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Horse slaughter in Illinois
|Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/7/04)
Contact: Graham Ross
STARS & STRIPES HERO BALLINGARRY ENTERS ARLINGTON MILLION MIX
Irish-bred Ballingarry, fresh off a successful defense of his Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf championship on the Fourth of July over Arlington Park's world famous grass course, will now be considered for a run in the Grade I Arlington Million, showcase event of Chicago's Thoroughbred racing to be run over that same lawn Aug. 14.
Sidney L. Port, 93, a native Chicagoan and lifelong resident of The Windy City, owns Ballingarry in a partnership with Marsha Naify and San Gabriel Investments. The nonagenarian also owns Toasted, who won the Grade II Arlington Classic July 3, to complete the first back-to-back stakes win weekend of Port's 34-year career as a Thoroughbred owner.
Internationally renowned trainer Laura de Seroux, conditioner of Ballingarry and Toasted, outlined a scenario which included a return trip to Southern California's San Luis Rey Training Center shortly after the duo's weekend sweep, followed by some light training on the West Coast over the next few weeks, with another journey to Chicago penciled in shortly before Arlington's International Festival of Racing on the second Saturday in August.
The International Festival of Racing is comprised of Illinois' only three annual Grade I races: the Arlington Million; the $750,000 Beverly D.; and the $400,000 Secretariat, final leg of Chicago's Mid-America Triple. The Arlington Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve, and restricted to grass favoring 3-year-olds, was the first leg of 2004's Mid-America Triple.
Following his 2003 Stars and Stripes victory, Ballingarry bypassed the Arlington Million last summer in favor of an unsuccessful Saratoga outing, and de Seroux summarized her thinking concerning this summer's change in plans.
"I think he (Ballingarry) is a better horse now," said de Seroux following the latest Stars and Stripes, repeating an opinion she had voiced prior to the 2004 renewal. "This year he showed that he's not just a galloper and that he has a little bit of a turn of foot when he needs it. Also, I don't think the turf division is as strong this year as it was last season, and we know he just loves the (Arlington Park) course.
"Toasted does best when he has some time between his races," de Seroux said of her budding sophomore star, "so I think the American Derby (presented by Jack Daniel's July 24 as a Grade II affair and second leg of the Mid-America Triple) may be a little too soon for him."
While those projected plans would eliminate a Mid-America Triple sweep -- accomplished only three times in Chicago racing history -- they would allow for Chicagoan Port's dream repeat scenario of visiting the winner's circle twice in one day at his hometown's premier oval.
"Sid would love that," de Seroux said.
However, there have also been significant Arlington Million developments on the international scene in recent days.
Godolphin's Refuse to Bend, the fiercely determined winner of the Group I Coral-Eclipse at Great Britain's Sandown course July 3, proved with that performance that he is capable of extending his talents over the Arlington Million distance of 10 furlongs. The son of Sadler's Wells out of a Gulch mare had captured Royal Ascot's Group I Queen Anne Stakes at the mile distance June 15, underlining some resurgent form he had demonstrated last year by winning the Group I Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket.
Godophin's Sulamani, defending champion in the Arlington Million, also remains a possibility to defend his championship in Arlington Million XXII and become the first back-to-back Million winner in the race's history.
Gary Tanaka's Rakti, favored in this year's Coral-Eclipse, was compromised by a wide trip and a tardy break that left him somewhat unsettled during the early going. Also, jockey Philip Robinson faulted the lack of firmness to the Sandown ground as a reason for his disappointing outing. Rakti, it should be noted, was being pointed to the 2003 Arlington Million -- in large part because of the likely firm turf conditions -- before being sidelined by a minor injury in the middle of last summer.
Early American-based Arlington Million favorite Meteor Storm, owned by Horizon Stable, lost that status with a seventh-place finish in Monmouth's Grade I United Nations Stakes on July 3 after being compromised by an outside draw. Trainer Wally Dollase provided this update from his Southern California headquarters just days after the U. N.
"He got slaughtered in the draw and he bled a little bit," said Dollase during the first week in July, "and the trip (to the Jersey Shore) certainly didn't help. He left here at 2:30 in the morning and didn't get in there until 8:30 at night and spent all that time in the air or on a van. He was listless the morning of the race and he never took hold of the bit during the running. We were really looking forward to the Arlington Million and we're not ruling it out, but for the next few days, we'll play it by ear. Luckily, we have some time before the race to see how he does after he gets home this week. I'd love to be able to make it because I've always enjoyed coming to Arlington and I've had some success there."
Jeri & Sam Knighton's Request for Parole, winner of the U. N., is considered an unlikely Arlington Million candidate at this time.
"I feel like he's a much better horse at a mile and three-eighths to a mile and a half," said trainer Stanley Hough following the Monmouth outing. "He's nominated to the Arlington Million, but that's a mile and a quarter, so we probably won't go there."
However, another new Arlington Million candidate emerged over the America's Birthday weekend when Very Un Stable's Quantum Merit took down winning honors in Churchill's Grade II Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap. It was the New York-bred gelding's fourth straight win.
"I have two options," said trainer Del Carroll II three days after Quantum Merit's Twin Spires score. "There's the Million and there's a New York-bred stakes at a mile and an eighth that same weekend (Saratoga's West Point Handicap Aug. 15). I'll point him toward one of those. The New York race is in our neck of the woods, and the Million, of course, will come up 'super salty,' but he has now passed muster and shown me he can ship and that he can handle graded stakes competition. We'll see how he does over the next couple of weeks and make a decision as that weekend gets a little closer."
Also, almost entirely overlooked, one more intriguing Arlington Million development has been slowly simmering on the West Coast in recent weeks and remains an interesting "X-factor" as another possibility for this year's Million.
Gary Tanaka's Freddy, bred in the Argentine and winner of 2002's Group I Carlos Pellegrini, South America's most prestigious horse race, has not started since that December race almost 19 months ago but the chestnut 5-year-old has been training in Southern California for Donald Burke II, and is nominated to Arlington Million XXII.
"He worked this morning (Monday, July 5) and it went good," said Burke, who saddled Tanaka's Falcon Flight to win the 2001 Stars and Stripes and then finish fifth in the 2002 Million. "He's doing all right, but I've got to find a race for him pretty quick, especially if I want to come back in the Arlington Handicap (GIII, July 24). If I can get a race into him, we'll see how it goes from there. We're moving right along. Hopefully, we can make the Million with him. He's an absolutely tremendous looking horse."
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