Photo: Four Footed Fotos
It’s Million Week, Racefans! Highlighted by two of the
most important races on the American turf landscape, in the Arlington Million,
and female counterpart, the Beverly D. Stakes, Million Day can be easily called
the most important day of grass racing in the nation. Including the brand new
American St. Leger, there will be four major races for turf lovers to celebrate
Saturday at the Suburban Chicago race place. Last of the big four, but
certainly not least this year, is the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. The race may
be restricted to three-year-olds, but the field has come up anything but
limited. As a matter of fact, the one horse I am looking most forward to seeing
run on the big day is Silver Max, and as good as the speedy turf runner has
been this year; I am seriously considering whether the bargain basement $20,000
yearling purchase is quickly progressing into a champion.
When the three-year-old son of Badge of Silver enters
the starting gate as the likely favorite in the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes at
Arlington Park, it will mark his seventh consecutive race on the turf,
following a failed attempt against Algorithms and Hansen in the Gulfstream
slop. In each of his last six races he has knocked his competition off their
hooves with consistent free-wheeling displays of talent and speed.
Owned by Mark Bacon and Dana Wells, Silver Max sports a
10-7-3-0 record on the sod. After showing promise with three second place
finishes in his three races on the lawn as a juvenile, the Dale Romans trainee
scored a sharp victory in a maiden race on Gulfstream Park's turf course to
begin the year. His one attempt on the dirt this year, in the Grade 3 Holy
Bull, resulted in a fifth place finish. After returning to turf, the rest, as
they say, has been history. His excellent adventure began while still in
Florida with a 3 ¾ length runaway over allowance/optional claiming rivals at
Gulfstream on March 9. Next came his first stakes win as he romped by 5 ½
length in Keeneland's Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes.
My first opportunity to see him in person came on
Kentucky Oaks Day, and he proved well worth the wait. His 2 ¾ length score that
day told me that he was much more than a one-hit wonder, as there was some
serious competition in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs. I was
there again to see Silver Max in his fourth straight victory as he waltzed to a
never-in-doubt, two length score in the Arlington Classic. After all of these
wins at 1 1/16 miles, he dropped down to a mile for the Oliver Stakes, and all
he did was break the track record, completing a mile over the Indiana Downs'
turf course in 1:33 4/5, leaving future American Derby winner, Cozzetti, in his
wake by nearly seven lengths in the process.
His most recent race may be the most telling of all, as
he was not only tested on yielding turf, but also at the extended distance of 1
¼ miles. He passed the test with flying colors, despite dealing with a horse
who rushed past him on the backstretch due to saddle slippage, winning the
Grade 2 Virginia Derby by a measured length against a solid field.
We now know that Silver Max can handle different
courses, (his win streak has come at six different tracks) different course
conditions, and at distances up to ten furlongs. Now we have seeing him run
against even stronger competition to look forward to, and the Secretariat will
definitely take things up a notch. In his first Grade 1 stakes affair, Silver
Max will face the likes of Summer Front, (undefeated on the turf) and Daddy Long Legs (winner of the UAE Derby.)
The old pro, Acclamation, may be the current King of
American turf, but Silver Max is simply doing too much to be ignored, and a win
in the Secretariat on Saturday will move him one step closer to the pinnacle of
U.S. grass racing.
... And for much more about Arlington Million Day, visit Chicago Dark Horse now!