Spirit One Goes Wire-to-Wire in Million
by Jason Shandler
Date Posted: 8/9/2008 6:43:05 PM
Last Updated: 8/12/2008 2:22:06 PM

Spirit One streaks to the win in the Arlington Million.
Photo: Four Footed Fotos
French-bred Spirit One, the least accomplished of three European invaders in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) (VIDEO), sprinted to an early lead and never relinquished it, eventually holding off favored Archipenko in the final yards to win by three-quarters of a length Aug. 9 at Arlington Park.

Going off at 13-1 in a field of seven, Spirit One broke sharply under Ioritz Mendizabal, was chased by Mount Nelson, Archipenko, and Stream Cat through moderate fractions and took a half-length lead into the stretch drive.

Archipenko, the 7-5 favorite who has won stakes on three different continents this year, had the best chance at running down the pacesetter, but was stuck on the hedge in final furlong. By the time he found daylight inside the sixteenth-pole it was too late, as Spirit One had just enough to get to the wire.

Owned by Kamel Chehboub and trained by Philip Demercastel, Spirit One completed the 10 furlongs on ‘firm’ turf in 2:02.17. Archipenko was runner-up under Kevin Shea, 1 1/2 lengths in front of English-bred Mount Nelson, as the three European-based horses took all the money.

Einstein, the top North American-based horse who has claimed a pair of grade I victories this year for trainer Helen Pitts, stumbled at the start of the Million and it cost him. The 6-year-old son of Spend a Buck made a mild bid at the mile-marker, but faded to finish fifth, a half-length behind Silverfoot.

Spirit One entered the Million off a runner-up performance in the group III La Coupe June 14 at Longchamp. The 4-year-old son of Anabaa Blue--Lavayssiere, by Sicyos recorded his lone group stakes score in four tries this year when he won the Prix Exbury (Fr-III) in his season debut March 15 at Saint Cloud. He was 0-for-5 in group I tests in his career and was making his first start outside of France.

Mendizabal guided Spirit One to the front by clicking off fractions of :24.66, :48.57, 1:12.40, and 1:37.40 for a mile. At that point, he was a half-length in front of Mount Nelson and two lengths better than Einstein and Archipenko.

Racing close to the hedge, Spirit One continued to show the way into the stretch with Mount Nelson and Archipenko in hot pursuit. Archipenko, also near the hedge, tried to find room toward the outside, but was boxed in by Mount Nelson and Johnny Murtagh. Spirit One took advantage of the favorite’s poor trip and dug in gamely to hit the wire in front.

“I took the lead because I wanted to run my race, and he responded very well for me," Mendizabal said. "He quickened when I asked him to, so I never saw what was happening behind me. Then all I had to do was make sure he made it around the two turns, and I thank the trainer for getting him ready to do that and bringing him all the way over here to win.”

Going off as the fifth choice, Spirit One paid $29.40, $10.20, and $6. The exacta (3-1) returned $68.40, while the trifecta (3-1-7) was worth $264.20.

Bred in France by Chehboub, Spirit One is now 5-6-2 from 18 starts. The $594,000 winner’s share boosted his career earnings to $1,099,618.

The victory also earned Spirit One an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. When asked if he would be pointed toward the race, Demercastel said, "Why not? We’ll take him home, give him time off, and definitely come back to the U.S for racing. I’ve been tempted for awhile, especially with this horse, to try American racing.”

Einstein's jockey Robby Albarado said the bad break was a big factor in his mount finishing fifth. “I had a horrible trip. He stumbled coming out of the gate, and it took him out of his race. I was going to forwardly placed on a :48 half. I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome, but it (the break) did cost him the race.”

Stream Cat was sixth, followed by Cloudy's Knight.

View Stakes Details and Full Equibase Chart



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