Aidan O’Brien didn’t make it to Chicago but he was celebrating on the double as Cape Blanco won the Arlington Million on a great day for the Irish trainer.
Just an hour after Treasure Beach won the Secretariat Stakes, O’Brien was cheering from afar as Cape Blanco and jockey triumphed in the big race on Arlington Million Day.
Cape Blanco dominated from start to finish in the 29th running of the race, making O’Brien the only trainer besides Bobby Frankel to win two Grade 1 races on the Arlington Million program.
Frankel won the Million with Beat Hollow and the Secretariat with Chiselling in 2002.
Victory was also sweet for jockey Spencer, riding at Arlington for the first time since 2004 when he crossed the wire first on the O’Brien-trained Powerscourt but was disqualified to fourth for interference.
Winning jockey Spencer wasn’t bitter after his latest triumph however. “I try not to dwell on the past,” he said. “Mine’s pretty colorful, so I look to the future.”
Spencer, who won the Ascot Gold Cup for O’Brien on Fame and Glory this summer, also paid tribute to owner Dr Jim Hay after riding Cape Blanco to a comfortable victory.
“I’ve won two races here in a month and I’m very lucky and people shouldn’t forget that the only reason I’m riding this horse is because of Dr Hay.
“He made a massive investment to get me on good horses. I would have ridden Wigmore Hall but he didn’t win. I can’t tell how much I appreciate their input.”
As for Cape Blanco, Spencer added: “He’s a good tough horse and he’s brilliantly trained. All I did was the steering.
“He is very lazy, he only does what you ask him but you know he will get you there and always is going to find plenty.
“Even in the last furlong I had a look around and he idled for a few strides. That is just the epitome of him.
“When it said seven minutes to post time, those were the longest seven minutes in a long time. He gave me torture at the start, he was just so fresh. He just wanted to get on with it.
“You know when they are like that, he’s very aggressive, so you know he is well.
“I think that any kind of racing suits him. I just think all races suit him. Now he is really back and he is a high class horse and very few horses would win the way he has. He has such a big heart.”
Pundits agreed that Treasure Beach’s Secretariat score was narrow but the Million was over at the top of the stretch as Cape Blanco opened daylight at the three-sixteenths pole and cruised past Gio Ponti by two and half lengths with Dean’s Kitten back in third.
Now two from two in America, Cape Blanco is a live contender for the Breeders Cup after earning an automatic bid and free entry into the BC Turf on Saturday thanks to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program.
“You’d have to, wouldn’t you?” said Alex Cole, racing manager for part-owners Jim and Fitri Hay, when asked if Cape Blanco would be considered for could return to the U.S. later this year.
“The Breeders’ Cup mile-and-a-half, that’d be under consideration. But we do what Aidan tells us to do.”
Part owned by Mrs John Magnier and Michael Tabor, along with the Hays family, Cape Blanco has now won 8 of 14 starts and the winner’s share of the Million boosted his bankroll to more than $3.5 million.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore