While fans’ focus at this time of year usually is on the terrific racing we see at Saratoga and Del Mar, that was not true for this past Saturday when Arlington Park in Chicago offered its annual Arlington Million card.
This particular racing day is not only the best we see in the Midwest, it is one of America’s top racing days of the year. There were five stakes worth more than $2 million and the feature event was, of course, the 36th running of the Arlington Million.
This year, that historic and rich stakes was won by the Irish bred, Chilean import Robert Bruce. Amazingly, that 4-year-old was trained by the New York-based Chad Brown, who also trained second place finisher Almanaar. Where Robert Bruce earned a solid 104 Beyer Speed Figure for his Arlington Million victory, this was his seventh score from just eight lifetime races in the U.S. and South America.
The Million also provided just a mere glimpse at Brown’s success on this special racing card.
Brown also trained the 1-2 finishers in the Grade I, 1-3/16 mile, $600K Beverly D stakes, won by Sistercharlie, who earned a 102 Beyer. Brown’s Fourstar Crook finished about one-half length back in second to earn a 101.
That was not all for Brown, as his Anlayze It finished second to 38-1 shot Carrik in the $400K Secretariat – a Grade I stakes for 3-year-olds run at the Arlington Million distance of 1-1/4 miles. Carrick was winning his first stakes in his fourth lifetime race and managed to earn a 97 Beyer.
Of course, there were good races at Del Mar and Saratoga, including a terrific performance in the $200K Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar by the promising 2-year-old colt, Instagrand.
This Jerry Hollendorfer trainee certainly is an outstanding prospect for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile stakes in early November, but he also is an important horse to watch in next year’s Triple Crown events. While Instagrand may have been a $1.2 million purchase from a Florida sale for 2-year-olds five months ago, he already has proven he is worth a whole lot more than that.
Specifically, Instagrand won his maiden debut on June 29 by 10 lengths, and then on Saturday, he won the G-2 Best Pal by a similar margin at 1-10 odds to earn a solid 92 Beyer. We probably should expect more of that in his future.
At Saratoga, there were three stakes – the G-2 Adirondack for 2-year-old fillies at 6-1/2 furlongs; the Grade-2, Fourstardave for 3-year-olds and up at one mile on a rain softened turf; and the ungraded $100K Lure stakes at 1-1/16 miles on that same turf course for 3-year-olds and up.
The Lure stakes was won in promising fashion when Shug McGaughey’s Inspector Lynley rallied from last to first at 3-1 odds, as if he might handle better if given a similar hot pace to chase. This 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid also seems to love Saratoga, having won last year’s G-2 Saranac in his only prior appearance at the Spa.
In the $500K, G-1 Fourstardave at one mile on the turf, Linda Rice’s Voodoo Song won his fifth race in five Saratoga turf races dating back to last summer. This 4-year-old son of English Channel pushed his career earnings over $800K and obviously is a horse for the Saratoga course. Yet, he is in such great form he could be tough to handle in any turf race at any similar distance when racing returns to Belmont Park in September.
In the $200K Adirondack Stakes at 6-1/2 furlongs for 2-year-olds at Saratoga last Saturday, there may not have been any sure-fire future stars; but we did see gritty performances by the top two finishers in this Grade II event, as Sue’s Fortune, scored by a diminishing one-half length over Virginia Eloise in modest time for the distance.
While the above recaps deserved some space in this column, please keep in mind this coming Saturday, Del Mar will present one of its top races of the summer. That will be the prestigious Pacific Classic, a Grade I, $1 million stakes that will match many of the best western-based older horses.
Among the most logical contenders for this 1-1/4 mile race on the main dirt track are: Pavel, winner of the G-1 Stephen Foster on June 16 at Churchill Downs, and Beach View, who took a G-3 stakes at the current Del Mar meeting.
That said, the probable favorite for this race seems likely to be Accelerate, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March and the Santa Anita Gold Cup in May. Others who certainly will deserve a close look are Dr. Dorr, Mubtaahij, Prime Attraction and The Lieutenant.