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WIDE OPEN SECRETARIAT STAKES ATTRACTS A DOZEN SOPHOMORES
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (August 15, 2001) -- A well-matched international field of 12 3-year-olds will do battle over North America's classic distance of a mile and quarter in Saturday's Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park.
The Secretariat, along with the Arlington Million and the $700,000 Beverly D. Stakes, are Illinois' only three Grade I races and comprise Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing. The Secretariat is also the third leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple that began June 30 with the $200,000 Grade II Arlington Classic, won by Gary & Mary West's Baptize, and continued with the July 22 running of the Grade II $250,000 American Derby, captured by Patricia Miessler and Cliff Raber's Fan Club Mister. Only one horse, Robert Schaedle III's Honor Glide in 1997, has swept the Mid-American Triple in its current all turf-format.
Among the North American-based horses in the Secretariat, the public's choice could fall to Jayeff B Stables' Navesink; William Bloom, John Behrendt & Charles Marquis' Sharp Performance; or K. K. & Vilasini Jayaraman's Royal Spy. Juddmonte Farms Inc.'s Mizzen Mast is highly regarded among the European runners.
A son of Irish River, Navesink brings a four-for-five record to the Secretariat Stakes, in his last start, the Alan Goldberg trainee rallied from just off the pace to win the Grade III Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes at Delaware Park July 22. In his prior trip to the post at Belmont Park June 16, he set the pace but gave way grudgingly in the waning yards to finish third in the Grade III Hill Prince Stakes.
Like Navesink, Sharp Performance has lost only one time in his brief career and won a graded stakes race in his last start. The son of Kris S. overtook the pacesetting Package Storm inside the final sixteenth when capturing the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Belmont Park July 15. Sharp Performance is trained by David Donk, who won this race in 1993 with Awad, and that horse went on to capture the Arlington Million two years later.
Royal Spy makes his second start over the Arlington turf course in the Secretariat after finishing third here in the Grade II American Derby July 22. Trainer Cole Norman indicated that the son of Peteski had difficulty handling the extremely soft going that afternoon. Prior to the American Derby, Royal Spy had won three straight races at Lone Star Park in Texas including a 9½-length score in the $200,000 Diamond A USA Stakes May 28 and a seven-length victory in the $125,000 Grand Prairie Challenge July 3.
Although he is a Kentucky bred, Mizzen Mast has done all of his racing in France under the guidance of trainer Christiane "Criquette" Head-Maarek. The lightly raced son of Cozzene finished second at the Secretariat Stakes distance of a mile and a quarter in the Group II Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp June 26 after winning the Group III Prix de Guiche at the famous French race course.
Sam-Son Farm's Strut The Stage invades from north of the border with just one blemish in an otherwise perfect five-race record. Trained by three-time Sovereign Award winner Mark Frostad, the son of Theatrical comes to Arlington off successive scores in the $104,000 Charlie Barley Handicap at Woodbine June 24 and the Grade III Toronto Cup Handicap at the Canadian oval.
Fan Club's Mister, one of a handful of locally based horses, could nail down two-thirds of the Mid-America Triple with a victory in the Secretariat. The Rickey Harris-trained son of Mr. Greeley took to the soft going in the American Derby and pranced his way to a 3½-length tally in the Grade II race July 22 after pressing the pace but fading to fourth in the Arlington Classic earlier this summer. Prior to his local runs, he was a game victor in the $100,000 Canterbury Breeders' Cup Derby in Minnesota June 2.
Elisabeth H. Alexander's Package Store could prove a formidable foe after nearly being excluded from the race for lack of graded stakes earnings. The son of Mister Baileys is trained by Tom Skiffington and has made two starts in graded stakes competition, finishing second to Proud Man in the Hill Prince and second to Sharp Performance in the Lexington in his last two starts.
Sligo Bay, who races in the colors of the Columbine Stable, looks to rebound after having trouble navigating the off going in the American Derby. Previously, the Beau Greely-trained Irish-bred son of Sadler's Wells closed willingly in his North American debut in the Grade III Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park May 20.
Two other European horses, Lord Blyth & R.P.B. Michaelson's Snowstorm and Newgate Stud's Aldwych, will start in the Secretariat. The former, a son of Environment Friend, is winless in four starts this year but is twice group stakes placed in England. Trained by Michael Bell, Snowstorm finished fourth in the Group III Gordon Stakes at Goodwood in his latest effort. The latter, an In the Wings colt, won a classified stakes in England in May and last out was a good second against older horses in the Steventon, a listed stakes race at Newbury July 21.
Rounding out the North American contingent are Victoria Racing Stables' Saint Damien and Allen E. Paulson Living Trust's Startac. A son of Saint Ballado, Saint Damien was first through the wire in his turf debut in a second-level allowance race here last month but had his number taken down because of interference in the stretch. Earlier this year, the Ken McPeek charge won the $100,000 OBS Championship at the Ocala Training Center in March and ran second in the Grade II Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park in April.
Startac, who captured the $100,000 Turf Paradise Derby in Arizona in February, has not started since finishing a well beaten 10th in the Grade I Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May. The Simon Bray pupil has never missed the board in four turf tries, including a victory in the Grade III Generous Stakes at Hollywood Park as a 2-year-old.
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