Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
Watching the first three big turf races on Arlington Million day left me with a bad case of Euro envy. One by one, Jakkalberry, Bayrir, and I’m A Dreamer pushed the chasm between the quality of foreign turf runners versus our own farther and farther apart. It was nearly enough for this fan of American turf racing to begin to speak with a hint of a Cockney accent. But just when the green seemed to be at its darkest, hope for the home team was restored. First it was Point of Entry in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Sitting patiently just behind the leaders furlong after furlong, the Shug McGaughey trained four-year-old son of Dynaformer looked much like a ton of dynamite waiting for detonation. When finally let loose by Johnny V, and with room to roll free, Point of Entry exploded down the Saratoga stretch like a ferocious force of nature. The easy four length romp was the most impressive yet of his four straight wins on the lawn. The 12 furlongs of the Breeders’ Cup Turf would seem to be right up this big boy’s alley.
Then came the 30th edition of the Arlington Million and the determined doggedness of that little five-year-old gelding, Little Mike. Playing a dangerous game of catch me if you can, he dared a strong field of male turf horses, many from Europe, to come chase him, and they simply could not catch him. Doing what he has done so often the past two years, Little Mike made every pole a winning one, on the way to 1 ½ length score in one of America’s richest races on the turf. The Dale Romans runner now has three major scores on the sod this year, and whether it be the Mile or the Turf, quality speed like his is always a danger.
Finally a few hours later, it was a young filly on the West Coast who would relieve my Euro envy. Biding her time like a filly with all the confidence in the world, Lady of Shamrock stayed at the back of the pack for much of the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. Undeterred by trailing a slow early pace, and by going eight wide spinning out of the far turn, the three-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy followed up her big score in the American Oaks with a last to first rush that saw her coast to the wire in front while stopping the timer in 1:46.30 for the nine furlongs.
Suddenly, I am not feeling nearly so skeptical of America’s chances on the turf in the Breeders’ Cup.