The inaugural running of Arlington’s $400,000 American St. Leger turned out to be an excellent added garnish to the 30th anniversary edition of the Arlington Million and Arlington’s International Festival of Racing.
Last Saturday’s International Festival of Racing crowd of 34,022 broke the Arlington Million’s all-time attendance record since the current facility opened more than two decades ago as Chicago’s premier Thoroughbred oval. It was also turned out to be the fourth highest Arlington Million Day crowd in the Million’s 30-year history.
Carded at the marathon distance of a mile and five and a half furlongs, the race that is sure to be graded as soon as it becomes eligible also provided an exciting match-up between the Jakkalberry Syndicate’s European-based winner Jakkalberry and Team Block’s North-American-based runner up Ioya Bigtime.
“I was extremely proud of my horse and the way he ran,” said Ioya Bigtime’s trainer Chris Block. “I think there’s going to be a lot of handicapping strategy involved with this race because the public – including myself – has to figure out which horses can go that far.”
However, although Arlington’s latest grass marathon only debuted with success last weekend, the race is derived from and patterned after Great Britain’s historic St. Leger Stakes, final event of the English Triple Crown and a race which has been run at Doncaster since 1776 – the same year as the United States of America celebrated its own independence from England.
Interestingly, although there was no American Triple Crown winner again this year since it was last swept in 1978 and once again no winner of the Mid-America Triple at Arlington since it was last swept in 1997, an English Triple Crown winner in 2012 remains a possibility.
A sweep of the English Triple has not been accomplished since Nijinsky II, owned by Charles Engelhard and trained by Vincent O’Brien, won the St. Leger in 1970 after winning Newmarket’s Two Thousand Guineas and Epsom’s Epsom Derby earlier that year.
This spring, Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier’s British-bred Camelot won the Group I Two Thousand Guineas on May 5 (same day as the Kentucky Derby) and then captured the Group I Epsom Derby on June 2 (one week before the Belmont Stakes).
After winning those first two legs of the English Triple Crown, the sophomore son of Montjeu went on to win Ireland’s Group I Irish Derby at The Curragh June 30, and remains under strong consideration for the Group I St. Leger to be run at Doncaster on Sept. 15. Camelot was installed as the 2-5 choice in the St. Leger’s early odds from Ladbrokes.
“We will, if all goes well, try and make him a Triple Crown winner,” said owner John Magnier following the Irish Derby.
Camelot is trained by Aidan O’Brien, who has won the Arlington Million twice and will be seeking his fourth victory in the St. Leger.
BEVERLY D. PACE SETTER ROMACACA RETURNS ‘HAPPY AND SASSY’
Frank Calabrese’s Romacaca, Arlington’s Grade III Modesty Handicap winner who made the pace until mid-stretch in Saturday’s $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes before tiring, was “happy and sassy” Wednesday morning, according to Patti Miller, wife of Romacaca’s trainer Danny Miller.
“The pace last Saturday was just a little too fast,” said Miller, who assists her husband in all phases of their mutual training operation.
Romacaca accomplished early splits of 23.67 and 48.40 before weakening in the final furlong, as opposed to the early splits of Priscilla Vaccarezza’s front-running Arlington Million winner Little Mike, who set early fractions of 25.10 and 49.95 before going on to his 1 1/2- length tally.
ALL STORMY EXITS SECRETARIAT STAKES READY TO RUN AGAIN
Jim Tafel’s Arlington-based sophomore All Stormy, runner-up in Arlington’s Grade III American Derby before his unplaced run in Saturday’s $500,000 Secretariat Stakes, was doing fine Wednesday, according to trainer Greg Geier.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get him in an allowance race at Arlington before the end of the season and then maybe take a look at the (Grade III) Hawthorne Derby,” said Geier.