Arlington Heights, Illinois
What do turf and money have in common? Aside from the obvious, it’s Chad Brown. Then again, even that is becoming more obvious by the day.
For the second year in a row and the third time overall, Brown trained the winner of the $1 million Grade 1 Arlington Million over 1¼ miles of firm turf. On a balmy Saturday afternoon at Arlington Park, he did it with Robert Bruce (5-2). Yes, that’s the name of the horse – a four-time Group 1 winner in Chile that has lost only once in nine races.
And for the second year in a row, Brown scored a Beverly D.-Arlington Million double. Actually, when the favorite Sistercharlie (8-5) won the $600,000 Grade 1 Beverly D., it gave Brown a four-peat in a 1 3/16-mile fillies-and-mares turf race that he has won five times overall. Two of his others in the race – Fourstarcrook (9-2) and Thais (47-1) – finished second and third to complete a Brown trifecta.
“I love this place,” Brown said during the traditional champagne toast after the Million. “I absolutely love coming to Arlington. We’ve been blessed to have horses that are good enough. Every time this happens I’m so happy. I always feel a little guilty. So many of the people who played a part in this happening today are back home (at Saratoga) working.”
Brown came a horse’s neck from sweeping all the Grade 1 races here Saturday. Analyze It (4-5) was beaten by the long shot Carrick (38-1) in the $500,000 Secretariat, a 1¼-mile turf event for 3-year-olds.
Saturday’s results were as much a celebration for Brown as they were a wasted trip for the 10 European horses that were shipped here. The only one that hit the board was the Irish colt Bandua (39-1) a Dermot Weld trainee that finished third in the Secretariat. It looked like the English colt Century Dream (8-1) had finished third in the Million before stewards disqualified him for interfering with promoted fourth-place finisher Catcho En Die (36-1).
The problem for all comers – North American, European, interplanetary or otherwise – is dealing with Brown and his turf horses. To say they are dominant is an understatement; they were responsible for eight of his 10 Breeders’ Cup wins and are a big reason he is running away with his second Saratoga training title in three years. To say Brown has achieved his success quickly is obvious; he won’t turn 40 until the week before Christmas but he is the two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner as America’s outstanding trainer.
With that record of success, why wouldn’t Saturday’s victories play out exactly as Brown thought they would?
“They really did,” he said. “I know it rarely happens that way. We had clean breaks.”
The rest of the races then played out similarly for Robert Bruce and Sistercharlie. They sat back about six lengths or so off the lead for the first part of each race. In the case of the Million, Bruce chased a decent pace set by Century Dream, then jockey Írad Ortiz Jr. wound him up going six-wide into the final turn. He got the lead in the last 100 yards and won by a half-length over Almanaar (7-2), trained by, um, yes, Brown.
“Everything went perfect for us,” said Ortiz, who got his first Arlington Million win on his 26th birthday no less. “Thank God I didn’t have any traffic.”
Trained in Chile by Patricio Baeza before coming to Brown unbeaten in six South American races last year, Robert Bruce’s only previous loss could be blamed on traffic in New York,. where he finished a close sixth in the Grade 1 Manhattan in June at Belmont Park.
“Today was a smaller field with a little more speed,” Ortiz said. “I put him in the clear on the stretch. So when I turned to the back side and went (wide) I didn’t panic.”
Million favorite Oscar Performance (9-5) was vanned off after being pulled up short of the finish line by José Ortiz. He walked into the ambulance, guided under his own power, and was not believed to be seriously injured.
The Beverly D. was run much more slowly in front of Sistercharlie. Her stable mate Thais clicked off fractions of 24.53, 50.53 and 1:15.29.
“We knew Thais was going to be on the lead,” Brown said. “She did her job. She strung the field out just enough to give Johnny (Velázquez) room to maneuver and make a late move.”
Trained in France by Henri-Alex Pantall and then Alain de Royer-Dupré before being transferred to Brown last winter, the 4-year-old Sistercharlie has been a stone-cold closer all her career.
“I was a little concerned about the slow pace,” her owner Peter Brant said. “But she’s a smart mare. A lot of times these horses that are campaigners, they understand the pace. When it comes to showing a turn of foot, she does it.”
The win for Velázquez gave him an Arlington Park double; he also rode the upset victory on Carrick in the Secretariat.
Although Brant said the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park would be possible for Sistercharlie this fall, and the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was suggested as a Breeders’ Cup prep for Robert Bruce, Brown would not firmly commit to anything for his two winners.
“All I can tell you is they’re all going back to Saratoga,” Brown said. “We’ll get them bedded down back home and plan it from there.”
And one more thing from Brown on Saturday.
“I’m going to enjoy it.”
Voodoo’s Song holds on to win Fourstardave
Bet at your own risk at Saratoga against a colt that was 4-for-4 there. Make that 5-for-5. After leading by as many as eight lengths early, Voodoo Song (6-1) held on for a half-length win over a late-charging Delta Prince (5-2) in the $500,000 Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap. Last month’s Arlington Handicap winner Divisidero (10-1), which was cross-entered in the Arlington Million before connections opted to take him east, finished third over the one mile of rain-softened, good-rated turf. The winning time was 1:35.96.
Ron Flatter’s racing column is posted at VSiN.com every Friday morning and from major races. You may also hear the Ron Flatter Racing Pod, also posted Friday mornings at VSiN.com/podcasts. Current and past episodes are also available leading providers such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts and Stitcher.