Published in the Aug. 24 issue of The Blood-Horse
The roster of Arlington Million (gr. IT) alumni reads like a "Who's Who" of American turf runners for the past two decades, with a generous sprinkling of foreign runners as well. But never in the first 19 runnings did bettors fancy a horse the way they did Beat Hollow in Arlington Million XX on Aug. 17. Not even John Henry, who won two of the first four Millions and finished second in another, was pounded at the windows the way the 5-year-old Juddmonte Farms homebred was this year. The support came despite Beat Hollow's loss to Sarafan, one of his Million opponents, in the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar, in which he had a nightmare trip. Only Star of Cozzene, who won the 1993 Million at odds of 4-5 after the field was decimated by an equine virus and the race-day scratch of principal rival Lure, had gone to the post as odds-on in the Million. Beat Hollow did carry an aura of invincibility in the race. His connections, owner-breeder Juddmonte, trainer Bobby Frankel, and jockey Jerry Bailey, have a combined 11 Eclipse Awards. They also had history on their side, having teamed up to win the 2000 Million with Chester House. But had the fans known how competitive this Million would be, they surely would have spread their money around accordingly. Less than a length separated the top six finishers in the nine-horse field. And the winner? Beat Hollow. Yep, he paid $3.40. And for Team Juddmonte, it was just another day at the office. The Frankel-trained, Juddmonte-owned Chiselling topped off Million day by winning the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT). Their only misstep came in the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT), when the Juddmonte mare Tates Creek failed to menace and Gary Tanaka's 4-year-old filly Golden Apples shone brightest. For Beat Hollow, though, this was hardly just another day on the job. The five horses who finished immediately behind him might all have turned in more impressive performances. Start with runner-up Sarafan, who lost by a head, and continue with Forbidden Apple, just a nose back of Sarafan in third; Ulundi, a head back in fourth; Falcon Flight, one more nose behind in fifth; and finally Paolini, a neck farther back in sixth. Who was best? Paolini, attempting to make fellow German runner Silvano's jockey, Andreas Suborics, and trainer, Andreas Wohler, the first back-to-back Million winners, might have been the unluckiest of the bunch. The globe-trotting horse was trapped for nearly the entire stretch run, never getting a chance to unleash his late kick. Falcon Flight, who won the local prep, the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT), off a 10-month layoff, came to the Million fighting fit for trainer Donald Burke II. But Tanaka's "other" Million runner (he also owns Sarafan) was trapped on the rail and took up sharply in the final 100 yards. Did it cost him a length? No doubt. Ulundi, the "What's he doing here?" English gelding who had raced over hurdles in five of his previous nine races, was eighth a quarter-mile from home but likely could have won in about a half-dozen more strides. "We had to run wide, and there was no pace," lamented rider Richard Hughes. Indeed, they were all chasing the white silks with the apple on the back worn by Jose Santos, who guided Arthur I. Appleton's Forbidden Apple through fractions of :25.07, :50.18, and 1:14.89. Forbidden Apple, perhaps the best of the lot at a mile, gave way in the final strides. And the slow pace surely did no favors for Sarafan, who lost ground while rallying wide. "If the pace wasn't so slow, if there was a legitimate pace in the race, I think we'd have definitely run him down," said Sarafan's rider, Corey Nakatani. "My horse being where he was (fourth, 2 1/2 lengths back at the first call) really cost him. I think the pace set up for a horse that stays. That horse (Beat Hollow) is obviously a good stayer, and my horse likes to quicken." But bad beats are for also-rans. And America's No. 1 turf horse needed no excuses after posting his seventh win from 10 lifetime starts, boosting his career earnings to $1,754,481 with his dramatic victory, accomplished in 2:02.94 for the 1 1/4 miles. If Beat Hollow, the favorite for the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) in the first future wager pool that closed earlier this month, returns to Arlington as planned for the Oct. 26 World Thoroughbred Championships, it will be for the Mile (gr. IT), his connections emphasized. Bailey, Frankel, and Juddmonte president Dr. John Chandler said they think Beat Hollow would be better at eight furlongs than at 1 1/2 miles. "He'd be much more effective cutting back to a mile," Bailey said after piloting him for the first time in the Million. "I've seen him run a mile and an eighth, and he's got a very explosive move. Today that move was not quite as explosive. It was enough to win, and you've got to give him credit for that. I think if you added another quarter of a mile, it would play into the hands of the horses who really want to go a mile and a half, and not a horse like him with tactical speed and a big burst." When reminded of his classic stayer's breeding, Sadler's Wells out of the Dancing Brave distance mare Wemyss Bight, Frankel was unmoved. "Well, what does that mean?" he retorted. "You've got to go by the way the horse runs. You can't go by the mother and father, or you wouldn't have to race him." Chandler said Beat Hollow's value at stud would double should he win the Mile. Besides, he pointed out, Frankel has the distance horses Skipping and Dance Dreamer being pointed for the Turf, and Juddmonte's Banks Hill, a winner the day after the Million in France, could be back to defend her Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) victory. Chandler is anticipating "a full frontal assault" by Juddmonte runners on Breeders' Cup Day.
Apples' DayAfter watching Golden Apples destroy five top-class rivals, including interim division leader Astra, in the $700,000 Beverly D., trainer Ben Cecil and Tanaka sounded ready to take on all comers in the Filly & Mare Turf. Asked if the "real" Golden Apples had appeared for the Beverly D., Cecil replied, "I think there's still room for quite a bit of improvement, to be honest. I was embarrassed to lead her over for the Ramona Handicap (gr. IT, in which she was beaten a neck by Affluent at Del Mar). She looked disgusting. Skinny. Her coat was long. I was kind of ashamed of her. And she should have won that race. She's come on quite a bit since then just in these last three weeks. I've seen some improvement, and I think she's going to improve quite a lot more, so I'm very excited about it." The Irish-bred daughter of Pivotal, out of the Kaldoun mare Loon, also suffered a throat cyst last spring that Cecil said was the biggest his veterinarian has ever seen. Trainer Laura de Seroux is not ready to throw in the towel for the Allen Paulson Living Trust's Astra, who closed resolutely to finish second, beaten three-quarters of a length. She said the relatively spongy turf, which took heavy rain two days before the race despite being rated "firm," was not to Astra's liking. Jockey Kent Desormeaux went even further, stating, "I don't think she was ever comfortable. She was hard ridden down the backside and she's just not fond of the ground. She can come home in :21 and change, and any horse that can do that not even Golden Apples would catch. But on this ground she just couldn't do it." Continued...(Chart, Equibase)