On a day when nothing seemed to go right for American turf horses, it seemed only fitting that one of the nation’s best was narrowly defeated in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) (VIDEO) Aug. 11.
After leading in deep stretch, last year’s Million champion The Tin Man was overtaken in the final few strides by Canadian-bred Jambalaya, who rallied to win by three-quarters of a length and earn a berth in the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf later this year at Monmouth Park.
Jambalaya, who went off at odds of 7-1, was ridden by Robby Albarado, who also guided Curlin to victory in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The 5-year-old gelding by Langfuhr won for the eighth time in 21 career starts, finishing the 1 1/4-mile on Arlington’s turf in a time of 2:04.76, the third-slowest in race history. In doing so, he denied The Tin Man a second consecutive Million victory.
Trained by Catherine Day-Phillips, Jambalaya paid $17.20, $6.60, $3.80. Doctor Dino finished a length back in third.
There were three Grade I stakes on the turf at Arlington, with European horses winning the other two.
Sunriver, trained by Todd Pletcher, set a relatively slow pace, taking the lead into the stretch with a 1:40.57 mile. From there, he followed The Tin Man into deep stretch, eventually falling to Jambalaya, who was closing determinedly on the outside. Sunriver finished fourth.
Jambalaya saved ground for most of the race, staying just off the pace while in back of Sunriver and The Tin Man.
“She (Catherine Day Phillips) gave me very specific instructions,” said Albarado. “He breaks really sharp. I figured I’d try to stay behind The Tin Man. He let me have my way and at every point in the race, he was there for me. He’s a great ride, and I’m proud of him. It’s always been my goal to win the Arlington Million, and now it’s one that I’ve accomplished.”
The Tin Man jockey Victor Espinoza said the softer turf may have made the difference. “He ran awesome. He’s a very talented old horse. He likes to run, and he’s just unbelievable," he said.
"The turf is a little soft for him, but even then he tried really hard. We hooked up at the three-eighths with the other horse, and they put out a lot of extra effort when they go head-to-head. The last 20 yards, he was feeling it! If the turf had been a little more firm, I think he could have won it.”
After Market, expected to be one of the favorites, was scratched from the race due to those unfavorable turf conditions.