On a wet and soggy day in Chicago Cape Blanco ($6.20) defeated Gio Ponti and a very strong European contingent in the 29th running of the Arlington Million. It was worth every minute of getting drenched in the rain to be up close and personal with some of the world’s best horses. You see, earlier in the day the skies just absolutely opened up over the greater Arlington Heights area and dumped over ½ inch of rain on the trying-to-dry-out turf course. The always-fast Polytrack even had puddles for a while! (But quickly returned to form of course) The grandstand was devoid of people and even the owner’s boxes cleared out as the rain was coming in sideways! As superb as Arlington Park is, this did not put even a small dent in the festivities and all of the great races went on as planned. After about 45 minutes of monsoon-like conditions, the sun returned, the crowd of 31,000 returned to their seats, and we were ready for more races and of course, the Million. The Euros looked great in the first two of three Grade 1 races and the softened grass likely gave them an advantage.
Now let’s recap the Million and my very soaking experience.
In the paddock, all of the runners looked fit and ready to run. I didn’t waste any opportunity to snap an infinite supply of photos of my favorite horse Gio Ponti! (Photos to be posted on Facebook) Getting soaked was the least of my concerns as there was no place I would have rather been. The anticipation grew as I walked from the paddock to the winner’s circle to watch the race; passing right by the Million trophy along the way. The race began…
To no one’s surprise on the yielding turf Mission Approved (7-1) took the early lead as is true to his form running the first ¼ mile in :24.4 with long shot Proceed Bee (45-1) and Chris Emigh tracking close in second. Cape Blanco (2-1) was sitting nicely off the pace in fourth watching the leaders and Gio Ponti (2-1) was his usual self sitting in the back of the pack.
At the half mile pole Mission Approved still held onto the one-length lead over Proceed Bee. 19-1 shot Dean’s Kitten was a length behind in third. Cape Blanco was still in the pocket riding fourth and Gio Ponti was waiting for his time to make a move. The half mile went in an expected :50.1. There were no major changes in points of call ¾ of a mile in as they started their trip into the far turn in 1:16.0.
This is when things changed.
Around the far turn Cape Blanco made a HUGE sweeping move around the competition to place himself nicely to strike for the victory. Part way down the stretch Cape Blanco got out to a 2 ½ length lead bursting by Mission Approved. Gio Ponti, having to find his way through very difficult traffic, finally got free and was about three-wide and charging hard towards the finish line. This day it just wasn’t enough for Gio Ponti as Cape Blanco held onto the lead and won by 2 ½ lengths. It was an amazing run and a great ride by Jamie Spencer.
In the rainy winner’s circle, Cape Blanco was adorned with the Million Dollar bouquet. Other faces in the winner’s circle with me were none other than the “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas and Blackhawk’s Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville.
This Arlington Million experience was noting short of spectacular. Joining me on this great ride were none other than Zipse at the Track and Mr. Scott Dick.
What did you think of the Arlington Million today? Who did you think was going to win?
Photo by Four Footed Fotos