HRH Princess Haya of Jordan’s Debussy – a 4-year-old
Irish-bred son of Diesis – scored an unexpected victory with a crescendo
of a late run in Arlington Million XXVIII Saturday.
Just moments earlier Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti appeared to
have designed a second straight tally in the centerpiece race of the Chicago
Thoroughbred racing season with his patented last-to-first run, but could not
withstand the winner in the last strides.
“We were too tight for room early,” said winning jockey
William Buick, Norwegian-born but British-based as the first-call rider for
John Gosden. “I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m not going to have room’ but then we
finally got clear and he was able to run his race.”
Debussy accomplished the mile and a quarter distance over
the turf course rated “good” in 2:03.01, after Jean and Ted Barlas and Mike
Porcaro’s Quite a Handful carved out early splits of 25.30 and 50.04 before
Gio Ponti, void of early foot, circled the field to take
command between calls inside the final sixteenth before being collared a
half-length by the winner at the wire.
Shadwell Stable’s Tazeez, British-based conditioner
Gosden’s other runner, pressed the early pace, took command leaving the
backstretch, held a clear lead past the furlong grounds but was no match for
the top two and was beaten two and a half lengths for the victory.
Debussy paid $24, $8.20 and $5.60, while odds-on Gio Ponti
returned $2.80 and $2.40. Tazeez paid $4 in the show spot.
“He had nowhere to go (when in tight),” said trainer Gosden
of Debussy, echoing the early-race frustrations of Buick. “The pace was
decent enough for this kind of ground. I think they just tired the last
part of it and he dashed up the rail and done it very well.
“I’ve been trying to win the race for 28 years,” added
Gosden, who also trained in California
for a number of years.
Naturally, the Debussy camp’s elation was in direct
counterpoint to the disappointment felt by the connections of Gio Ponti.
“I thought I had enough to hang on,” said Gio Ponti’s
jockey Ramon Dominguez, who was aboard Gio Ponti for the win in last summer’s
Arlington Million. “Once I got clear, the horse was idling a little bit –
maybe looking at the stands or something. The trip was great. I had
a lot of horse turning for home. He couldn’t hang on the last sixteenth
when he was looking around.”
William Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada finished fourth, followed
by William Bellew’s Summit Surge, Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, Tom McCarthy’s
General Quarters, Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well and Quite a Handful in that
Debussy now has earned five victories from 14 lifetime
starts and increased his career earnings to $1,006,813.