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Weekend Review: Europeans Dominate in Chicago

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Cape Blanco (IRE)
Cape Blanco (IRE)

Sorry for the lack of posting over the last few days.  Vegas has a way of throwing you into a whole other world.

The primary purpose of my Vegas trip was to attend the first ever SB Nation convention which turned out to be an excellent opportunity to meet writers from all over the SB Nation network.  There are a lot of great people associated with this network and I'm excited to see where SB Nation is at in another five to ten years.

Okay, enough Vegas/housekeeping matters, how about those turf races this past weekend?

The races at Arlington Park turned out about as one might expect going in as the Europeans looked the strongest on paper and, truthfully, weren't really challenged in their victories.  Gio Ponti once again got a less than ideal trip and had to settle for second, something that has become incresingly common.

I mentioned the other day that I thought Gio Ponti might be a better miler at this point and my feeling on that had more to do with race set-up and trip than distance. Since Gio Ponti likes to come from the back of the pack in most of his races, I think the added pace of a mile race sets him up a lot better than races at 10 or 12 furlongs where the early fractions are sometimes a lot slower.  The first six furlongs of the Million were a tepid 1:16+.  With a yielding course and slow splits, the race set-up perfectly for a European runner liker Cape Blanco and really hamstrung Gio Ponti. Considering what he was up against, Gio ran an excellent race.

In the Beverly D., I thought Dominguez gave Stacelita (FR) a much better ride than she got in the United Nations.  He kept her covered up early on which allowed her to settle into the race in a much better rhythm than in her previous effort. When she got daylight along the rail at the top of the stretch, she easily moved to the lead and almost cantered home under a light hand ride.  It's hard to win a Grade 1 grass race much easier than that.

It's been a pretty good year for Secretariat winner Treasure Beach (GB). After finishing 10 lengths behind Frankel (GB) in the Royal Lodge Stakes to begin his 2011 campaign, he returned to finish 2nd by a head to Pour Moi in the Group 1 Epsom Derby.  Three weeks later he won the Group 1 Irish Derby at the Curragh.  After a disappointing 4th in France he ships across the Atlantic and wins the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes.  Not bad a bad year at all.

Below is a look at the splits for all four off the Grade 1 turf races, along with the internal fractions of the winners.

Race Dist. Going 1/4 1/2 3/4 Mile Finish
Arlington Million 10 Yld 24.81 50.26 1:16.04 1:41.50 2:05.39
Secretariat 10 Yld 25.43 50.09 1:14.64 1:39.92 2:03.91
Beverly D. 9.5 Yld 24.15 49.97 1:15.49 1:40.69 1:57.57
Sword Dancer 12 Frm 24.47 48.65 1:13.57 1:38.64 2:26.74

 

Race Dist. Winner 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Finish
Arlington Million 10 Cape Blacno (IRE) 25.58 25.45 25.61 24.95 23.81
Secretariat 10 Treasure Beach (GB) 25.86 24.75 24.21 25.13 23.97
Beverly D. 9.5 Stacelita (FR) 24.49 25.82 25.52 41.74
Sword Dancer 12 Winchester 25.66 24.35 49.41 23.92 23.39

 

The fractions confirm a lot of what we saw at Arlington on Saturday; the pace was generally slow, a result of the lack of speed horses and the condition of the ground.  The Europeans horses are much more familiar with that style of racing and ate it up in each instance. 

The ground was much harder at Saratoga for the Sword Dancer and the pace was noticeably faster, even though that race was a quarter mile longer than the Million and Secretariat.  Winchester's margin of victory was only three-quarters of a length but the was never under a heavy, heavy drive from jockey Cornelio Velasquez.  A solid win that puts Winchester at the top of the American contenders for the Breeders' Cup Turf.