By Jerry Bossert
The Pizza Man served up some home cooking Aug. 16 when he captured the $400,000 American St. Leger Stakes by a length over defending winner Dandino at Arlington International Racecourse (VIDEO).
Facing an international field of horses that included runners bred in England and Ireland, it was Illinois-bred The Pizza Man who crossed the wire first, winning for the fifth straight time and recording the biggest victory of his career.
Racing in second, several lengths off of pacesetter Big Kick, The Pizza Man and favored Eye of the Storm overtook the weakening front-runner entering the final turn for home. The two battled briefly before The Pizza Man opened up a commanding lead, holding off a late run from Dandino.
"I was sitting in a stalking position, I wasn't worried, I saw his past races and was waiting for him to tell me when to go," said winning rider Florent Geroux.
Frankie Dettori, aboard Dandino, thought he was going to prevail but had to settle for second best.
"I had the perfect race," Dettori said. "Turning in I thought we would win, but (The Pizza Man) never stopped. He ran really hard to the line. He's coming back to form now."
Havana Beat finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Dandino, while Moment In Time got up to be fourth after a troubled trip.
Eye of The Storm weakened to fifth as the 3-1 favorite.
"He ran alright," said jockey Ryan Moore.
Admiral Kitten, Moro Tap, Infinite Magic, Suntracer, and Big Kick rounded out the field of 10. Hardest Core scratched to run in the Arlington Million.
Owned and bred by Richard and Karen Papiese's Midwest Thoroughbreds out of the Lear Fan mare I Can Fan Fan, The Pizza Man won for the 12th time from 17 career starts.
The Pizza Man is a 5-year-old gelding by English Channel and now owns a record of eight wins from 11 starts over the turf course at Arlington.
Prior to his victory in the American St. Leger, The Pizza Man reeled off four straight stakes scores, taking the Illinois Owners Stakes at Arlington Sept. 21 of last year before ending his 2013 campaign with a victory in the Carey Memorial at Hawthorne Race Course Oct. 12.
He began his 2014 campaign with victories in the June 21 Black Tie Affair Handicap before taking the Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. IIIT) in wire fashion on July 12.
The Pizza Man, who was voted the 2012 Illinois champion 3-year-old, returned $12.60 to win as the fourth-choice in the field of 10, running the 1 1/16 miles in 2:47.44. He is trained by Roger Brueggemann, who campaigned The Pizza Man through 2012. He was trained by Tom Amoss for most of 2013 before returning to Brueggemann's barn for the Oct. 12 Carey Memorial.