Estrorace LLC’s Workin for
Hops, who won Saturday’s Grade II American Derby after annexing the 75th
renewal of the Arlington Classic on May 22, is now in the position to become
the fourth horse in history to win Arlington’s
Mid-America Triple should he capture the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on
Arlington Million Day Aug. 21.
The first horse to sweep the Chicago
oval’s Triple was Powhatan’s Tom Rolfe in 1965, when the entire series was
contested on the main track. That year, the $100,000 Chicagoan, run at a
mile and an eighth, kicked off the series; the $100,000 Arlington Classic,
contested a one mile, was the middle leg; followed by the $100,000 American
Derby at a mile and a quarter.
That left Tom Rolfe with the
unenviable task of winning races at nine furlongs, eight furlongs and 10
furlongs respectively, but Tom Rolfe was up to it.
The Ribot colt had finished
third in the Kentucky Derby that spring after being blocked turning for home,
but was coming again in the late stages. He had won the Preakness and
then finished second in the Belmont
after leading in the final furlong.
Given a breather after the
Triple Crown, Tom Rolfe had resumed preparations for the Mid-America Triple by
winning the $50,000 Citation at Arlington.
Jockey Bill Shoemaker, already
elected to the Hall of Fame seven years earlier, had replaced Ron Turcotte as
the rider for Tom Rolfe in time for the Mid-America Triple, and on Aug. 7, the
pair won the Chicagoan in a time of 1:47.2, a fifth of a second off Round
Table’s track record.
Sent back at the one-mile
distance on Aug. 28 for the Arlington Classic, Tom Rolfe got the eight panels
over a dull track in 1:34.4 while carrying 124 pounds.
The American Derby came on
Sept. 13, and once again, although carrying 124 pounds with the rest of the
field at 114, Tom Rolfe was up to the task, touring the Derby
distance in 2:00.3, taking a tick off the record held by R. C. Ellsworth’s
Earlier that year, Tom Rolfe’s
owner, Raymond Guest, had been appointed Ambassador to Ireland,
and he had not seen his colt accomplish Arlington’s
A decision was made to send
the colt to France
for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe so that Guest could see Tom Rolfe
compete. Asking Tom Rolfe to go clockwise after a counterclockwise career
proved too much to overcome. Tom Rolfe failed to switch leads and
finished sixth behind the European champion Sea-Bird.
The following year, in 1966,
the Arlington Classic was the first leg of the Mid-America Triple, and enjoyed
one of its finest renewals, featuring Kentucky Derby winner Kauai King, owned
by Michael Ford; and Jersey Derby winner Crème de la Crème, who raced in the
silks of Bwamazon Farm. But it was Ogden Phipps’ Buckpasser, who had been
sidelined from the Triple Crown after winning the Flamingo that winter, who was
the horse to beat.
A son of Tom Fool, Buckpasser
had prepped for the Mid-America Triple by winning the $50,000 Leonard Richards
After allowing stablemate Impressive to set blistering early fractions that
included 1:06.3 for three-quarters in the Arlington Classic, Buckpasser surged
to the front to get the mile in 1:32.3.
Buckpasser stayed at Arlington to win the
Chicagoan, went back to New York
to outduel fellow brilliant sophomore Baffle, owned by King Ranch, in the
Brooklyn Handicap against older horses, and then returned to Chicago
to win the American Derby by a neck.
Buckpasser eventually ran his
victory streak to 13, and when it was broken, it was because he had been asked
to switch to the grass for the first time in his career in Belmont’s
1967 Bowling Green Handicap. Carrying 135 pounds, Buckpasser finished
third behind two grass specialists. Finishing second was the South
African import Assagai, and the winner was Buckpasser’s stablemate Poker, an
appropriate name for a son of grass sire Round Table.