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.
Treasure Beach (GB) for the first time comes across the pond for trainer Aidan O’Brien, previous winner of the Secretariat Stakes in 2000. You can always tell a trainer means business when his regular European rider makes the trip over as well. Jockey Colm O’Donoghue is scheduled to be up. The buzz around this horse is the class level that he has been racing against this year and the horses he has defeated. 2011 got off to a fast start for this 3 yr old colt when he won the Chester Vase and defeated another prominent 3 yr old Nathaniel who later earned an automatic qualification to the Breeders’ Cup Turf via the Win & Your In BC Challenge Series. After that win he solidified himself as one of the top 3 yr old turf horses in the world when we won the Grade 1 Irish Derby in June.
However, as good as he proved himself to be there are still questions that need to be answered. He comes over to the U.S. for the first time and is coming off a race in July that trainer O’Brien would like to throw out. Saturday will also be his 5th race in four months. So add that with the long trip from Europe to Chicago and some may question just how fresh he will be.
Right behind Treasure Beach as the 2nd choice on the ML is Banned. Winner in 2 of the last 3 Graded Stakes, Banned comes into Arlington after a 2nd place finish in the G2 Virginia Derby on 7/16. Prior to that race things began to click for trainer Thomas Proctor on the grass at Churchill Downs when the colt scored back to back victories in the G2 American Turf and G3 Jefferson Cup. Aboard for the victory in the American Turf, Garrett Gomez will be back in the saddle tomorrow.
Two horses that are entering have officially switched to the turf after making starts on dirt / synthetics during the Kentucky Derby prep season. Most notably is Willcox Inn who has found his form this summer and enters the Secretariat off of back to back wins. Arlington has been a great spot for this 3 yr old trained by Michael Stidham and ridden by Robby Albarado. In Sept. of 2010 this turf course is where he broke his Maiden, a race that included 2nd place finisher Animal Kingdom. It wasn’t until May of ’11 that he would win again in the Arlington Classic. The trend continued when he won his first ever the Graded Stakes race here, the G2 American Derby on July 9th. For those out there that like to stick to horses that know their way around the turf that they’re running on, this is your guy.
The other Kentucky Derby trail horse that will be racing tomorrow actually qualified and ran in the 137th Kentucky Derby. After a surprising win in the Coolmore Stakes, Derby Kitten was sent to try to pull off the impossible. In only his 2nd race ever on dirt, Derby Kitten failed to contend and finished 13th. After the Hail Mary at Churchill Downs, trainer Michael Maker elected to send his colt back to the turf. He enters after two 3rd place finishes in the Lone Star Derby and the American Derby here at Arlington.
Picks: Because I’m weary of the European and I know that Aidan O’Brien is tough to beat on the turf, I’m definitely going to have to back my choice up at the betting window. I’ve always been a fan of Robby Albarado and I’m betting for Willcox Inn’s Arlington Turf magic to continue. Another horse that I’m looking at putting some action on is the quiet European, Ziyarid. At 10-1 for a horse that enters after winning 3 in a row……….I’ll take a shot.
Grade 1 $400,000 Secretariat Stakes | 3 yr olds | 1 1/4 Mile | Turf PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
- Newsdad J. Rosario W. Mott 10-1
- Ziyarid (IRE) C. Lemaire A. De Royer-Dupre 10-1
- Treasure Beach (GB) C. O’Donoghue A. O’Brien 2-1
Crimson China R. Maragh H. MotionSCR
- Casino Host R. Dominguez C. Brown 8-1
- Suntracer S. Bridgmohan C. Block 15-1
- Banned G. Gomez T. Proctor 3-1
- Derby Kitten J. Leparoux M. Maker 15-1
- Willcox Inn R. Albarado M. Stidham 9-2
- L’Aiglon F. Geroux G. Dorochenko 50-1
It’s going to be a thrilling start to the three Grade 1 Stakes races tomorrow. In honor of the great Secretariat, good luck to all horses and their connections.
Written by: Little Brink, Chicago, IL