The last Million Day of the last meet in the last year of Arlington Park felt like the last hours of summer vacation before school starts. Smiling in the sun. Wishing the day would never end.
That theme carried over to the Grade 1 Mister D. Stakes, a race that was run like a meal to be savored, not a grab ’n’ go. And in a big upset, it was as Chicago as deep-dish pizza.
Two Emmys (27-1), in the care of longtime local trainer Hugh Robertson and ridden by former Arlington titlist James Graham, set slow fractions before turning on the jets late to hold off Domestic Spending (2-5) by a neck to win the artist formerly known as the Arlington Million.
The 5-year-old English Channel gelding was not the longest shot ever to win this race by whatever name; that was the French raider Mill Native at 40-1 in 1988. But Robertson took notice of the price – and the way the other seven horses in the race let Two Emmys have a loose lead.
“That horse never gets any respect,” Robertson said. “So no, I wasn’t surprised.”
Still, early fractions of 26.12, 52.43, 1:16.64 and 1:40.62 could hardly be expected in a $600,000 race at the top level, even if a favorite like three-time Grade 1 winner Domestic Spending had his own reputation for being a deep closer. The slow pace was made to order for Two Emmys, who narrowly lost last month’s Arlington Stakes (G3) after setting a similar pace.
“After the first quarter I knew we would be tough,” Graham said. “Once you get him to go slow in the first part, he’ll always finish.”
Domestic Spending still made a race of it at the end. After settling in fourth place for most of the race, Flavien Prat pushed the button to make the move for what would have been trainer Chad Brown’s fourth consecutive victory in the Mister D./Million. But Graham kept accelerating Two Emmys, who ran the last quarter-mile in 22.72 seconds. The winning time of 2:03.34 was the 10th slowest in the 38 runnings of the race.
“I was in a good spot, but they were really going slow,” Domestic Spending’s jockey Flavien Prat said. “Around the turn I tried to move earlier, but it wasn’t going to matter. The winner just opened up, and I couldn’t catch him.”
Bought for $4,500 by Robertson and Wolfe Racing nearly four years ago, Two Emmys had a record of 15: 3-7-0 before Saturday. His biggest previous victory was a $50,000 allowance race at Fair Grounds in January 2020.
For Graham, a native of Ireland, it was an emotional homecoming to a track where he cut his teeth and won his first riding title in 2010.
“I just wish my mother was here to see this,” he said, fighting back tears.
Long shots were peppered all through the vertical exotics. The closer Glynn County (38-1) was three lengths behind in third. Space Traveller (41-1), one of two European horses in the race, was another half-length behind in fourth. The exacta paid 49-1. The trifecta was worth 482-1. The superfecta came in at 3,855-1.
No longer a Breeders’ Cup “win and you’re in” race in part because Lasix was allowed, Two Emmys nevertheless qualified for a berth in the Japan Cup (G1) in November. Without hesitating, Robertson said neither race would be in the future for Two Emmys.
“No,” he said. “I don’t know what’s next. I have no idea. We’ll see how he comes out of it.”
The day’s other Grade 1 races went to shippers from near and far, both of them favorites.
The favorite Santa Barbara (1-1) made a late charge under Ryan Moore to win by three lengths in the $400,000 Beverly D. for fillies and mares. It was the first victory in the race for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien and the second in a row on U.S. turf for Santa Barbara, who scored last month in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1).
Point Me By (8-5) overcame a hard bumping from runner-up Tango Tango Tango (9-5) to finish 2 3/4 lengths in the clear in the $300,000 Bruce D., the race formerly known as the Secretariat. Trainer Eddie Kenneally shipped the 3-year-old colt from New York, and leading Saratoga jockey Luis Sáez picked up his fourth U.S. Grade 1 win in 2021. Sáez has won 21 graded stakes this year for 14 different trainers.