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Year after year, Arlington Million hits the high notes
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff

Gio Ponti, named after a famous architect, has designs on standing in the winner's circle when the 27th running of the Arlington Million concludes today.

 

Four Footed Fotos

Last year's Arlington Million made history with a 1-2-3 finish by foreign horses. Jockey Ioritz Mendizabal, above, rode Spirit One to victory ahead of favorite Archipenko. This year's favorite is an American horse, Gio Ponti.

 

John Starks | Staff Photographer

Einstein, getting a workout Thursday under the guidance of rider Julie Pitts, figures to mount a challenge in today's Arlington Million at Arlington Park racecourse.

 

Four Footed Fotos

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Published: 8/7/2009 9:29 PM | Updated: 8/7/2009 10:03 PM

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If you go

What: Arlington Million Day, featuring three Grade 1 stakes races, The Million, Beverly D and Secretariat, on the world-class track's famous turf course.

Where: Arlington Park racecourse on Euclid Avenue between Wilke Road and Route 53.

Tickets: $15 general admission

TV: 3:30-5 p.m. on ESPN

Today's schedule

• Gates open at 10 a.m.

• 10:45 a.m. - noon: Dining with the Dynasty jockey autograph session in the Paddock

• 11:15 to 12:15 p.m.: Joe Kristufek, Daily Herald handicapper, discusses winning ways at Starting Gate Theatre

• First post at 12:15 p.m. with 12 live races throughout the day. Secretariat Stakes at 3:05 p.m., Beverly D at 3:52 p.m., and Arlington Million at 4:42 p.m.

• 1:30 - 2:45 p.m.: Dining with the Dynasty jockey autograph session in the Paddock

Extras: Pony rides and petting zoo; equine art showcase; live acoustic-driven rock on the Miller Lite band stage provided by Dave Tamkin & Company.

Sunday's schedule

• Gates open at 11:15 a.m.

• Noon: members of the Junior Jockey Club will meet in the Paddock to discuss sports photography with the track photographer.

• 1 p.m. first post time with 9 live races

Extras: Brookfield Zoo on hand to entertain families in the park, plus pony rides and a petting zoo

Source: Arlington Park

I know a guy who loves horse racing, loves Arlington Park, and really loves the Arlington Million, but he swears the only way the Million will ever reach the level of true spectacle is for it to get its own theme song.

The Kentucky Derby has "My Old Kentucky Home," the Preakness kicks off with "Maryland My Maryland," and the horses at Belmont parade to the strains of "New York, New York," he argues.

So how about hiring some local musician to pen a song perfect for Arlington's showcase event?

While a Million tune might be a nice touch for the world's first $1 million turf race, the argument here is that this race doesn't need it in order to become a spectacle.

It already is.

Just ask the folks who were there in 1981 to witness a head-bobbing thriller between The Bart and John Henry, a finish that was special enough to be immortalized in bronze.

Or how about those who watched from the tent city erected from the ashes as Teleprompter won the "Miracle Million" less than a month after fire burned down the original Arlington grandstand in 1985?

Ask them about the blanket finish in 2002 when favored Beat Hollow emerged from the pack and won by a neck.

Or the crazy end to the 2005 Million when Storming Home dislodged rider Gary Stevens in the shadow of the finish line, setting off a frenzy of action that might still be getting sorted out. In the end, it was Powerscourt in the winner's circle.

In between there was hockey great Wayne Gretzky's Golden Pheasant storming to a win in 1990, Arlington riding legend Pat Day guiding Paradise Creek to victory in 1994, and Chester House winning the 2000 Million, highlighting the return to racing of Arlington after a three-year layoff.

This year has the promise of being another Million to remember, but there are questions to be answered:

• Can morning-line favorite Gio Ponti make it four Grade I wins in a row?

• Is Cima de Triomphe as good as some in the know have been whispering this week?

• Can Precious Passion sneak out a wire-to-wire victory at a decent price?

• Is this finally the day Einstein's luck turns out for the better?

• How will a projected firm turf course and the expected heat and humidity affect the European contingent Saturday afternoon?

If you can figure it out before the field of nine reaches the post at about 4:45 p.m., you might make yourself a tidy profit.

And that's the name of that tune.