If the Grade 1 Mr. D. Stakes was the final vestige of the Arlington Million, it will go into the history books as a victory for the locals, thanks to a felony-level theft.
Two Emmys, a 5-year-old English Channel gelding, shot to the lead the first time past the wire as jockey James Graham got him out and relaxed. He slowed the pace to a crawl and, when no one challenged, had plenty of stuffing left down the Arlington International Racecourse stretch to win by a neck.
The favorite, Domestic Spending, raced just back of that slow pace and did all he could at the end for jockey Flavien Prat and trainer Chad Brown but wound up with too much to do. Brown had won the last three editions of the Million.
Arlington's owner, Churchill Downs Inc., has the property on the sale block for redevelopment and this season is marketed as "The Final Turn." The signature race was renamed for long-time Arlington owner Richard L. Duchossois, honoring the 99-year old World War II veteran and clearing the way to reduce the purse to $600,000.
Duchossois did not attend the final "Million" but his three living children and a crowd of grandchildren and great-grandchildren was on hand, touring the architecturally lauded facility and assisting with trophy presentations for the three grade 1 races.
Sentiment flowed as the prospect of demolition of the track loomed over a perfect summer afternoon and many in the crowd cheered the victory by Two Emmys, trained by Hugh Robertson and racing for him and locals Wolfe Racing.
"I knew after the first quarter when I got him to go slow, he'd finish," Graham said. "If you look at his races at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, you can see he can cope with a slow pace."
Owner Randy Wolfe said Graham told him before the race, "I sure hope I get a spot because if I do, I know I can get him to relax."
Wolfe said there were question marks early in the week about whether Two Emmys would even run in the race under the 126-pound impost.
"He'd never run that far (1 1/4 miles) under that weight," Wolfe said, adding he and Robertson discussed scratching.
"I asked him what he thought and he said, 'Let's give him a chance,'" Wolfe said.
The Mr. D. affords the winner an opportunity to compete in the Group 1 Japan Cup in Association with Longines in November at Tokyo Racecourse and Japan Racing Association's New York representative, Takahiro Uno, was on hand to invite Two Emmys to that prestigious event.
"He's not going anywhere at all," Robertson said of Two Emmys.
Two Emmys, bred by Tottenwood Thoroughbreds, is out of the Buddha mare Miss Emmy. He came into the Mr. D. with a record of just three wins from 15 career starts and seven second-place finishes. One of those seconds came in the Grade 3 Arlington Stakes on "Million Preview Day" July 17, when he led from the start and was just caught at the line by Bizzee Channel, who finished fifth in the Mr. D.
"So we beat the horse that won the 'Million,'" said Larry Rivelli, eight-time Arlington champion trainer and conditioner of Bizzee Channel, who was his first-ever Million starter.
If the story for the winner was a theft job on the front end, it was just the opposite for Irish invader Armory , a 4-year-old Galileo colt racing for the Coolmore partners. Parked as usual well back of the leaders, Armory found another gear at the top of the stretch to begin a challenge but couldn't make enough headway to finish any better than sixth.
Earlier in the year, Armory reported third in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and a close fourth in the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes in the north of England. In each of those, his late bid also fell short at the end.
"The horse is fine," said Armory's rider, Ryan Moore. "No pace. Just too slow. You can't close into that." -Bob Kieckhefer
Santa Barbara Beats Older Horses in Beverly D. Stakes
Twice Santa Barbara has traveled to the United States from Ireland and twice she has collected grade 1 victories to take home from a memorable trip.
Already a winner of the July 10 Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park, the 3-year-old daughter of Camelot took on four older fillies and mares in the $392,000 Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes Aug. 14 and came away with a three-length score.
Santa Barbara delivered trainer Aidan O'Brien his first Beverly D. win. It was the third win in the race for jockey Ryan Moore, who rode Dank and Euro Charline to victory in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
"This is a beautiful racetrack, a beautiful turf course," Moore said. "I feel very honored to have been allowed to come here."
Just prior to the start of the race when the field was loaded in the starting gate, Mean Mary broke through early before being reloaded. Under Luis Saez, the multiple grade 2 winner went straight to the front after breaking with the field and set fractions of :24.57, :49.34, 1:13.33, and 1:37.14 through a mile. Naval Laughter tracked in second while Moore settled Santa Barbara, the even-money favorite, in third. Lemista and Joy Epifora brought up the rear.
Moore positioned Santa Barbara two wide around the far turn and into the lane. The pair took over approaching the eighth pole and the bay filly kicked clear in a hand ride. The final time for 1 3/16 miles was 1:54.55 on a turf course rated good. Santa Barbara returned $4.00 for a $2 win bet.
"She was very straightforward. She's an improving 3-year-old," Moore said.
Mean Mary held on for second by a neck as Lemista rallied for third. Joy Epifora and Naval Laughter completed the order of finish. -Bob Kieckhefer and Christine Oser
Point Me By Makes Graded Stakes Debut a Winning One in Bruce D. Stakes
Point Me By became the first grade 1 winner for his sire Point of Entry with a 2 1/2-length victory Aug. 14 in the $300,000 Grade 1 Bruce D. Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse.
Trained by Eddie Kenneally for Homewrecker Racing and ridden by Luis Saez, the 3-year-old colt chased down the frontrunners off the turn for home after tracking fifth early in the mile turf race. He ran past Tango Tango Tango and held off the late run of Ginsburned, who settled for third.
The Bruce D. Stakes, formerly known as the Secretariat, was run on what many expect to be the final international card of racing at Arlington, the Illinois track slated to be sold by owner Churchill Downs Inc. The marquee race of the day was the Grade 1 Mr. D. Stakes, which used to be known as the Arlington Million.
"To get a grade 1 on this day here is just great," owner Ron Rashinski said. "I kind of feel bad we won't be back next year to try the (Arlington) Million."
Saez tucked Point Me By in along the hedge early after breaking well from post 6, as Like a Saltshaker showed the way through opening fractions of :25.03 and :50.04. As three-quarters went in 1:13.96 and after moving up through the second turn, Saez shifted out and split horses. Point Me By found another gear, put Tango Tango Tango in the rearview mirror despite bumping soundly when that rival came out, and quickly drew away to victory.
The final time was 1:37.70 on a good turf course. Point Me By was sent off as the 8-5 favorite in a nine-horse field and returned $5.40 on a $2 win ticket. -Claire Crosby