Ashbrook Farm’s Reb, winner of the three straight including the American Derby (gr. IIT), and Irish invader Black Bear Island, who has a group II victory in England this season, lead a wide-open field of 11 in the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) for 3-year-olds Aug. 8 on the Arlington Park turf.
Also major contenders are tepid 3-1 morning-line favorite Giant Oak, winner of the Arlington Classic two starts back, Oil Man, a grade III winner in California, and Take the Points, who has turned in two solid efforts for Todd Pletcher since being switched to the grass in June.
The 1 1/4-mile Secretariat is the first of three grade I events on an Arlington program highlighted by the Arlington Million (gr. IT). It is the third leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple which began with the Arlington Classic on May 23, and continued with the American Derby on July 11.
Reb won that American Derby by a head after coming with a huge stretch run under Julien Leparoux. It was the stakes debut for the son of Stormy Atlantic–Sweet Baby Jane, by Kingmambo, who broke his maiden on the Keeneland Polytrack in April and won a one-mile allowance on Churchill Downs’ turf in May.
Bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Reb was bought for $100,000 as a 2-year-old. Leparoux will be in the irons once more for trainer Rusty Arnold.
Virginia Tarra Trust’s Illinois homebred Giant Oak was fifth, beaten two lengths, as the odds-on favorite in the American Derby. The son of Giant's Causeway was subsequently placed fourth after a troubled trip in which he was bumped and steadied. Prior to that, Giant Oak won the Arlington Classic by a length for his first stakes triumph.
Trained by locally-based Chris Block, Giant Oak was on the Triple Crown trail throughout the spring. He finished runner-up in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) but was held out of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and returned to turf.
Also coming out of the American Derby are Oil Man and Proceed Bee. Oil Man, bred in Ireland and trained by John Sadler, finished third by only a half-length but was placed fifth after stewards determined he interfered with rivals. The Pyrus colt won the Cinema Handicap (gr. IIIT) in June on the Hollywood Park turf. Proceed Bee crossed the wire fourth in the American Derby but was placed third.
Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith’s Black Bear Island is the lone European-based starter in the field and was installed as the 4-1 second choice. The son of Sadler’s Wells won the Totesport.com Dante Stakes (Eng-II) at York in May and was third two starts back in the King Edward VII Stakes (Eng-II) in June at Ascot. He is trained by top European trainer Aidan O’Brien, who won the 2000 Secretariat with Ciro. Top rider Johnny Murtagh flies in from Europe for the mount.
Starlight Partners' Take the Points was fourth in his turf debut, beaten only a length and a half in the June 20 Colonial Turf Cup (gr. IIT), and last out was third by less than a length in the July 18 Virginia Derby (gr. IIT) —both at Colonial Downs. The Even the Score colt seeks his first stakes win in six tries.