. Memorial Stakes. (Photo: Coady Photography)

Sir Anthony is a three-year-old chestnut ridgling by Mineshaft out of the Smart Strike mare Mourette.  He carries the silks of Richard Otto Stables, Inc., who also bred him.  He is the first starter out of his dam, Mourette, a multiple stakes-placed mare who is a Smart Strike half to both Grade 3-placed Lemonade Kid (Lemon Drop Kid) and the stakes winner Alette (Lemon Drop Kid).  Like Sir Anthony, all of those runners were bred in Illinois.  The victory in the Bruce D was Sir Anthony’s second in eleven career starts.  It was his first win in stakes company, though he had finished second in both the 2017 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity at Hawthorne and the 2018 Springfield Stakes at Arlington.  The $57,600 winner’s share of the purse brought his career earnings to $109,760.

Remarked jockey Florent Geroux after the race, “I had a great trip, a nice stalking position tucked in on the fence and saving ground. Once my horse saw the light he responded really well when I asked him.”

It’s no coincidence that the horse is named Sir Anthony, and his trainer’s name is Anthony Mitchell: Richard Otto, one of Mitchell’s longtime owners, named the horse after him.  “Mr. Otto decided to give me a gift,” he remarked after the race.  “It was Mr. Otto’s idea and he asked would I mind and I said not at all.”  For Mitchell, part of what made the race so rewarding was the owner for whom he won it.  “For me, this is great, but the greatest joy is for Mr. Otto. He’s been with me through thick and thin and just guided me and stayed with me.”

Sir Anthony stopped the timer in 1:37.62 for paid his supporters $72.20 to win.  The $1 exacta over Nobrag Justfact (2-5) paid $327.10.  A trifecta with P R Radio Star third (2-5-3) returned $2,153.80 for each $0.50 on the combination.  The dime superfecta with Navy Armed Guard in the lowest rung (2-5-3-4) came back with $6,498.93.


You can take “Picks & Ponderings” with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Arlington International Racecourse. And you can get “Picks and Ponderings” in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking “Create Subscription.” It’s a FREE service, and you’ll never get any unwanted spam.

Leave a comment