By Brian W. Spencer —-
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (August 9, 2017) – The Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes, one of the premier Grade I turf stakes for 3-year-olds in America and throughout the world, has drawn an exceptional sextet of sophomores in 2017. Named for one of history’s greatest thoroughbreds, the international event has been contested at 1¼ miles over Arlington International Racecourse’s world-renowned turf course since 1985 and this year’s winner will attempt to live up to such standouts as six-time, three-continent Grade/Group I-winning Breeders’ Cup victor Highland Reel (2015), champion Kitten’s Joy (2004) and subsequent world-record setter Hawkster (1989).
The Americans and Europeans will once again face off with heavy hitters on each side, topped by Amerman Racing’s dual Grade I-winning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance and Godolphin’s Group I-placed, dual Group II victor Permian.
An impressive 5-for-8 lifetime with nearly $1.5-million in earnings, Brian Lynch-trained Oscar Performance will likely play catch-me-if-you-can on the front end under Jose Ortiz from post four. Last out, the son of Kitten’s Joy was brilliant in victory, scoring a tour de force in the rich Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational at this trip. The homebred will try to improve upon his full-brother Oscar Nominated’s fifth-place finish in last year’s Secretariat, though said sibling was only beaten 1½ lengths and entered the event with considerably fewer accomplishments.
Permian enters for top Newmarket-based trainer Mark Johnston and was last seen leading throughout until the very last bob in the Group I Grand Prix de Paris around Saint-Cloud’s left-handed course. Cutting back from 12 to 10 furlongs on Saturday, the son of Teofilo (IRE) won the 12-furlong Group II King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and the Group II Dante Stakes at York over its left-handed course and an extended 10 furlongs. Well-raced and battle-tested, the often forwardly placed Darley-bred likes a fight and will be reunited with William Buick from post three.
The French will be represented by lightly raced Afandem (FR), who will be piloted by Frankie Dettori from the rail. Owned by the powerful Al Shaqab Racing and trained by top French conditioner Jean-Claude Rouget — whose Gold and Steel (FR) shipped into Chicago and won the 1995 American Derby — the son of top young stud Zoffany (IRE) has improved noticeably in his last two starts, including a half-length loss in the Group II Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte — a race won by Bayrir en route to 2012 Secretariat success.
The top-two finishers from this year’s American Derby are returning and stepping up in class in the form of Lothenbach Stables’ Ian Wilkes-trained speedy Sonic Boom and Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Mike Maker-trained Gorgeous Kitten. Two-time stakes-winning front-runner Sonic Boom could throw a monkey wrench into the pace plans of Oscar Performance and Permian, having upped his game since being allowed to run freely on the front end. Julien Leparoux rides from post two, while Florent Geroux picks up the mount on Gorgeous Kitten from post five, who will attempt to give the Ramseys their third victory in the race and Maker his second. The connections combined with 2013 victor Admiral Kitten.
Always dangerous Aidan O’Brien will attempt to win his fifth Secretariat after being denied such in a photo finish last year, sending out Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael B. Tabor’s Taj Mahal (IRE). Coming out of unplaced efforts in the Group I Coral Eclipse Stakes against older horses and the Group I Irish Derby a week apart in early July, the full-brother to champion Gleneagles (IRE), Irish classic winner Marvellous (IRE) and unplaced 2016 Grade I Beverly D. runner Coolmore (IRE) gets marginal class relief here and must improve upon the form that saw him finish a game fourth — beaten 1½ lengths — in the Group I Prix du Jockey Club in early June. Ryan Moore rides from post six.
Arlington International Racecourse – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run a 71-day meet in 2017 from Friday, May 5 through September 23. Arlington International Racecourse, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates 10 off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities in Aurora, Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Waukegan, Villa Park, Rockford, Hodgkins, McHenry, Green Oaks and Orland Hills. Arlington International Racecourse is a proud member of America’s Best Racing. Information on Arlington International Racecourse and Trackside OTB can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arlingtonpark and www.facebook.com/tracksideotb, and on Twitter at @Arlington_Park for the latest happenings, @arlingtonracing for the latest racing news and @tracksideotb for all things pertaining to off-track wagering.