Arlington Million updates
|Arlington Park Barn Notes
Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 385-7500 ext. 7319
In today's notes:
One year ago in early August, internationally dominant but Irish-born trainer Dermot Weld set a record back home on The Emerald Isle by becoming Ireland's all-time leading conditioner. At the time, his record of 2,578 winners surpassed that of the late Jim Parkinson, whose previous milestone had stood since 1947.
On the international scene over his 29-year-career, Weld has won such diverse classics as Australia's Group I Melbourne Cup in 1993 with Vintage Crop and America's Grade I Belmont Stakes in 1990 with Go And Go.
However, to date Weld has not saddled a winner in any of the three Grade I races that make up Arlington Park's International Festival of Racing, to be renewed once again Saturday as the showcase afternoon of Thoroughbred racing in Chicago.
Undaunted, he will send Shadwell Stud's Muakaad to the post in Saturday's 19th running of the Arlington Million, and that British-bred bay colt should not be overlooked.
Muakaad is a 4-year-old son of Muhtarram, who finished third in the 1994 Arlington Million beaten two and half lengths for all of it, and this latest European invader made an appearance on the training track at Arlington Park Friday morning with Weld looking on.
"I'm very pleased with the way the horse traveled and I think he has a good chance," Weld said Friday. "The Arlington Million is a great race with a great tradition, and this year it matches up four very good Europeans with the best American horses from the East Coast and the West Coast over what I think is the best turf track in America.
"Draw is very important here," said Weld, "and I'm very pleased my horse drew the number five position.
"It's going to be as open a race as you'll get," said Weld. "The California horse (Bienamado) will be tough and I know Hap is a top horse because I trained both his sire and his dam during their careers."
Weld sent two representatives to Arlington for the International Festival of Racing in 1997, finishing second with Casey Tibbs in the Secretariat and third with Dance Design in the Beverly D.
It should be remembered that in July of last year in another wide-open race, Weld came to America and Arlington with Highland Farms' Pine Dance, a horse who was overlooked in the Grade II American Derby after drawing a post position toward the middle. Pine Dance won impressively by a length and a half, despite being dismissed at better than 7-1 in the wagering.
"I'd won on every track in America that I'd sent a horse on except Arlington," Weld said at the time, "and I had to rectify that."
Now, he tries for the winner's circle in the Arlington Million, and is likely to be overlooked in the wagering once again with a horse coming off a length and a half win three weeks ago in Group III competition.
In 12 years of training thoroughbreds in the United Kingdom, trainer Michael Bell has saddled more than 500 winners, most of them on British soil.
"But I've run hundreds of horses in Italy, and saddled runners in France, Ireland and Turkey, as well as some in Norway and Sweden," Bell said.
Now, Bell has come to America, to start Lord Blyth & R. P. B. Michaelson's Snowstorm in Saturday's Grade I Secretariat, which along with the Arlington Million and the $700,000 Beverly D., is one of three Grade I races that make up this weekend's one-day International Festival of Racing.
Snowstorm, a British-bred, is a gray sophomore by a Cozzene sire who has finished on the board in eight of 10 lifetime starts, and comes into the Secretariat after weakening in the late stages of a mile and a half race at Goodwood July 31. That most recent outing came in the Group III Gordon Stakes, and Snowstorm challenged for command after going a mile and quarter, the distance of Saturday's Secretariat.
"A mile and a quarter is definitely his best distance," said Bell, "and Snowstorm likes the good fast ground he should get here.
"This is my first time on this side of the pond," said Bell, of his initial Atlantic crossing on behalf of equine competition. "This is the first time I've had the right horse for the right race over here. This horse handled the tight left-handed turns at Chester, and he should really appreciate this track, as well as the bottom weight.
"He's doing fine and has settled in well," said Bell Friday, "despite a somewhat arduous journey with two periods of quarantine."
Bell, born in 1960, was a serving officer in the Life Guards, and as an amateur jockey he won the Duke of Gloucester Steeplechase at the Grand Military Meeting at Sandown Park in 1985 on a horse called Ten Cherries.
He took out his trainer's license in 1989, and highlights of his career include saddling the winners of the Group I Prix Monay at Deauville in 1994 with Hoh Magic and the 2001 Italian Oaks in Rome with Zanzibar.
Trudy McCaffery, John Toffan & Robert Sangster's Bienamado, post time favorite in last year's Grade I Arlington Million and projected choice once again in Arlington Million XIX on Saturday, schooled in the Arlington Park paddock between the fifth and sixth races Thursday.
Under the watchful eye of trainer Paco Gonzalez and hundreds of admiring Arlington guests, the heavily muscled chestnut seemed to settle well in the new surroundings as groom Cleto Rodriguez led him around.
"Cuidado, ayi," said Gonzalez to Rodriguez, as the burly red horse passed a roguish contestant being saddled for the sixth race. "Careful, there."
No mishap followed, and eventually, Bienamado having passed his lessons, was led away, but not before the affable Gonzalez heard these playful comments.
"He'll be a nice horse if he ever fills out," said one friend of Gonzalez, as the trainer overlooked his charge.
"He looks like me when I was 21," said trainer Gene Cilio.
"You know, he makes the rest of these horses look like ponies," said another horseman.
"Or like a draft horse," offered another.
Grundy Bloodstock's Di Moi Oui, a contestant for Saturday's Grade I Beverly D., was on the turf shortly after 9 a.m. Friday under exercise rider Christophe Bretz for a gentle canter one circuit around the Arlington grass course. Observing the move was owner Franca Vittadini, daughter of Carlos Vittadini, who owned 1975 Epsom Derby winner Grundy.
Grade I Arlington Million European contestants Caitano, owned by Gary A. Tanaka, and Silvano, owned by Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof, also had light canters Friday morning.
Grade I Secretariat contestant Mizzen Mast, owned by Juddmonte Farms, Inc. had a light canter Friday after working from the gate Thursday during training hours.
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