Arlington Park's Arlington Million (Gr. I), the crown jewel of Illinois racing, which has been won by horses bred all over the country--and the world--at last went to an Illinois-bred, the six-year-old gelding The Pizza Man. A Midwest Thoroughbreds homebred, the son of English Channel was coming off a win in the Stars and Stripes Stakes (Gr. III) at Arlington Park on July 11.
The Pizza Man and regular rider Florent Geroux sat well off the pace set by Shining Copper, circled rivals four wide on the final turn, and moved up to the lead in the homestretch, successfully holding off Big Blue Kitten to win by a neck, with Shining Copper third. Geroux and The Pizza Man returned to cheers and applause from an appreciative crowd. Geroux said of The Pizza Man, “I’m always confident when I ride him; he loves to win and knows where the wire is. But I had no horse the whole way; it looked like he was struggling over the very soft track, but when I put him outside he started to hold up and grabbed the bit again, and I was thinking, ‘Oh boy, he’s going for a big one here!’”
The Pizza Man’s Million win was a bright end to a day of ups and downs.
Equine artist Thomas Allen Pauly puts the finishing touches on his portrait of The Pizza Man and Florent Geroux.
Thomas Allen Pauly also painted the official portrait of 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah.
The view of the grandstand from the Arlington Park paddock is always beautiful, and even more so on Arlington Million day.
The sun shone hotly for race 6, the Pucker Up Stakes (Gr. III), a 1-1/8 mile turf route for three-year-old fillies, which was captured by 14-1 longshot Mizz Money (Robby Albarado up), followed by Return to Grace and Prado’s Sweet Ride. Favored Miss Chatelaine finished sixth after a lackluster effort.
Mizz Money (Robby Albarado up) wins the Pucker Up Stakes (Gr. III).
The American St. Leger Stakes (Gr. III), 1-11/16 miles on the turf for three-year-olds and up, went off under cloudy skies. Irish-bred Lucky Speed captured the win under Andrasch Starke, with Panama Hat second and favored Hyper third.
Panama Hat, Chris Hayes aboard, warms up before the American St. Leger Stakes (Gr. III).
Lucky Speed, Andrasch Starke up, warms up before the American St. Leger Stakes
Alpha Kitalpha sets the American St. Leger Stakes pace beneath darkening skies.
(Above & below two) Lucky Speed wins the American St. Leger Stakes over Panama Hat.
Storm clouds moved in while the horses were in the paddock for the Secretariat Stakes (Gr. I), and by post time large drops of rain were falling heavily. The Galileo colt Highland Reel (Seamie Heffernan up) paid no mind to the wet conditions and won by 5-½ lengths, covering the 1-¼ mile turf route in 2:02.26. Closing Bell finished second by a head over favored Force the Pass.
Storm clouds roll in over the paddock prior to the Secretariat Stakes (Gr. I).
Highland Reel (Seamie Heffernan up) leaves the paddock prior to the Secretariat Stakes.
The sky worsened during the post parade for the Secretariat Stakes, and it began to rain heavily.
(Above & below two) Highland Reel takes the early lead in the Secretariat Stakes and never relinquishes it.
The heavy rain continued while the fillies and mares were in the paddock for the Beverly D. Stakes (Gr. I), a 1-3/16 mile turf route. The rain was relentless throughout the race, which was won by Secret Gesture and Jamie Spencer. Irad Ortiz, Jr., rider of Stephanie’s Kitten, lodged an objection against Spencer and Secret Gesture for interference in the stretch. Secret Gesture was disqualified to third and Watsdachances (Joe Bravo up) was moved into first, with Stephanie’s Kitten second by a nose.
Torrential rain ensures that the paddock is nearly empty for the Beverly D. Stakes (Gr. I).
2014 Beverly D. Stakes winner Euro Charline, Jose Lezcano up, sets the pace.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. checks Stephanie's Kitten as Secret Gesture and Jamie Spencer interfere with their path in the Beverly D. Stakes.
Secret Gesture finishes first in the Beverly D. Stakes, ahead of Watsdachances and Stephanie's Kitten, but is disqualified to third.
While awaiting the results of the inquiry/objection in the Beverly D. Stakes, the rain began to slow. Several moments later, when the Arlington Million horses began circling the walking ring, the the rain stopped and the sun began to re-emerge--just in time.
Wake Forest in the paddock prior to the Arlington Million (Gr. I).
Favored Slumber in the paddock prior to the Arlington Million.
The Pizza Man in the paddock prior to the Arlington Million.
Shining Copper and Chris Emigh set the pace in the Arlington Million.
(Above & below two) The Pizza Man and Florent Geroux win the Arlington Million over Big Blue Kitten (Joe Bravo up) and Shining Copper, with Up With the Birds fourth.