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Saturday was Arlington Million Day at beautiful Arlington Park.
Not really anywhere near, in location or spirit, to Buckingham Fountain.
If you saw it, form your own opinion. If you saw it, kudos to you for finding it on TV, which also means you've ponied up, no pun intended, for the full sports package. It was also on Altitude TV, which ran Colorado Avalanche feel-good spots.
"Veni Vidi Vici," Chad Brown said. I can speculate that because I took Latin in high school and it was one of the best things I ever did, not that I wasn't already a whiz speller.
Brown was effusive in his praise for Arlington Park and AP's godfather, Dick Duchossois, and why not? Brown swept three very important turf races in a country that values dirt much more, and it sets up Brown to cash in on the grass races in the rich Breeders' Cup, November, Santa Anita. Money is where you find it.
Before we go any further, they showed a snip of Dick D. accepting his induction into the Racing Hall of Fame just last week. He said that of all the things in the world, the one thing all countries have in common is horse racing. A common language, a common love. "We all speak the same language, the love for the game." Ain't that the truth?
I spent three different sessions figuring out my TV strategy as Arlington seemed to be saying "We run when we run" and follow us. A look at the Metra Northwest Line to Harvard confirmed that trains and races and cashing tickets do not mix. Both NBC and FoxSports2 were covering Saratoga, but only Fox showed the Arlington races. It was an "Oh, by the way, out in Chicago . . . "
The lure of Saratoga bit as I bought the past performances from there for only one race. The Fourstardave (Grade I, one mile, turf, $500,000). Scintillating it was.
Uni, a Chad Brown with Joel Rosario up, was the big fave, they said. The Irish Gidu opened a huge lead, normally unfulfilling, but there was a point there where you thought . . . :22 and three, :44 and three, hellish, especially on turf.
Mark Casse's Got Stormy, Ricardo Santana up, was in the same bunched-together race, went along, slammed the final paces, won, and broke the track record in 1:32 flat. My payout? It was really fun to watch.
In the Bruce D.($75,000 stakes, one mile, polytrack), named after Duchossois' son, the house handicapper gushed over Dabo, a Dale Romans/Jose Valdivia who apparently moved eyeballs. Well, he did Saturday. Coming from nearly last, he closed like gangbusters like he was chasing his only bucket of oats.
On to what they call the International Festival of Racing.
The 31st Beverly D. (Grade I, fillies and mare three and up, 1-3/16th miles, $600,000, turf) was, Chad Brown turf, Sistercharlie's race to lose. She won.
1:52.43 broke the course record. Stablemate (rabbit?) Thais ran it high. Sistercharlie showed her true class - there was a lot of class checking in the handicapping Saturday - by establishing her run throughout and then pouring it on by the eighth pole to zip through to the win.
John Velazquez was succint, easy with a great horse. "She was running good on the back. I was patient not to ask her until the eighth (pole)."
On to The Secretariat (Grade I, three-year-olds, one mile, turf, $500,000), Chad Brown, turf. I screwed up my wager. I was in a tantrum that Van Beethoven got up for second, ruining my exacta. Lo and behold, I did have him in the exacta, and my only explanation is that I saw the odds on the board and switched. Ask anybody, I've been stupid both ways.
Winner Valid Point, he and Van Beethoven both sons of the late, esteemed sire Scat Daddy, continued the trend of great closing kicks, making his way to the sixteenth many lanes into the center of the course and romping. Javier Castellano had jumped off of Fog of War to ride this one.
Hey, who's that in the winners circle? Sweet Swing Billy Williams! Besides Jason Heyward, call me when the Cubs get as good an outfielder.
Big dance, the 37th Arlington Million (Grade I, 1-1/4 miles, 10 furlongs, turf, $1,000,000). Chad Brown, turf.
The fat skinny was Bricks and Mortar. Brown, you know, and Irad Ortiz. Just the facts, ma'am, he came in on a five-race win streak, triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures all the way. Can't lose. The kind you lukewarm try to beat.
What happened is that class wills out. And when you have such a great turf course as Arlington, everything is equal and you really do run to see who's best.
Bricks and Mortar (Giant's Causeway[Storm Cat that's my boy]) out of Beyond the Waves (Ocean Crest), is the best turf runner in the land, destined for the Hall of Fame, although the horse never sees that money.
The Arlington feed, I think, on the screen, didn't show the split times. At 1:59.44 at the classic distance on turf, that's not bad. Too bad they didn't show the respectable splits.
What does it all mean?
I predicted Bricks and Mortar perhaps in open lengths, which he did by nearly two. Sistercharlie locked. Valid Point. No intrigue was introduced into the turf division. Vis a vis the Breeders' Cup.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as challengers will come against these good/great horses in the big test of Breeders' Cup.
* Anyone familiar with TrackNotes knows I have disparaged and trashed Arlington Park, as owned by Churchill Downs Inc. I'm thinking it over, but Arlington looked so beautiful yesterday, I missed the place.
They didn't gussy up for the day, it's always that nice. I used to get there so early, I just walked in, and saw the tail end of the morning workouts. That cliche when you walk up the stairs and see Wrigley's grass? I get those goosebumps at the track. The horses, as beings, do that to you.
* But, alas, I did a scenario. What if I was there? The Million went off at 6:15. Big crowds, cash your ticket and get on the train. The train to the city was 6:29!!! The next train was 8:29. Why do I believe Arlington enjoys giving me the big single digit right where they please? It's in Arlington Heights, suburban, car . . . Oh, can it.
* Why doesn't the Racing Form say in its conditions the Nth running anymore? Such as the the 116th running of the Saratoga Special? I'll answer that. Because young punks who disguise high design and data savvy for laziness don't care. Don't want to work? Eliminate it. What is is like to live a life without details? It's obliviousness they seek.
* In the interest of full disclosure, I feel bad about getting in a pissing match with an online horse racing forum.
It seems trivial, and I should have known better, but there are important issues.
Those people who use devices and websites to hide, offer nothing, get in the way and tell me I'm ignorant. I give people way more credit than they will ever earn.
In true Beachwood manner, I did the research, crunched the numbers, found interesting things and laid out the argument. But what do you do with people when it's all about them and they don't really read? Does a guy who told me he's run the forum for 20 years forget how to listen and comprehend? Do people, through social influences, turn into fruit flies?
I will say this. I have worked with truly monumental people in the written and visual aspects of journalism for many years. I've fallen into great organizations.
Now, I'm in another one.
I pulled a Beachwood and they couldn't handle it.
There's a saying in racing charts: Game, Prevailed.
Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.