Now why would anyone name a race after Secretariat? What did he ever accomplish? Well whatever he did was apparently good enough to become the namesake of the first of three graded stakes races this Saturday featuring the top three year old turf machines in the world! Early favorites Treasure Beach and Banned look tough to beat initially but let’s take a closer look at this year’s field for the Secretariat Stakes.
Making his first start in America, Aidan O’Brien ships in Treasure Beach (2-1) for the Grade 1 stakes. This horse has a VERY impressive turf record boasting a 9-4-3-1 while only finishing out of the money once. And that once was his last race at Longchamp (on my birthday by the way) where he finished fourth at 1 ½ miles. The Europeans do prefer the softer turf and based on the latest weather forecast for Chicago I think Treasure Beach will be pleased with the surface as well as the 1 ¼ mile distance. Making left handed turns, however, his record is 4-1-3-0. I definitely think this is something to look out for here.
Next up is Glen Hill Farms’ Banned (3-1) who is coming off a lifetime best Beyer of 100 finishing second in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby. In that race the added distance didn’t seem to faze him as he was just beaten by a neck by Air Support. He has been working out at Arlington Park since August 1st and has posted a couple of leisurely workouts of 1:05 and 1:05.2 breezing. We welcome Garret Gomez back to Chicago as he gets the mount here.
The horse that I will be paying particular attention to is the third choice Willcox Inn (9-2). Willcox Inn draws the 9 hole and retains Robby Albarado for his shot at the Mid-American Triple. As the post-time favorite in the first two legs of the Mid-American Triple, Willcox Inn defeated rival Suntracer twice in both the Arlington Classic on May 28th and the American Derby on July 9th. He has been working very well lately for trainer Mike Stidham and I think he has a great shot in the Secretariat. I don’t think the wet turf will impede his chances of winning either as he has already proven that he can win on the yielding lawn. If he does happen to win he will be the first horse to sweep the Mid-American Triple since Honor Glide completed the feat in 1997!!
And speaking of Suntracer (15-1) didn’t I mention before that an Illinois stakes race would not be complete without an entry from Team Block? After winning two races in a row against allowance company at Gulfstream and Keeneland, Suntracer twice attempted to defeat Willcox Inn and fell short both times. So does that mean you should toss this horse out as a contender? Well au contraire mon frere! You see, Suntracer loves to close in from the back of the pack so I believe the added distance suits him a bit better. Also, the soggy grass doesn’t seem to bother him. Keep an eye out for this one as he’s been working out very well at Arlington as of late.
Another interesting entry in the field is French import Ziyarid (10-1). My friend Matt always says “winners win” and this horse certainly does just that. While his back class may scare you off a bit, he boats a 6-4-0-0 record on the grass and has recently won his last three starts in a row on all different turf conditions. He wired the field in his last start at 1 1/8 miles at Longchamp.
Rounding out the field are Newsdad (10-1) who posted a bullet work at Belmont and adds blinkers, Crimson China (15-1) who is partially owned by local Milwaukee radio talk show host Mark Belling, Casino Host (8-1) who is coming off a lifetime best Beyer of 98 and CAN hang with the big boys as he proved in the Virginia Derby, Kentucky Derby participant Derby Kitten (15-1), and finally L’Aiglon (50-1) who graduates from the claiming ranks.
This race has drawn in some very good horses. This is where I’ll kick off my victorious Pick 3. Keep an eye on the weather and track conditions as that could play a big part in determining the outcome of the race. Who do you like in this battle of 3 year old champion colts?