Arlington International Festival of Racing Notes (8/11/15)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
In today's notes:
TRIPLE THREAT TRAINING ‘LIKE A TIGER’ FOR MILLION
The best laid plans of owners and trainers do often go awry in horseracing. Such was the case with Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million runner Triple Threat in mid-July . Even with lofty connections of Team Valor International and Gary Barber as owners and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the nearly black son of Monsun was not immune to the simple impediment of a risen temperature, preventing the morning-line favorite from competing in the Million’s local prep – the Grade III $100,000 Arlington Handicap on July 11.
Since then, the homebred who was previously based in France with iconic conditioner Andre Fabre has trained forwardly and aggressively to compensate for missing his major prep – including a sharp five-furlong move over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga in 1:02 flat. A Grade I runner who also sports a Group II victory last year in his native country, the ceiling is yet unknown for this stunning specimen.
“The whole key with him and the reason we brought him here is that he has his enthusiasm back,” Team Valor principal Barry Irwin said. “He got sour last year while racing in France and wouldn’t come back to form, so we spoke to (trainer Andre) Fabre and decided that we should bring him to America to try to change his attitude. We sent him to Camden (South Carolina) to a former champion steeplechase jockey named Danielle Hodson, who had previously worked with Jonathan Sheppard. She had him for three months and I told her to ‘try to keep him as fresh as possible and do as little as possible, while not breezing him until it was absolutely necessary’.
“(Hodson) got his attitude back and after that he went to trainer Bill Mott,” Irwin continued. “He ran a great race first out and since then has been training like a tiger. We are really excited to run him in the Million.”
In his first and only American start, the 5-year-old displayed an eye-catching turn of foot in the lane, winning the Grade II $200,000 Monmouth Stakes over nine furlongs at its namesake racecourse. Despite winning by a scant nose at the wire over subsequent Arlington Handicap runner-up Middleburg that day, the margin of victory did not represent the disparity between the performances of the winner and runner-up. Triple Threat had to sweep past the entire field while four-wide and then accelerated with panache to catch his Christophe Clement-trained rival in the final jump.
Jockey Jose Lezcano gets the return call in the Million.
THE PIZZA MAN READY TO GET SERIOUS
Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man made his first Arlington Million Day an illustrious one when sprinting clear of his rivals turning into the stretch of the Listed $400,000 American St. Leger of 2014 and then holding off Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock’s defending champion Dandino. To say that the Illinois-bred, -owned and –trained (every season until 2015) gelding is a local favorite among the Arlington International Racecourse fans is an understatement that earned itself an exclamation point when the crowd erupted that day.
Trainer Roger Brueggemann will again offer a leg-up to regular rider Florent Geroux on Saturday at Arlington, but this time in its marquee race – the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million. An ultimate goal for the Prairie State powerhouse since he started showing brilliance on the grass at a young age, the Million is preferred “99 percent to 1 percent,” over a second go in the American St. Leger – in which he is cross-entered – according to Midwest principal Richard Papiese.
“I feel really good about the race,” Papiese said. “He is doing really well and Roger said he was great in his work. He should arrive around noon on Friday and I just hope we get a clean trip and he shows what he can do.”
Unlike most of his rivals, the son of English Channel does not have a set running style. In races void of pace, the sizable charge has had little issue going to the front. In his victory last out in the 12-furlong Grade III $100,000 Stars and Stripes, he closed from mid-pack to win by a workmanlike head at the wire.
In addition to his style flexibility, he has also shown a marked ability to adapt to different distances. He began his 6-year-old season with a visually impressive victory in the $65,000 Opening Verse at a grassy 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs – sprinting clear of his rivals with a bold rail-skimming move in mid-stretch. He then moved up considerably in trip last out in the aforementioned Stars and Stripes on July 11 and won once again in a fashion indicative of his dominance, despite the small margin. In his last 10 starts, he has won stakes from one mile to 1 11/16 miles and has also proven deadly on the Arlington grass – winning his last five attempts over the Chicagoland oval’s world-renowned course.
“I don't want him too close or too far away, but I don’t worry too much about him,” Papiese said. “He can place himself, but I expect he will be mid-pack and kicking at the end with horses like (Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Chad Brown-trained) Big Blue Kitten.
“We wanted to stretch him out to the mile and a half last time and cut him back, by design,” Papiese continued. “On any given day, any of these horses can win the Million and all we can ask for is the opportunity to show what our horse can do.”
The big bay with the pizza-shaped star will be covering a successful lead-up to the Million. In 2014, Andrew Bentley Stables’ Hardest Core won a 1 1/16-miles allowance race and then a 1 1/2-miles stakes event before a successful tilt at the Million, defeating Breeders’ Cup champion Magician. This year, the competition is stiff, but The Pizza Man seems to be panning out to peak form.
“I respect everyone in the race and I think there are legitimate horses here,” Papiese said. “I feel like we belong. At the end of the day all you can do is run your horse and hope they get a chance to show what they can do.
“It would be great to win it for his fans at Arlington,” Papiese concluded. “I don’t know how much the energy of the crowd would play into it because these are all racehorses, but you hope he runs off that energy. If he comes across the wire first, it’ll definitely be loud. It’s a serious horse race and we have a serious horse.”
ELEVEN EUROS ON THE GROUNDS, FINAL FOUR TO ARRIVE WEDNESDAY
A healthy showing of Europeans at this year’s International Festival of Racing featuring the Arlington Million presented by LiftMaster was evident on Tuesday morning when the eight horses who had cleared quarantine – Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million runners Bookrunner, Elleval, Maverick Ace and Belgian Bill; Grade I $700,000 Beverly D. runner Secret Gesture and Euro Charline; and Grade III $350,000 American St. Leger runners Lucky Speed and Panama Hat – all took to the track for training. Only one – defending Beverly D. champ Euro Charline – went on the turf course, cantering a mile under exercise rider and Italian jockey Paolo Sirigu.
Arriving at approximately 11:00 am and entering quarantine were the Aidan O’Brien-trained duo of Wedding Vow and Highland Reel, who compete in the Beverly D. and Grade I $450,000 Secretariat Stakes, respectively. On the same flight, another Irish charge in Carla Bianca arrived for famed Irish trainer Dermot Weld.
The remaining four are expected to arrive in two separate flights early Wednesday. The German-trained trio of Goldstream (Secretariat), Lucy (Beverly D.) and Wake Forest (Million) arrive just past midnight. War Dispatch, expected to be one of those vying for favoritism in the Secretariat, will be the last to arrive on Wednesday morning.
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