The Summer Season enjoyed a big weekend with the Travers Stakes and King’s Bishop at Saratoga on Saturday before switching gears to Del Mar for the Pacific Classic and Pat O’Brien on Sunday. Overall, there is quite a bit to look at so let’s jump right in with what I think was the most note worthy performance of the entire weekend.
It seems the most common thing we have discussed over the summer is the question marks surrounding the 3 yr old division. Coming into this weekend it came down to the big 4 who all had the chance to become first the 2 time winner of a major stakes race since the Triple Crown began. In the end, it was Stay Thirsty that came away the winner of the 2011 Travers Stakes and he did it in pretty impressive fashion. His nose for the course at Saratoga was apparent once again, especially on a trip around the oval that didn’t seem to go as planned. (more…)
In the Travers Stakes yesterday at Saratoga, a definitive leader in the 3 yr old division seems to have emerged when Stay Thirsty dominated the field. Today another division contender can also stake their claim as the leader. An automatic qualifier into the Breeders’ Cup Classic is on the line and the chance to become the West Coast leader is there for the taking at Del Mar in the G1 Pacific Classic. The Morning Line favorites in this 11 horse field center around two horses that will be ready to go at it again. (more…)
Coil Returns to NY after winning the Haskell
This year has been a never-ending battle for the nation’s top three-year olds. In each jewel of the Triple Crown and on into the summer, a new face inside the winners circle has continued to emerge. So in a “what have you done for me lately” year of racing, the opportunity to become the front-runner for the 3 yr old championship is ripe for the picking this weekend. It’s time for a horse to step forward and what better place to do it than Saratoga’s “Midsummer Derby”. (more…)
Final Breeze: Uncle Mo Goes 5F on Sunday
The long-awaited return is finally just about here.
In what I recall to be one of the most puzzling 3 yr old seasons I’ve ever seen, the mystery surrounding Uncle Mo has only led to even more uncertainty and unresolved questions. On Saturday, however, the former 2 yr old champion is scheduled to re-emerge for what should be one of the most exciting undercards ever on Travers Stakes Day. Uncle Mo returns and the well documented story continues………… (more…)
'09 Million: Ramon Dominguez cools down Gio Ponit after the win
It’s Arlington Million Day and I am pleased to be there at the track that sits just NW of the city in Arlington Heights, IL. So far this week the buzz surrounding the international affair has been about the Man O’ War Stakes rematch between 2009 Million Champ Gio Ponti and the Irish Bred Cape Blanco. I agree with the draw these two bring to the race but I’m not ready to declare this a two-horse race just yet. Most analysis this week has also seemed to be pointing to the age factor in the Arlington Million; in particular it’s been Gio Ponti that seems to have “lost his edge”.
Sure 6 yrs old is getting up there in age but in today’s world of racing where horses are retired too young, it’s premature to rule out Gio Ponti today based solely on age. 2009 was a fantastic year for him and his victory in the Arlington Million that year was a championship caliber performance. However, I won’t argue that he’s the same horse in 2011 and that he will be able to match his 4 yr old form but I do think that the field has yet to match his ’09 form either. Gio’s win that year capped a four race win streak, all Grade 1 victories. All and all with Gio’s checkered past and experience, I expect him to be right there down the stretch and will not be surprised if he becomes only the 2nd horse to have ever won the Arlington Million twice. (more…)
1973: Secretariat (Ron Turcotte) at Arlington Park in front of 41,223 fans
Rounding out the trio of Grade 1 Stakes races on the card at Arlington Park tomorrow is the Secretariat Stakes. Although it is now the lowest purse of the three, the Secretariat Stakes has been around the longest and has a legendary story as to how the race began. Following the 1973 Belmont Stakes when the biggest Triple Crown Champion was born, Arlington Park created a race just 3 weeks later to showcase his talent to the racing fans here in Chicago. The race known as the Arlington Invitational began and Secretariat did not disappoint. Illinois thoroughbred fans witnessed firsthand the beauty and strength of the Triple Crown Champ as Secretariat won like the champion that he was. The final margin of victory was nine lengths and the final 1 1/8 mile time was clocked in 1:47.00, just 1/5 of a second off the track record at the time.
After a performance that gave Arlington Park everything they could have asked for, the following year in 1974 the Secretariat Stakes was born. The 1 ¼ mile race, exclusively for 3 yr olds, will also be run in the grass and carries a $400,000 purse. The 2011 edition originally had 10 horses entered until Crimson China opted for a different race at Saratoga this weekend. The now 9 horse field is highlighted by an accomplished European. But a field of almost all North American bred contenders are going to make him earn a win in his first ever race on American soil. (more…)
On the Turf at Arlington Park
No racing event we would be complete without a counterpart or additional stakes race that sets the stage for the highly anticipated Feature Race. The Arlington Million is no different. Prior to Saturday’s feature will be the 22nd running of the G1 Beverly D. Stakes for Fillies and Mares, 3 yrs old and up. In line with the Arlington Million and contributing to the greatest day of Turf Racing in North America, the Beverly D. is going to be a battle.
Since its inaugural running in 1987, the Beverly D. has been attracting some of the top and champion fillies and mares from around the world. To up the ante even more and entice more top-notch contenders, the winner is now granted an automatic qualification into the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf via the BC Challenge, Win & You’re In series. With a purse of $750,000 also in play, this 1 3/16 mile race has a lot to offer to the handicapper. (more…)
In the world of horse racing it’s hard to find a better show on turf than on the weekend known as The Arlington Million. Racing since 1981, this prestigious racing card is the highlight of the summer at Arlington Park and has gained the interest of horse owners and trainers from around the world. With Breeders’ Cup prep racing in full bloom, this Mid August event has been and will continue to be a stepping stone to the BC Turf and BC Filly and Mare Turf as well. For a Million Dollar purse you can bet that top players are involved.
In the inaugural year it became an instant attraction when legendary thoroughbred champion John Henry won the Million on his way to becoming the 1981 Horse of the Year. Aboard for the ride was hall of fame jockey Bill Shoemaker. With an opening act as grand as that the years that followed were sure to include the star power that would attract horse racing fans to Illinois Thoroughbred Racing’s finest day of the year. Since then we’ve seen jockey’s Laffit Pincay, Jr, Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens, Jerry Bailey, Pat Day, and Kent Desormeaux win the Million. But no thoroughbred is worthy of winning the Million without the likes of trainers such as D. Wayne Lukas (’97), Bill Mott ‘(94), Bobby Frankel (’00 & ’02) or Charles Wittingham (’82, ’86, & ’90) to name a few.
The Arlington Million 2011 is here and the field isn’t anything shy of Grade 1 caliber. For 60% of a million dollar purse and an automatic qualification into the Breeders’ Cup Turf on the line, the stakes had better be high in Chicago and that is exactly where they’ll be on Saturday. Grabbing the early headlines it’s been all about the rematch. Coming into this race with home court advantage is 2009 winner and 2010 runner-up Gio Ponti who is looking to become only the 2nd horse to have ever won the Million twice. To follow John Henry (’81 & ’84) he’ll have to get the upper hand on a contender that got the best of him in the G1 Man O’ War at Belmont Park on 7/9 (Replay). Because of his recent triumph, Cape Blanco enters the Million as your Morning Line favorite. (more…)
Tizway wins the Whitney by 3 lengths
The Summer at Saratoga Series presented by NBC Sports on the VERSUS network brought us another great addition of nationally televised thoroughbred racing on back to back days this weekend. The action began yesterday with the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Invitational Handicap. In this season’s 3rd BC Classic automatic qualifier race for the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In series, there was a lot of possibilities on the table for this field of 11. After the field was loaded into the gate and a clean race was run, there wasn’t a doubt on who was the most deserving horse.
Coil Delivers in Stretch
After a weekend that included two key races for the 3-year-old division, the questions surrounding the contenders for top 3-year-old honors continue. As the story goes in 2011, the most recent winners put themselves squarely in the middle of the race for the title. On Saturday at Saratoga, Stay Thirsty came away looking much like the young 3-yr-old that won the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct back in March. Yesterday at Monmouth looked almost identical to the 2010 Haskell. It was Bob Baffert, Mike Pegram and Martin Garcia who repeated Lookin at Lucky’s winning performance when Coil delivered a powerful stretch run that led to victory. Expect the summer to heat up even more this month as both Winners are probable to face off on 8/27 in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.