Roberts Says Sabiango Headed for 'Million

(from Arlington Park track notes)
Internationally known as "The Man Who Listens to Horses" after authoring a successful book by that name, Monty Roberts is bringing his 6-year-old chestnut horse Sabiango to the Arlington Million (gr. IT) Aug. 14.

"That's the plan," said Roberts Saturday morning, speaking by phone from his California headquarters at Flag Is Up Farm.

Sabiango is trained by Bob Baffert, who also is the conditioner of another projected Million starter, Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) winner Senor Swinger, who is owned by Robert and Beverly Lewis.

Sabiango immediately becomes one of the leading contenders in the Arlington Million. He won the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park June 12, and was being considered for the Arlington Handicap before being sidelined by an elevated temperature.

Before that Sabiango had not raced since a poor performance in the group I Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin last December. The German-bred chestnut was leased to Roberts in January of this year.

Sabiango was bred in Germany by Stiftung Gestut Fahrhoff, also the owners and breeders of 2001 Arlington Million winner Silvano. Sabiango, by Acatenango, a leading German leading sire, is out of the mare Spirit of Eagles, who was originally bought by Roberts in the United States before being shipped to Germany. Spirit of Eagles is also the dam of Silvano.

"She was just a cheap mare, but I liked her way of moving," said Roberts, famous for his instinctive rapport with all things equine following a childhood in Salinas, California, where he spent a great deal of time observing herds of wild mustangs.

"I had an immediate infatuation with (Sabiango) as a 3-year-old," said Roberts, who has spent some months for several years working in Germany at Stiftung Gestut Fahrhoff. "To me, he looked bigger and stronger than Silvano, and I loved him as soon as I laid eyes on him, but I certainly don't want to minimize the work Andreas Wohler and the farm in Germany did with him before I got him.

"He was supposed to run in a prep for the Whittingham, but he came down with another temperature episode," Roberts said. "We had a horse that was ready to run but no place to run him except in the Whittingham, so we went ahead with our plans. Then he was supposed to get a work before a prep race for the Million but he came down with a temperature again and missed the work. But he runs so well when fresh that the time off since that last race should not be a problem."

In the late '80s Roberts' work caught the attention of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. She invited Roberts to do a demonstration at Windsor Castle and was so impressed with his work she urged him to write the book that became an international bestseller.

Among the better known Roberts' inventions is a sheepskin-lined blanket that has a remarkable calming influence on horses that are uncomfortable in the starting gate.