Most Thoroughbred owners would be turning cartwheels if they'd just finished second in the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT). But Moyglare Stud Farm reacted to Make No Mistake's strong effort by hanging out a "For Sale" sign. Fortunately for Dr. Bruce Barton and partner Alvin Haynes, their trainer, Burk Kessinger, got word of the impending deal. Kessinger's wife, Sue, is a friend of Moyglare's trainer, Christophe Clement, who gave Kessinger a glowing report about the 6-year-old son of Darshaan out of The Minstrel mare Respectfully. Kessinger persuaded his owners to pony up a reported $400,000, and they purchased the three-time graded/group stakes winner, who'd done most of his racing in his native Ireland. The deal paid quick dividends when Make No Mistake outkicked fellow Irish-bred Takarian to win the $250,000 Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT). The stakes was the biggest of three run July 28 on Million Preview Day, although it's quite possible none of the victors will be back on Aug. 18 to try the stiffer competition in Arlington's only three grade I races. In other Million Preview races, 34-year-old trainer and part-owner Chris Block enjoyed the first graded stakes win of his career with his Illinois-homebred mare Ioya Two in the $150,000 Modesty Handicap (gr. IIIT), and stretch-running sophomore Discreet Hero wore down longshot Western Pride to win the $125,000 Round Table Stakes (gr. III). In the featured Arlington Handicap, Make No Mistake's connections sweated out a claim of foul against the top two runners by fourth-place finisher Orleans Road's jockey, Rene Douglas. Douglas had been disqualified from two winners the day before. However, the winning connections failed to let the lengthy stewards' inquiry dampen their enthusiasm. Barton, a retired doctor from Corbin, Ky., hailed Kessinger as "a wizard on the Turf. I started (as an owner) in the early '80s. Kessinger was a stockbroker then, and when he decided to go out on his own, I went with him. We've had a lot of luck." His partner Haynes is a Lexington trucking and tobacco executive. Kessinger said he thought Moyglare was willing to sell Make No Mistake because, "If they don't want to stand them themselves, they sell theirs like Coolmore--they sell everything. We've been buying from them for years. John Muldoon has bought most of these horses (including Arlington record holder Lotus Pool), but he didn't buy this one. I'm the idiot who put his head out, and they're the nice owners who believed in me." Now Kessinger is pondering whether to take the next step with the Million. "It depends on the horse, really. I'd like to be here because he likes the wide turns...not that Belmont doesn't have them, but this is a little softer course. The conditions are right, it's just whether he's ready to go." A cleverly-timed move by jockey Robbie Albarado, who placed Make No Mistake a close-up sixth among the seven runners in the early going of the 10-furlong race, helped the winner prevail by a neck in 2:02.53 over Takarian, who was coming off an upset victory in the American Handicap (gr. IIT)--a race he'd also won in 1999. "I thought they'd have a slow pace, but I didn't think they'd go that slow," Albarado said of the early fractions of :25.55, :50.77, and 1:14.56. "I saw the opportunity to press up the backside to give my horse a chance, because if I'd just sat, sat, sat, Takarian would have went on and I'd never have gotten to him."
LET'S WIN TWO By contrast, Ioya Two deployed a front-running strategy to win the 1 3/16-mile Modesty with Mark Guidry aboard, hanging on to defeat Megans Bluff by a nose in 1:55.47 under Craig Perret. It was another half-length back to Solvig in the classy field of 11. But according to disappointed trainer John Hennig, the outcome might have been different had Megans Bluff been luckier. "I thought she was much the best in here," Hennig said. "We bobbled a little leaving and got up on a horse's heels early, and he (Perret) had to really get her way back. With that said, at least it confirms she's not just a speed horse. I asked Craig about bringing her back, and he said we probably don't have to duck anybody, so we're probably coming back for the Beverly D (gr. IT)." Asked if Megan's Bluff had ever broken so poorly, Hennig joked, "She was that far back one day when she was a 2-year-old and I was breaking her from the gate, and she didn't know how to break. She's never been anything like (she was today). She's been on or close to the lead most of her life." While Hennig is ready to press on to the Beverly D, Block was being cautious about supplementing Ioya Two, a 6-year-old Lord At War mare, to the $700,000 race. "I would think there'll be a whole new group of fillies to come in for that," he said. "This has been our focus. After that last race (a victory over Illinois-breds in the Lincoln Heritage Handicap), I thought this would be our best chance to win a graded stakes." Team Block, which consists of Block, his parents, his brother and sister, his brother's wife and son, and his wife and son, also raced the dam, Ioya, by Naskra. With the whole family in attendance, the victory became even more special, Block said. The dam, which they bought as a 4-year-old, "was close to our hearts," Block said. "We lost her last year foaling an El Prado filly (who also died). She has a Louis Quatorze 2-year-old filly, who we own."
IN THE ROUND Discreet Hero scored his third victory in a row for owner B. Wayne Hughes of Malibu, Calif., the chairman of Public Storage, in the Round Table. Pam Fitzgerald, who handles trainer Albert Stall's 18-horse Chicago division, said the son of Honour and Glory loved stretching out to nine furlongs for his graded stakes debut in the Round Table, despite the fact his sire was a sprinter. "He's a very kind horse," she said. "You could gallop him right after the break with eight million horses around him and he'll just lope along, do whatever." Discreet Hero broke alertly in the field of six, but found himself three wide around both turns under jockey Shane Laviolette. Fitzgerald said the colt "broke so sharp, and then he was kinda there and there wasn't much Shane could do about it. But you hate to give up ground." Despite the lost ground, Discreet Hero's time of 1:49.73 was the fastest Round Table since the race was shifted to the dirt in 1994. While Point Given "seems unbeatable right now" to Fitzgerald, she thinks the $155,000 Keeneland November weanling purchase could compete with other top sophomores "if he keeps improving. He's definitely headed in the right direction." That direction is probably out of town, though. "If he runs in a stakes here, he's going to have to run on the grass," she said. The Round Table, while attracting several talented dirt runners, has never served as a prep for the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) since the move to the dirt, which filled a void in Arlington's 3-year-old program.(Charts, Equibase)