This week, we’ll be strolling down memory lane to revisit several Arlington Millions that hold special personal meaning for us. This second of two “team blogs” looks back on our favorite Million memories.
(Powerscourt photo courtesy of Jim Tyrrell/Horsephotos.com)
Vance Hanson: My favorite Arlington Million involves, arguably, the race’s greatest winner. Compared to the previous year when 14 showed up, only eight were entered for the 1987 Million. However, it was really a three-horse showdown between defending turf champion Manila, his Breeders’ Cup Turf foil Theatrical, and former European mainstay Sharrood, who had begun making a name for himself in California under the care of John Gosden. Put off slightly by Manila’s recent loss in the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga (ignoring the fact he had given 12 pounds to Talakeno), and thinking Theatrical was still inferior to Manila, I thought Sharrood had the goods to pull of a minor upset, especially after seeing a replay of his impressive win in the Eddie Read at Del Mar. Sharrood may have been the value play at nearly 4-1, but neither he nor Theatrical were any match for the brilliant Manila, who exuded class in the stretch under Angel Cordero Jr. as the even-money choice. Sadly, it turned out to be Manila’s last race as he was injured soon after while preparing for a possible trip to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. Despite the black-and-white evidence, Theatrical’s longevity was rewarded at season’s end with an Eclipse Award as champion turf male. Longevity was also rewarded in the Horse of the Year vote with Ferdinand winning despite a relatively modest record. To this day I fervently believe Manila was the best horse to set foot on a racetrack in the U.S., and possibly the world, in 1987. That he lost both awards, and had to wait 21 years for induction into the Hall of Fame, was most lamentable.
Kellie Reilly: The 2005 Arlington Million was indeed a “revengeful run” for Powerscourt, as track announcer John G. Dooley summed it up. As an ardent Powerscourt fan, I am still aggrieved over his disqualification from a clear-cut success in the 2004 Million. The notion that “interference” cost Epalo, who wilted to fourth, is beyond me. Kicken Kris was affected in the chain reaction of Epalo’s shying away from Powerscourt, but you’d be hard pressed to say he’d have done any better than his actual finish — second across the line. Hence Kicken Kris rates as a lucky winner in the stewards’ room, with an asterisk next to his name forever in the annals. The frustration mounted in that fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, where Powerscourt made a mystifyingly early move. For a horse who was best at 1 1/4 miles, forcing him into a middle move in a 1 1/2-mile championship event (on yielding ground no less) was a tactical disaster. No wonder he was outfinished by Better Talk Now and Kitten’s Joy. Fast forward to the following August at Arlington, and the record was set straight. Powerscourt deployed a sparkling turn of foot to slice between Kitten’s Joy and Better Talk Now and careered away by three lengths. No one was going to strip him of this laurel. We never saw him on a racecourse again, but it was a sweet mission accomplished.
James Scully: Selecting a favorite Arlington Million (G1) wasn’t easy, with plenty of great races to choose from in its 33-year history, but the 2006 edition stands out from a wagering perspective. I was attending a wedding for a close friend in Las Vegas and settled on The Tin Man, a speedy Affirmed trained by Richard Mandella, before leaving Lexington, Kentucky. And I touted him to friends who also bet him in the Flamingo Racebook (where we were staying for the wedding). The eight-year-old veteran was sent straight to the lead by Victor Espinoza, opening a comfortable early advantage, and was never seriously threatened, returning a $13 win mutuel and triggering a celebration that is easy to remember.
Jennifer Caldwell: A wire-to-wire victory in the 2006 Arlington Million by The Tin Man stands out above all the others I’ve seen to this point. I already liked the hard-knocking runner trainer by Richard Mandella, and to see him finally get his due against a world-class field was inspiring. Group/Grade 1 winners, champions and Breeders’ Cup scorers made up the bulk of that year’s field, but The Tin Man schooled them all after going early splits of :24.75, :50.37 and 1:15.18 under jockey Victor Espinoza. The dark bay gelding had more than enough left to hold off all challengers and post a one-length victory. The Tin Man’s Arlington Million score came as a part of a 5-4-1-0 season that also included another Grade 1 win in the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship as well as a runner-up effort in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-G1). He just missed in the 2007 Arlington Million when second by three parts of a length.