The race to the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf started in earnest this weekend with two major preps, the Arlington Million in Chicago and the Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga. They were part of a telecast of "Emirates Airlines Super Saturday" on ABC along with the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap for the sprinters and the Beverly D. for the turf fillies and mares. The four races also made up the NTRA National Pick 4 with a guaranteed pool of $400,000. The wager drew an enthusiastic response from fans, with a total handle of $1,162,771 and a payoff of $1,301.60 for each $1 winning ticket.
Kicking off the action was the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap for older horses sprinting six furlongs for a $200,000 purse. There was no clear favorite in the field of seven, with Kelly's Landing the 5-2 favorite and Smokume the 7-2 second choice. However, the top two favorites finished sixth and last, as 3.70-1 fourth choice Pomeroy went gate to wire to win by 4 lengths over 10-1 shot I'm The Tiger in a time of 1:08.69. Winning trainer Patrick Biancone said, "He's a very good horse. He won the King's Bishop here and I believe he was the only Grade 1 winner in the field. He deserved to win. The track was really fast for him and he ran a big race. He usually runs faster with blinkers. Hopefully, we'll get him ready for the Forego and then the Breeders' Cup Sprint." Results Chart from DRF.
The best turf females faced off in the Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes at Arlington. A field of 9 went to post in this 1 3/16 mile event for a purse of $750,000. 6-1 shot Angara settled near the back of the pack and out in the three path for the first mile, then jockey Gary Stevens found room around heavy traffic at the top of the stretch to surge to the front. In the ensuing cavalry charge, Angara got her neck out in front to defeat 4-1 shot Megahertz in 1:58.30 over the yielding course. It was just a head back to 3-1 favorite Melhor Ainda in third. Winning rider Gary Stevens said, "I've wondered for two years whether I could win again here and get back to the winner's circle without having my number taken down and without ending up in a hospital. This filly is just unbelievable. I heard Megahertz coming at the quarter pole and I kind of eased out and tried to be patient. That carried us out of trouble and she went on about her business. It was all her. I didn't have to hit her. There's a little cut in the ground here and that's what she enjoys." Results Chart from DRF.
The Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga saw 8 older horses travel 1 1/2 miles on the inner turf course for a $500,000 purse. 5-2 favorite King's Drama and 3-1 second choice Relaxed Gesture battled on the front end the whole way, through a mile in 1:38.89. The battle continued through the lane, with King's Drama prevailing by 3/4 length at the line in a time of 2:27.38 over the firm course. It was 3 1/4 lengths back to 12-1 shot Vangelis in third. Winning rider Jorge Chavez said, "Finally, yesterday, I broke my maiden (first winner of the meet). Today, I won the big race. I'm very happy. My horse was kind of going with that other horse (Relaxed Gesture); I thought I would be by myself. I really wanted to wait until the last 100 yards, and that's what I did. I knew someone was coming. Thank God, he was ready. It was a wonderful day for me." Results Chart from DRF.
The highlight race of the afternoon was the Grade 1 Arlington Million at 1 1/4 miles on the turf. Ten older horses went to the gate, with 2004 champion turf horse Kitten's Joy sent off as the 9-10 favorite over 5-1 second choice Powerscourt, who finished first in last year's Million but was disqualified to fourth for interference. In this year's edition, 29-1 shot Whilly set the early fractions of 24.38, 48.51, and 1:12.84 over the yielding course. Edgar Prado kept the favorite off the rail and out of trouble in fifth for the backstretch trip. Turning for home, Kitten's Joy unleashed his run going four wide, and got the lead with a furlong to go. But Powerscourt was closing strongly from seventh early on, and ran right by Kitten's Joy to win going away by 3 lengths in 2:03.38. It was a blanket finish for second, just a nose between Kitten's Joy and 15-1 shot Fourty Niners Son in third, and another nose to 7-1 third choice Better Talk Now in fourth. Results Chart from DRF.
Powerscourt passes Kitten's Joy near the finish of the Arlington Million.
Winning jockey Kieren Fallon said, "This little horse deserved this win. He was unlucky last year to be taken down. I think it was a great training performance by Mr. O'Brien. The horse was in great condition today and he was an impressive winner. They went very quick early on. I was able to get the position I wanted. I was hoping to just to be in behind the leaders turning for home. He did everything so easy for me today. When the splits came in the stretch, he went right through them. I was lucky enough to get the splits right through the middle"
Dale Romans, trainer of beaten favorite Kitten's Joy, said, "He'll be better off this race. I wish we could have gotten another race in him. I'm not going to make any excuses. He ran a super race. Powerscourt ran a great race."