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Arlington Park Stakes Advance: Secretariat Stakes (GI)

Contact: David Zenner


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (Aug. 4, 2009) – Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, winner of the 75th anniversary edition of the Arlington Classic, will look to reverse his disappointing result in the American Derby when he takes on 10 3-year-old contemporaries in Saturday’s Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes. Giant Oak, trained by accomplished local trainer Chris Block, was installed as the tepid 3-1 morning line favorite.

The mile and a quarter turf test for international-caliber sophomores is one of three Grade I stakes races on the card that comprises Arlington’s International Festival of Racing. The others are the $1 million Arlington Million for older turf stars and its sister race, the $750,000 Beverly D., for grass distaffers.

The Secretariat Stakes is the third leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple which began with the $150,000 Arlington Classic on May 23 won by Giant Oak, and continued with the Grade II $300,000 American Derby on July 11, which was captured by Reb.

A son of Giant’s Causeway, Giant Oak was considered a prospect for the Kentucky Derby following a fourth-place run in the Grade II Louisiana Derby March 14 and a runner-up finish in the Grade II Illinois Derby the following month. But Block returned his charge to the Arlington grass where Giant Oak had broken his maiden in his career debut last August. The decision paid immediate dividends in the form of a win in the Arlington Classic.

Giant Oak was then sent off at 3-5 in the American Derby, but a rough trip compromised his chances and he ran fifth, though he was subsequently placed fourth due to a foe’s disqualification. Eusebio Razo, Jr. was aboard in those two most recent efforts and will once again have the riding assignment on Saturday.

Ashbrook Farm’s Reb managed to stay trouble-free under Julien Leparoux in the American Derby and he rushed past the entire field in the final eighth of a mile for the win. The late-running son of Stormy Atlantic has won his last three starts—none by more than a head—and Leparoux will be in the saddle once more for trainer George “Rusty” Arnold.

The second choice in the morning line at 4-1 is the lone European-based runner in the field: Magnier, Tabor and Smith’s Black Bear Island. The Irish-bred son of Sadler’s Wells is trained by famed Irish conditioner Aidan O’Brien, who sent out Ciro to win the 2000 Secretariat Stakes. Black Bear Island has lost three in a row since a victory in the Group II Dante Stakes at York in Great Britain. However, he has tangled with some of Europe’s finest 3-year-olds, including dual classic winner Sea the Stars, who defeated him in the Group I Epsom Derby on June 6. John Murtagh, one of Europe’s finest pilots, journeys in for the mount.

Another prime contender is Michael Talla’s Oil Man, who won the Grade III Cinema Handicap over the grass at Hollywood Park prior to his eventful performance in the American Derby that saw him finish just a half-length behind Reb in third, but get disqualified to fifth for interference. Garrett Gomez picks up the mount for Southern California-based trainer John Sadler.

Completing the field (with jockeys listed) are: the Todd Pletcher-trained Take the Points (Kent Desormeaux), who was beaten less than two lengths in both the Colonial Turf Cup and Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs; Laureate Conductor (Ramon Dominguez), who scored a come-from-behind turf win last time out in the July 5 Choice Stakes at Monmouth for top grass trainer Christophe Clement; Proceed Bee (Chris Emigh), who finished fourth and was placed third following a bump in the American Derby; Hoosier Kingdom (Elvis Trujillo), who ships to Chicago after winning four in a row versus state-bred competition at Indiana Downs; the Darrin Miller-trained entry of Cliffy’s Future and Driving Snow (Fernando Jara named to both halves of the entry); and Quite a Handful (Jermaine Bridgmohan), who finished just three-quarters of a length behind Driving Snow in that July 7 Oliver Stakes, which was contested over the grass at Indiana Downs.

Arlington Park – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run a 98-day meet in 2009 from Friday, May 1 through Sunday, Sept. 27. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates 10 off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities: Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Chicago, Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Rockford, Trackside Waukegan, Fat Sam’s Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in Lockport, Lucky’s featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin, Nicolino’s featuring Trackside OTB in McHenry, Tad’s Sports Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in South Beloit and Salerno-Pincente Ristorante featuring Trackside OTB in Hodgkins. Information on Arlington Park can be found online





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