Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/13/11)
Contact: Graham Ross
GIO PONTI, CAPE BLANCO ON COURSE FOR ARLINGTON MILLION REMATCH; RIVER JETEZ, DUBAWI HEIGHTS CURRENTLY PROBABLE FOR BEVERLY D.
Irish-bred Cape Blanco, the European-based 4-year-old owned by the partnership of Fitri Hay, Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor, and the colt who defeated Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti in Belmont’s Grade I Man o’War Stakes July 9 – as well Gio Ponti, who won the 2009 Arlington Million and finished second in last year’s renewal – are likely to match strides once again in the 2011 Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 13.
“It has been well documented over here that Cape Blanco is being scheduled for a return trip to the United States for a run in the Arlington Million,” said Alastair Donald, director of the International Racing Bureau (IRB) when speaking over the phone from the British-based IRB’s Newmarket headquarters Wednesday. “The main reason is because (Cape Blanco’s trainer) Aidan O’Brien has expressed a desire to keep his two top horses apart as long as he can. O’Brien’s other horse is his (New Zealand-bred) So You Think, (owned by most of the same principles as Cape Blanco) who won the (Group I) Coral-Eclipse here at Sandown July 2.”
Gio Ponti’s trainer Christophe Clement also indicated to the NYRA press office last Sunday that the Arlington Million was on the radar for his two-time Champion Male Turf Horse, who was defeated by 2 1/2-lengths in the Man o’War.
“It’s tough to pass on the Million – we won it and finished second the last two years,” Clement said. “At the moment I will train him for the Million and we’ll keep all of our options open. I thought (Gio Ponti) ran a good race (in the Man o’War) but he was second best. I did think the Irish horse (Cape Blanco) had everything his way, but we had the chance to get to him and we couldn’t get to him in the stretch.”
Should Gio Ponti return to the Million and win it, the 6-year-old would become only the second horse to win the Arlington Million twice, joining Dotsam Stable’s John Henry, who won the inaugural running in 1981 and returned to capture the 1984 edition as a 9-year-old.
Also, on the Chicago scene, Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed won the Grade III Arlington Handicap on Million Preview Day July 9 as the designed local prep for Arlington Million XXIX, and trainer Danny Peitz indicated that his 6-year-old son of Dynaformer, who finished sixth in last year’s Million, was on track to try again.
“He’s a little bigger and a little stronger this year,” said Peitz after Tajaaweed’s Arlington Handicap score. “We decided to stop on him last winter, turn him out and point for the Million again. Nine months later, here we are and we’re on our way to the Million again.”
Concerning the upcoming Grade I Beverly D. Stakes, the Arlington Million’s sister race for fillies and mares that will also be part of Arlington one-day International Festival of Racing Aug. 13, word has been received from the IRB that Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Amm and Marsh Shirtliff’s South African-bred River Jetez, trained by Michael de Kock, is also likely to come to Chicago for the Beverly D.
In her last start July 8 at Newmarket in Great Britain’s Group I Falmouth Stakes at one mile, the 8-year-old mare finished fifth, beaten 3 1/2-lengths for the win.
“Her connections were delighted with her race the other day,” said Donald on Wednesday. “(The Falmouth) was too short for her, there was no early pace in the race, and she had not run since May 22 when she finished second (beaten a half-length) in the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup. She is on target for the Beverly D.”
Donald also indicated that the IRB was aware that British-bred Dubawi Heights, owned by Neville Callaghan, Clodagh McStay, Michael Magnier and Annabel Wyatt, remained on track to come to Arlington for the Beverly D. from California, where she won the Hollywood Park’s Grade I Gamely Stakes May 30 and is being trained by Neville Callaghan’s 28-year-old son Simon at Santa Anita.
“She doesn’t need a prep race,” said the younger Callaghan after the Gamely, “and it doesn’t take much to get her fit. She’s gone from strength to strength. We’ve jogged her and she’s really sound.”
Dubawi Heights worked four furlongs in 51 flat handily at Santa Anita July 10 after getting the same distance in 50.80 at the Arcadia, California, oval one week earlier.
Also, once again returning to the Chicago scene, where Augustin Stable’s British-bred Fantasia won Arlington’s Grade III Modesty Handicap as the local prep for the Beverly D. on Million Preview Day July 9. Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard confirmed his intentions to bring his Sadler’s Wells mare back for Arlington’s main event for fillies and mares.
“Of course, we realize the Beverly D. will be a big step up for us,” said Sheppard, speaking over the phone from Pennsylvania last Sunday, “but after the way she ran in the Modesty, we’re looking forward to it.”
Concerning the upcoming Grade I Secretariat Stakes, final leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple on Arlington Million Day Aug. 13, easily the headline news is that All In Stable’s Willcox Inn would become only the fourth horse in history to sweep the Triple – and the first in 14 years – should he win the Secretariat.
Willcox Inn, trained by Mike Stidham, won the first leg of the Triple, the 76th renewal of the Arlington Classic on May 28 as well as the 97th running of the Grade II American Derby as the Triple’s second leg last Saturday on Million Preview Day.
“We’re looking forward to running in the Secretariat,” said Stidham last Sunday morning. “It’ll be interesting to watch the Virginia Derby (at Colonial Downs July 16) and get a better idea of what we’ll be up against next time.”
The three previous horses to sweep the Triple were Robert Schaedle III’s Honor Glide in 1997, Ogden Phipps’ Buckpasser in 1966 and Powhatan’s Tom Rolfe in 1965.
Arlington Park – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run an 86-day meet in 2011 from Friday, May 6 through Sunday, Sept. 25. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates 12 off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities: Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Chicago, Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Waukegan, Shooters Bar & Grill at Don Carter Lanes featuring Trackside Rockford, Fat Sam’s Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in Lockport, Stanley’s Ale House featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin, Nicolino’s featuring Trackside OTB in McHenry, TADS Sports Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in South Beloit, Salerno-Pincente Ristorante featuring Trackside OTB in Hodgkins, Salerno-Pincente Ristorante featuring Trackside OTB in Villa Park and Sundance Saloon featuring Trackside OTB in Waukegan. Information on Arlington Park can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com.