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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/2/09)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein, for years the leader of North American-based grass horses, may not go to the post as the favorite in Saturday’s Grade I Arlington Million. However, he hasn’t been beaten yet and he appears to have his head on straight as he readies for his upcoming challengers in the centerpiece race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season.
With trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi in the irons, the 7-year-old Brazilian-bred breezed an easy five-eighths Aug. 1 at Churchill Downs in 1:02.40, but what left Pitts-Blasi impressed was the manner in which he accomplished the move.
“I just sat on him and he breezed good and finished up good,” Pitts-Blasi told Churchill’s John Asher right after the move. “When he turns for home he picks it up on his own. He started out easy and he didn’t need a whole lot.”
Einstein, winner of the last two renewals of Churchill’s Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and his trainer have always been in tune with each other – due in a large part to her additional capacity as his exercise rider. The son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck was seriously compromised after stumbling at the start of last year’s Million and finished fifth, but with a clear trip this year he remains the one to beat.
“It’s going to be very tough,” said Pitts-Blasi of Saturday’s 27th running of the Arlington Million. “There are a lot of nice horses in there, and it’s probably a lot tougher than it was last year, I think.
“It would mean a lot to win the Million,” Pitts-Blasi said. “There’s a lot of prestige to the Arlington Million. With what happened last year and as hard as he tries, you always want the best for him.”
Einstein recorded early splits of :12.80, :25.60, :38.20 and :50 Saturday before galloping out three-quarters of 1:16.20, and brings a record of 11-3-3 in 26 races and career earnings of $2,673,924 into the Arlington Million. He has been tabbed at 4-1 in the early Million line.
Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti, a winner of three Grade I races in a row, has been installed as the 5-2 morning line choice for Saturday’s Grade I Arlington Million and the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt was clocked in :49.80 when breezing at Belmont Park Sunday morning.
“The horse worked very well and everything is on schedule,” Gio Ponti’s French-born but American-based trainer Christophe Clement told the NYRA’s Ashley Herriman shortly after the breeze.
Gio Ponti won Belmont’s Grade I Man o’ War Stakes at last asking July 11 and also captured Belmont’s Grade I Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 6.
Before that, on March 7, the son of Tale of the Cat out of the Alydar mare Chipeta Springs won Santa Anita’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Handicap to complete a winter campaign in Southern California.
Clement, recognized internationally as one of the world’s top turf horse trainers, has never won an Arlington Million, but has saddled the last two winners of Arlington’s Grade I Beverly D. Stakes as the Million’s sister race.
Arthur Appleton’s Forbidden Apple, Clement’s sole Arlington Million starter, finished third, beaten a head and a nose in the 2002 Million.
Lewis Lakin’s Pure Clan, heroine of Arlington’s Grade III Modesty Handicap July 11 as the Chicago oval’s final major prep for the Grade I Beverly D. this Saturday, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 Aug. 1 over a Churchill Downs’ strip rated “fast.”
The 4-year-old daughter of Pure Prize, winner of last year’s Grade I American Oaks Invitational at Hollywood Park, had exercise rider Steve Schmelzel in the irons for Saturday’s move, and recorded early splits of :12.40, :24.60, :36.60 and :48.60, before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.60.
“She’s really been training well,” veteran Churchill-based trainer Bob Holthus told Churchill’s John Asher shortly after her Twin Spires tune-up for the Beverly D. – often called the Arlington Million’s sister race. “I look for her to put in a good effort. She ran awful well up there last time (in the Modesty) and she likes that kind of sweeping turf course.
“I think she’s matured,” added Holthus. “Her last race was a pretty professional race. She’s kind of getting to know what it’s all about now.”
Her victory in the Modesty improved Pure Clan’s career record to 7-3-2 in 13 races with earnings of $1,193,998.
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