By Claire Novak and Jack Shinar
Even when they didn't win, they couldn't lose. Ken and Sarah Ramsey capped an unbelievable day Aug. 17 with their third grade I victory when Real Solution was placed first via disqualification in the Arlington Million (VIDEO). Little Mike, last year's Million winner, finished sixth.
With an HRTV camera pointed at him, Ken Ramsey jumped for joy as the change in order was announced to a crowd of more than 34,200 at Arlington Park. The Ramseys earlier won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington with Admiral Kitten and the Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course with Big Blue Kitten . All three were sired by the Ramseys' homebred stallion Kitten's Joy , a top turf runner who fittingly finished second in the 2005 edition of the Arlington Million before he was retired to stud.
"That was Kitten's Joy's last race; he hurt his knee and had to be retired," Ramsey said. "So to have his son come back today and do what he didn't do is very gratifying."
The Apache got the best of 4-year-old Real Solution through a furious stretch battle in an attempt to become the first South African-bred to win the marquee Illinois event. But replays showed that the Mike de Kock trainee—under left-handed urging from Christophe Soumillon—came out from the rail to bump the rallying Ramsey runner multiple times before reaching the wire in front by a head.
Soumillion said the infield video screen frightened The Apache, a 6-year-old son of Mogok who was placed second following a stewards' review. Side Glance was two lengths back in third behind a final time of 2:02.14 on firm turf.
"We were the better horse, but he got scared by the screen and shifted out," Soumillion said. "You see, my horse was on the lead and got a little unbalanced; the screen scared him, but we were the best horse."
Alan Garcia was aboard 8-1 shot Real Solution, who bid powerfully in the final furlong after The Apache had swept to the lead. Chad Brown, who also trains Big Blue Kitten, is the winning conditioner.
"At the top of the stretch I had plenty of horse to go by, and the other horse bumped us more than four times, made me lose my momentum," Garcia said. "If that didn't happen we might have won by two or three lengths."
Real Solution broke well and tracked sixth in the field of 13 as defending Million winner Little Mike showed the way through a quarter in :24.34, then dropped back to eighth for a half in :48.99 under jockey Joel Rosario. At the quarter pole Real Solution was ninth behind 1:13 flat, as Little Mike battled with Mull of Killough to hold his advantage.
"I was in the lead, and kind of got bothered a bit on the outside," Rosario said. "I tried to be cool for a little bit, let him go, but it didn't help."
The 2012 winner fought back on the inside to post a mile in 1:37.22, but succumbed at the head of the stretch when The Apache made his bid. Real Solution, flying on the outside from sixth at the top of the lane, appeared poised to go by the South African runner until the bumping incident slowed his momentum.
Real Solution returned $18.80, $8.60, and $6.20 while The Apache paid $7.80 and $5.60 at 6-1. Side Glance, a 24-1 shot, brought $12.20 Completing the order of finish were Finnegans Wake, Temeraine, Little Mike, Grandeur, Mull of Killough, Guest of Honor, Hunter's Light, Rahystrada, Nates Mineshaft, and Indy Point.
"It was yes, no, yes, no, yes...no," Ramsey said of the finish. "But a Kitten by any other name is still a Kitten. I've never had three grade I wins (on one day) before."
Real Solution, bred in Pennsylvania out of the Pulpit mare Reachfortheheavens, began his career in Italy with trainer Gianlucia Bietolini. He won three straight races, including victory in the April 4 Premio Botticelli Stakes, but was sidelined with a lung infection after running sixth in the Italian Derby (Ity-II) in May.
"After he had the lung infection we had to treat him and figured we'd probably have to run him on Lasix since his lungs were damaged, so we figured it would be best to run him back in the States where he could run on Lasix," said Ramsey, who brought Real Solution back to the U.S. after a runner-up finish in a race in Rome last September. "He was on Lasix today, whereas over in Europe he couldn't run on Lasix."
Real Solution earned an automatic trip to the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) as part of the World Championships "Win & You're In" challenge series. The bay colt improved his record to 4-1-1 from eight starts, with earnings of $671,175, coming off a third-place in the June 6 Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) behind Point of Entry and Optimizer . He ran fourth in the May 4 Fort Marcy Stakes (gr. IIIT), both at Belmont Park, prior to that, his first U.S. start and first start of his 4-year-old season.
"I don't like to run them against each other, I prefer to keep them separated," Ramsey said of future plans for the winner of Million XXXI and his other grade I winners. "This is a Win and You're In race, so I'll have to sit down and go through them all. I'll sit down with Chad and see where he thinks is the best place to go (with Real Solution). I've got the best arsenal I've ever had for the Breeders' Cup."
It was the third disqualification in 31 runnings of the Arlington Million; Storming Home finished first in 2003 but was demoted to fourth with Sulamani benefitting, and Powerscourt finished first in 2004 but was also placed fourth, with Kicken Kris declared the winner.