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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/7/06)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Winterbeck Manor Stud’s Phoenix Reach, a winner of Group I and Grade I races three different years in three different nations, has come to America and Chicago for the Grade I Arlington Million this Saturday.
The Irish-bred’s first trip to North America proved successful when he won the 2003 Grade I Canadian International at Woodbine while still a sophomore. The next season Phoenix Reach captured the Group I Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase in December of 2004 at Sha Tin, and was clearly best in the Grade I Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba in March of 2005.
However, he has been away from competition since suffering a small fissure fracture in Great Britain’s Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes a year ago in July, but has been the recipient of a carefully constructed extensive conditioning program begun last spring by his 33-year-old British trainer Andrew Balding.
The program began with big hill gallops around Balding’s yard at Kingsclere in Berkshire – which were gradually increased in intensity – and in recent days has seen Phoenix Reach stretching his legs over Arlington Park’s main track in anticipation of his first start in the United States.
The 6-year-old son of Alhaarth is scheduled to get his lone serious American work prior to Saturday’s Arlington Million on Thursday morning over the local lawn.
“He is fit,” said Richard “Chad” Phillips, Balding’s head traveling lad, on Monday morning when speaking outside Phoenix Reach’s stall at Arlington’s Barn 28A. “He is as ready to run as he ever was. In fact, right now he weighs exactly what he was right before his race in Dubai. He’s had five or six weeks of steady gallops, and now we have one gallop back home we have named the ‘Phoenix Reach gallop.’
“Over the track here at Arlington we’ve picked it up a stride each time we’ve sent him out, but he’ll get one good serious blow Thursday and that should do it,” said Phillips. “Through it all, ever since we started back with him, his joints have been like iron.
“Coincidentally, I celebrate my birthday on Saturday,” said Phillips. “That way, we know there will be some sort of celebration no matter what happens in the Arlington Million.”
Incidentally, Phoenix Reach is exercised by Steve Woolley, who has returned to Arlington Park for the first time since his lone previous trip in 1985 for the “Miracle Million,” less than one month after old Arlington facility burned to the ground.
That year Woolley came with Paul Mellon’s King of Clubs, who finished fourth behind Lord Derby’s victorious Teleprompter in the “Miracle Million.” King of Clubs was trained by Ian Balding, Andrew’s famous father – now retired – who conditioned Mill Reef to win the King George, Epsom Derby and Arc de Triomphe during his own racing career in the early ’70s.
Andrew Balding’s sister, Clare Balding, a sports and racing presenter for the BBC, came to Arlington in 2002 with that network when the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships were held at Arlington Park.
Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Mrs. Harry McCalmont’s Ace, one of the premier European candidates for Saturday’s Grade I Arlington Million XXIV, and Mrs. Magnier, Tabor and Irving and Marjorie Cowan’s Ivan Denisovich, one of the European-based representatives in Saturday’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes, are now on the grounds following their Sunday arrival but are still under quarantine at Arlington’s International Barn.
The two Irish-breds are both trained by Irish-born Aidan O’Brien, the conditioner of last summer’s Arlington Million champion Powerscourt, also owned by Mrs. Magnier. They arrived in the care of O’Brien’s traveling lad Pat Keating, who saddled Powerscourt here last year.
The Celtic duo is expected to clear quarantine Tuesday and go to the track Wednesday, according to Adrian Beaumont of the Newmarket-based International Racing Bureau Ltd.
Ace, a 5-year-old son of Danehill, finished second in last fall’s Grade I John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf at Belmont Park Oct. 29, and was third in Belmont’s Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational earlier that month when beaten less than a length for all of it.
“Ace shipped well and is in very good form now,” said Keating Monday when speaking outside the International Barn.
In his most recent trip to the post, Ace was runner-up by a head in Ireland’s Group III Ladbrokes International Stakes July 15 at The Curragh, and before that finished four and a half lengths behind Ouija Board in the Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes during Great Britain’s Royal Ascot meeting June 21. That mare, owned by Lord Derby, won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Lone Star Park in 2004.
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