Arlington guests and fans of Thoroughbred racing all over the globe got the race they might have expected to see when the Irish-bred Cape Blanco, owned by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, defeated Castleton Lyons’ 2009 Arlington Million champion Gio Ponti in Saturday’s 28th renewal of the centerpiece race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season.
When the two turf rivals last met in the Grade I Man o’War at Belmont Park in New York July 9, the winning Cape Blanco withstood the Kentucky-bred runner-up Gio Ponti by two and a quarter lengths. On Saturday in Chicago’s Arlington Million XXIX, they finished first and second once again, but this time the margin was two and a half-lengths.
“He’s a good tough horse and he’s brilliantly trained,” said winning jockey Jamie Spencer of the Aidan O’Brien-conditioned Cape Blanco. “All I did was do the steering. Aidan gave me my instructions and I rode accordingly. I’m very pleased just to be able to ride the horse. There are very few horses that have the will to win like he has. The more you ask from him, the more you get from him. He had loads left in the end.”
The son of the Irish champion Galileo was always well-placed, took command in upper stretch and held sway late when confronted by Gio Ponti’s rally. Cape Blanco, who was recording his eighth career win in 14 lifetime starts, increased his career earnings to $3,555,665. He covered the 10 furlongs over the turf course listed as “yielding” in 2:05.39 and returned mutuels of $6.20, $3.80 and $3.40 as the slight choice in the wagering.
With his Arlington Million win, Cape Blanco and his connections are able to take advantage of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships’ “Win and You’re In” format, receiving an automatic starting berth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs Nov. 4-5.
The Million’s strong second choice Gio Ponti, well back during the early going, moved up when asked, got easily within striking distance to challenge but could not match the winner.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti was seeking to become the second horse in history to win two Arlington Millions (along with Dotsam Stable’s legendary John Henry). He was ridden by Ramon Dominguez, gained second by a neck and returned $3.40 and $2.80.
“The winner had first run on us and you have to give him credit,” said Dominguez. “We were second best today.”
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s lightly regarded Dean’s Kitten, always well placed, continued willingly to hold the show position and paid $7.20 while finishing a half-length to the good of Mark Hawtin’s Irish-bred Wigmore Hall.
Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada finished fifth, and Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed was sixth. Naipaul and Terikchand Chatterpaul’s Mission Impossible made the pace with splits of 24.81 and 50.26 before tiring to seventh at the wire. William Stiritz’ Proceed Bee, Mathieu Offenstadt, Sylvain Fargeon, Patrick Offenstadt and Mikel Delzangles’ Zack Hall and Pasquale Vizzoni’s General Perfect completed the order of finish.