Saratoga Springs, August 12, 2022 — I remember when Churchill Downs announced that they would dedicate a day to renewing the Arlington Million, there was much hand wringing and harrumphing.
“How dare they; first be responsible for killing Thoroughbred racing in Chicago, then taking its signature event and turn it into just another corporate payday.”
And I’m thinking, hey, we live in the real world. Besides, keeping Thoroughbred tradition alive is never a bad idea. And they’re bringing the Beverley D along with it. Cool. Let’s celebrate John Henry, Manila, Paradise Creek, Gio Ponti, and even The Bart. Why not?
I got my answer when I first spotted the PPs earlier this week: the mile and an eighth Arlington Million! Now I’m the curmudgeon, thinking history’s dust bin would have been more appropriate.
Then, it’s 2022, a time when democracy and even the truth have taken a beaten. Everything has been cheapened, except the price of goods and services, of course. So why not racing tradition?
The mile and a quarter trip is what excited fans and horsemen in the beginning. But now we race to breed, not the way it was meant to be, putting the horse in the cart. And let’s make it a relatively easier to attain Grade 1 status, make the race easier to fill, and boost the handle a little.
So here it is, all in its tarnished glory. Run it and they will bet. And, yes, it turns out to be a very good betting race:
G1 ARLINGTON MILLION Race 11
DESERVING FAVORITE: Smooth Like Strait (5-2) [classy, ratable speed, Johnny]
EARLY LINE VALUE: Set Piece (4-1) [trip compromised prepping, pointed to Grade 1]
STRAIGHT WAGER: Set Piece to win at 7-2 or greater. Exacta Box: Set Piece, Smooth Like Straight and Santin (3-1). Superfecta Key-Box Set Piece first, second, and third with his two rivals above, and adding Admission Office (10-1), Field Pass (8-1) and Sacred Life (9-2) to the mix.
GI BEVERLEY D Race 5
DESERVING FAVORITE: Rougir (2-1)
EARLY LINE VALUE: Family Way (3-1)
STRAIGHT WAGER and EXOTICA: Family Way to win at 3-1 or greater. Exacta and Trifecta Box: Rougir, Family Way and Lily Pond (5-2). Exacta Key-Box: Family Way with Rougir and Lily Pond
Saratoga’s Special Juveniles
If you care little about racing and Saratoga history, Saturday’s featured events are not for you. You will look at two five horse fields and think, why bother?
Why? To say you were there, if only virtually.
Wasn’t that long ago when the Grade 2 Saratoga Special brought out hordes of youngsters, trying to make a name for themselves. In the era of instant news and replays, three of the five of today’s Special entrants have been already celebrated.
The Skinny: From South Florida comes Super Chow (8-1) received much mutuel play on debut at much mutual praise thereafter. to keep going after an opening gambit of 21-1/5 is going to merit attention. Of course, he’s meeting far superior rivals here than those he trounced on debut.
The main combatants are Damon Mounds (7-5) a winner at Churchill Downs by 12-1/2 lengths, earning a massive performance figure, and Gulfport (4-5), who ran a tad faster in his second start stretching out, crushing the Bashford Manor field by 12 lengths at 1-5.
Did he beat the equivalent talented of Damon Mounds in that stakes? Does it even matter? Both horses are coming in off jaw-dropping scores, and since the Bashford Manor, the Coolmore folks walked up and bought a slice. Enough said. Two runs; two fast wins; a strong, tight line.
Oh, Gulfport comes with the connections that developed into a dual champion. Probably more of the same here.
G2 SARATOGA SPECIAL Race 4
DESERVING FAVORITE: Gulfport
EARLY LINE WIN VALUE: None
EXOTICA: Exacta Box Gulfport and Damon Mounds. Trifecta Key: Gulfport over Damon Mounds and price shot, the troubled Valenzan Dan (12-1)
G1 FOURSTARDAVE Race 10
It could not be more appropriate than in a year the wonderful turf mare Tepin was indicted into the Racing Hall of Fame, another mare, Regal Glory (6-5), would be the most responsible for limiting the size on Saturday’s Grade 1. Yes, she’s six now and having the time of her life. She’s never raced in better form.
The Skinny: While she loves a target, it’s hard to identify her style these days; Jose Ortiz rides her with so much confidence he lets her do whatever she likes and when he pushes the button, she’s there. The best thing I can say about her stretch drives is that she just wants it more than her rivals.
Regal Glory’s future arrived this year. Look closely and you might see the making of a future Hall of Fame
But today’s race is no walkover. Bill Mott, who’s won this race four times since the year 2000, will try to win his fifth with Casa Creed (5-2), who was third best in this race last year and enters this off n explosive late finish to win Belmont Park’s 6 furlong Jaipur.
Probably more sprinter than miler, but he hits hard consistently and exits a race that has produced three next-out winners. Couple that with a strong, half-mile breeze and he’s a major player here.
DESERVING FAVORITE: Regal Glory
EARLY LINE WIN VALUE: Casa Creed
EXOTICA: Exacta Box Regal Glory and Casa Creed, extra ticket with the mare on top.
this column is live through Saturday
Great Friday Appetizer for Saturday’s Grade 1
And when you come to think about it, it’s an appropriate way to start a weekend that has a race named for the Sultan of Saratoga himself, Fourstardave, as its lynchpin. Now a Grade 1 providing entree to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, too.
There are three events on the docket but we’ll take a handicapping look-in on the feature of features, the Evan Shipman Stakes which used to be nine furlongs but that was before the re-emergence of the Wilson Mile chute at, well, a turn and a half.
So a state-bred mile prep, for a Grade 1 mile prep Saturday, for the ultimate mile race run on turf in this country. It’s a bit of stretch, I know. The Shipman is on dirt, but we’ve not been well. It must be the anti-viral program which ended this morning,
Technically, dear diary, it Covid-19 Day Seven, and I’m a relatively free Lone Ranger.
Steve Asmussen saddles the favorite, an early line 9-5 choice with stakes-crazed Joel Rosario in the boot. He’s fresh, the class of the group on paper, and Bankit will be coming late. Count on it. But we’re looking at a Horse for Course that will get the drop on him. And if Tiergan’s (5-2) good enough, he’ll get the money.
He’s certainly sharp enough, having won his last start by 10 out of the Wilson chute for his second Spa win in as many tries, and the gelded old pro has been a hot ticket, claimed from three of his last four races, the last time by Bill Morey, who was laying in wait with 45-large to scoop him up nine days ago.
This is a man who knows what he wants and doesn’t waste any time about it. The barn excels in non-graded stakes and, according to Thoro-Graph’s stats package, he wins at a 27% rate first time off the claim, and is an otherworldly 42 percent with the last 31 horses he’s run back with less than 11-days rest.
I can just see it now: Joel is trying to sneak up the fence from his rail position–and there, right there–Irad cuts him off at the pass, right? He won’t even need the five-pound pull he’s getting from the favorite today.
All this, and the Morrissey and Union Avenue, too. How about dem’ apples?