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History lesson: Million has attracted the best in racing
By John Leusch | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/7/2008 3:32 PM

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The past two years, Arlington Park's new polytrack surface has received all kinds of attention.

But since 1981, when the first Arlington Million was run, it has been the track's famed turf course which has attracted the attention of thoroughbreds from all over the world.

Things will be no different Saturday when a field of eight - including three from overseas - will leave the starting gate for the 26th Arlington Million.

In the previous 25 runnings of the 1¼-mile turf classic, 17 times the winning horse has been a representative of the United States.

That number includes the first running, when John Henry edged the Bart in what still may be the most exciting finish of all.

The never-to-be forgotten epic battle is immortalized in bronze overlooking the Arlington paddock.

Of course, the United States has been represented by the most starters (173), followed by Great Britain (49), France (32), Canada (12), Germany (6), Ireland (4), Hong Kong (1) and South America (1).

John Henry (1981 and 1984) is also the only horse to win two Millions, and he just missed a third when he was second in 1983.

Other American-based Million champs were Perrault (1982), Estrapade (1986), Manila (1987), Steinlen (1989), Golden Pheasant (1990), Tight Spot (1991), Star of Cozzene (1993), Paradise Creek (1994), Awad (1995), Mecke (1996), Marlin (1997), Chester House (2000), Beat Hollow (2002) and Kicken Kris (2004).

Of the eight horses who have shipped to Arlington Heights from outside the country to win the Million, three have been from England and three from France.

Champions Powerscourt (2005), Tolomeo (1983) and Teleprompter (1985) all represented Great Britain while Dear Doctor (1992), Mill Native (1988) and Sulamani (2003) were from France.

Silvano brought the Million trophy back to Germany in 2001.

Last year, Canadian-based Jambalaya came home first for Catherine Day Phillips, who became the first female trainer to win the Million.

Helen Pitts will try to become the second to train a Million champ when she sends third morning-line favorite Einstein to post Saturday.

The trainers with the most Million wins are Ron McAnally (with Tight Spot and twice with John Henry) and Charles Whittingham (Perreault, Estrapade, and Golden Pheasant).

Golden Pheasant's owners were perhaps the most familiar to the casual horse racing fan.

He was co-owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky and former Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall.

Michael Matz, who trained legendary Barbaro, won the 2004 Million with Kicken Kris.

Kicken Kris was ridden by jockey Kent Desormeaux, who was aboard Kentucky Derby champ Big Brown's well-documented Triple Crown run this spring.

Five jockeys have won two Millions: Jose Santos (Steinlen and Star of Cozzene), Gary Stevens (Marlin and Golden Pheasant), Laffit Pincay Jr. (Perrault and Tight Spot), Jerry Bailey (Beat Hallow and Chester House) and Cash Asmussen (Mill Native and Dear Doctor).

Asmussen did it in the fewest starts (3).

The trainer to win the most Millions (2) in the fewest starts (3) is D. Wayne Lukas. He won with Steinlen in 1989 and Marlin in 1997. His other starter was Steinlen in 1990 when he finished third.