August 22, 2010

The House Horse and Paddy O’Prado is Too Good

“I’d rather win this race than the Kentucky Derby,” the words came from Richard Duchossois, as he tried to hold back the tears. He got his wish. The man who has championed Chicago racing for nearly thirty years, finally won the race that he always wanted. The Grade 1 Beverly D. is one of the premier turf races for fillies and mares held in America, but more importantly it is the race that is named after his late wife.

In a race that looked about as wide open as a race could look going in, it was the house horse, Éclair de Lune, who took over the contest as the field turned for home. Sprinting for the wire, the four-year-old German bred was easily able to hold off the late charge of Hot Cha Cha and Gypsy’s Warning to win by 1 ½ lengths. It was the third lifetime win in ten starts for the filly Duchossois purchased last Fall, and her first in four starts in America. As Éclair de Lune crossed the wire, it didn’t take long for the large Arlington crowd to realize that the winner was Mr. D’s horse. The horse, local rider Junior Alvarado, and legendary trainer Ron McAnally received a rousing applause for their achievement, but it was the owner of Arlington Park who brought the fans to their feet. Beverly Duchossois passed away thirty years ago, and yesterday it was a beloved 88-year-old man who emotionally accepted the winner’s trophy in the race that he always wanted to win.

Not to be outdone by the house horse, Paddy O’Prado once again flashed the brilliance that we have come to expect this Summer. More than just a budding turf star, the son of recently deceased sire, El Prado, has now reached a point where it would be tough not to call the three-year-old colt the finest turf horse in North America. Despite his overwhelming favoritism at 1-2, yesterday’s task was not an easy one. Local horse Workin For Hops had been very impressive in winning the first two legs of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, and European raider, Wigmore Hall was coming off two wins in England and had looked great since arriving in Chicago. Both of Paddy’s main rivals would run their race yesterday, but it would make little matter in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes.

Paddy 'O Prado made a quick and decisive thrust early in the Arlington stretch overwhelming the local hope. As the English horse made a bold rally on the outside, it was soon evident that Paddy O’Prado had plenty left in the tank. The margin may have been only a length and a quarter, but it looked like they could have gone around the track again without threatening the winner. Next up for the powerful gray will be Belmont's Turf Classic in six weeks. It will be his first attempt against older horses, and from there Paddy O’Prado will have a date in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, where he will likely be America’s best chance to reclaim victory for the home team.

What’s this, the Arlington Million only gets third billing on ZATT? I’m afraid so. In quest of becoming the first back-to-back winner in the 28-year history of the Arlington Million, Gio Ponti ran a winning type of race. At the back of the pack for the first part of the race, he uncorked a powerful rally that carried him widest of all turning for home. Once straightened out, he continued his powerful acceleration to collar leader Tazeez, and quickly assumed control of the prestigious race. I would like to tell you that Gio Ponti coasted home and was a most popular winner of the Million, but of course, I can not.

On Million Day 2010, there would be a fly in the ointment, and that fly’s name was Debussy. A four-year-old Irish bred colt, trained by John Gosden, Debussy was a grade 2 winner in France and a grade 3 winner in England, but had won only 4 of 13 lifetime starts and had earned about one-tenth of the earnings of Gio Ponti. That would all change yesterday, as the son of Diesis showed a brilliant turn of foot in the final eighth of a mile to shock the favorite. With young rider William Buick in tow, Debussy waited patiently early in the stretch, before bursting through a seam and angling to the rail. As Gio Ponti looked to be home free, there appeared Debussy running like a horse afire along the paint. Before anyone knew what had hit them, Debussy had shot to the lead and won going away by a half length. The victory would have been sweet for Gio Ponti, but the European horse had earned the victory. It was easily the biggest win in Debussy’s career, and for those lucky enough to back him, his 11-1 odds were an excellent reward.

Photo by Four Footed Fotos


ja.raymond said...

It's heart-warming that Mr. Duchossois won that race. He's been thru it for many yrs with The Grand Old Lady, so it's nice to see that he got his wife's race for himself :)
On the Million matter, I was totally ticked off at Debussy for denying our defending champ his second in a row! I was so elated watching Ponti cruise along to the wire, then BLAM - Second by a half!It's a good thing my son was a work, he'd have thought Mom lost her mind - jumping, cursing, swinging at the air: That bleepity-bleep Irish-bred..(expletive, expletive..!) LOL In spite of how I feel about it all, I have to hand it to Debussy, he did run a great race. And if they run together in the BC, Ponti & Kent will be ready for them!! :)

Brian Zipse said...

I feel your pain Jane ... it was easy to root for Gio Ponti yesterday.

Cniema said...

Very moving article. Wish I could have been there. Thanks for sharing, Brian!

D.P. said...

The best three horses won yesterday which means the U.S. is up shit's creek without a paddle for any BC race on the grass.

Brian Appleton said...

The Beverly D. was such a sweet, touching story, you couldn't ask for a better ending!

LDP said...

Paddy, IMO has the Euro acceleration and the ability to stay close to the lead or sit back off the pace, which IMO gives him a big advantage. I can't wait for his next race it should be interesting to see if he can look just as brilliant against older horses.