It’s great for horse racing when you have International flavor in three consectuive races. There’s just something about Americans vs Europeans no matter what the sport. Today at Arlington Park had three Grade 1 turf races with favorites from both sides of the pond.
The first of the three was the Secretariat Stakes (G1) for three year old colts and gelding going 1 1/4 miles. The increasingly popular Silver Max trained by Dale Romans came into the race on a six race winning streak that included three graded stakes. The last being the Virginia Derby (G2) at Colonial Downs on July 21. The European favorite was Bayrir (FR) who has only raced four times prior to this weekend, but in those four he’s won 3 of them. The best race was his last, a win in the Prix Eugene Adam (Grand Prix de Maisons-Laffitte G2) going 1 1/4 miles in July 22.
As expected, Silver Max took the early lead and didn’t post a quick first 1/4 mile that went in 24.65. Handsome Mike ridden by Kentucky Derby winning jockey Mario Gutierrez sat in 2nd with Summer Front and Daddy Long Legs in behind him. Bayrir (FR) sat near the back of the eight horse field in no hurry to do anything. The pace remained the same with the 1/2 mile going in 48.94. Daddy Long Legs put pressure on Silver Max as they hit the back stretch. He took over the lead after one mile but quickly faded from there. Something must have happened to him, again. This is the third time in three tries on American soil. He might want to stay in Europe from now on! On the far turn Summer Front made a bold move and quickly extended a lead of 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Bayrir, who made a big move as well as Silver Max and Finnegans Wake. As they turned for home, the French colt would not be touched. He took over the lead and rode out to a 1 1/4 lengths win. Finnegans Wake continued his move down the stretch and got up for 2nd place, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Summer Front. Handsome Mike edged Silver Max for 4th. Bayrir (FR) is trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre and was ridden by Christophe Lemaire. Round 1 goes to the Euros.
The second leg of the three would be the Beverly D. Stakes for fillies and mares 3 years old and up going 1 3/16 miles. The American favorite was Aruna, who went off at odds of 3/1 and the European leading contender was Irish bred mare I’m A Dreamer.
At the gate, Aruna ridden by Ramon Dominguez, stumbled out of the gate and never factored in the race. She was 10th and last throughout. The early lead went to was Romacaca. She posted a 1st quarter mile in 23.67 and 1/2 mile in 48.40. The only three year old in the field Up (IRE) was in 2nd and British mare Jovialty was sitting in 3rd. Co-favorite Marketing Mix was sitting in the middle of the pack with I’m A Dreamer near the back. As they hit the far turn, Romacaca had already begun to fade. Up (IRE) and 20/1 longshot Upperline made moves to takeover the lead with Jovialty sitting just behind. You could see towards the back that both Marketing Mix and I’m A Dreamer were ready to breakout. As they hit the stretch turn, Up (IRE) still had the lead but not for long. Jovialty was right there, with I’m A Dreamer ready to take over the lead. Halfway down the stretch I’m A Dreamer took over the lead from the middle of the track and Marketing Mix was gaining with each stride. By the time they hit the wire, Marketing Mix ran out of real estate and just missed I’m A Dreamer held on for a neck victory. Great finish to a great race. Aside from the unfortunate start that excluded Aruna from the race, the two best horses finished 1-2. Round 2 goes to the Europeans and they lead 2 races to 0.
The last of the three races was the $1,000,000 Arlington Million (G1) going 1 1/4 miles. The post time favorite was Irish bred Crackerjack King (IRE) at 7/2 with the American favorites being Boisterous and Little Mike at odds just above 7/2.
The Dale Romans trained Little Mike went directly to the lead and was allowed to sit on fractions of 25.10 and 49.95 for the first half mile. Willcox Inn sat in 2nd, Colombian (IRE) was in 3rd and Cherokee Lord was in 4th. Crackerjack King sat in 5th with Boisterous near the back in no hurry to be a part of the race. Not much change in terms of position near the front after one mile. Little Mike, ridden patiently by Ramon Dominguez, continued to lead. As they hit the far turn, Little Mike still sat on the front end, but everything behind him began to change. Willcox Inn began to fade, Colombian was still hanging around, but moves were being made by Afsare (GB) and Rahystrada. At the top of the lane, Little Mike widened his lead to 4 1/2 lengths and he wasn’t going to give it up. He was let loose by Dominguez while Afsare (GB) and Rahystada were making up ground with each stride. It was too little too late as they hit the wire. A brilliant gate to wire win by Little Mike as he won by 1 1/2 lengths. Afsare was able to make up ground on him but not enough. He did create some breathing room and took 2nd, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Rahystrada and Colombian (IRE) who settle for a deadheat in 3rd. Round 3 goes to the Americans, but the Europeans win the day 2 races to 1.
After a disappointing effort from Silver Max earlier in the day, Romans strikes back to take the Arlington Million. People knew Little Mike would run well on this day, but not many would have thought he would have been the one of two Romans trained horses to win and go gate to wire.
All in all fantastic action yet again on Arlington Million day. It’s always a treat to see Americans vs the Europeans to see how they fare against each other. On this day, the Europeans win the battle, but there will be a few more days in the coming weeks where the Americans will get a chance at redemption.
Super Saturday at Belmont Park in October features several races that attract top International and American prospects such as the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (G1) and Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (G1). Later in October, Woodbine plays host to the E P Taylor Stakes (G1), Pattison Canadian International (G1) and Nearctic Stakes (G1). Of course in November, Santa Anita hosts the Breeders’ Cup Championships. SOme exciting races still to come over the next few weeks!