ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- The French horse Shamdinan came to the Secretariat Stakes a virtual unknown to Thoroughbred people in the U.S., jockey Julien Leparoux included. But the instructions Leparoux got before the Secretariat were quite simple.
"They said, 'Ride her like you rode Gorella,' " Leparoux said.
Good plan. Gorella won the Beverly D. last year with a powerhouse move from the back of the pack, which is exactly how Leparoux and Shamdinan triumphed in the Grade 1, $400,000 Secretariat. Held up well behind a moderate early pace, Shamdinan began his move going into the far turn, reached contention at the top of the stretch, and wore down Red Giant, who ran well in defeat, to score a half-length victory.
Shamdinan, who raced in the name of trainer Doug O'Neill, but was saddled Saturday by local trainer Chris Block, made his first start since being privately purchased by owner Paul Bagosian, and was trained up to the race by the Frenchman Alain de Royer-Dupre. O'Neill said last week that Shamdinan, a robust chestnut colt, would join his California string after Saturday's race.
On the short-term agenda might be a start in the Del Mar Derby, but if he's good enough Shamdinan also earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, thanks to the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program. Shamdinan is BC eligible and wouldn't have to be supplemented.
The Arlington turf was labeled good for the Secretariat, but was the sort of softer going that tends to favor Europeans.
"It's what I'd call a dead turf," said Garrett Gomez, who rode Red Giant. "They have to work to get over it."
Shamdinan had hated boggy going when he was badly beaten last out in the Irish Derby, but on turf more similar to Saturday's, he'd been a good third of 20 in the French Derby.
Saturday, he and Leparoux sat, as Pleasant Strike went out to set the early pace, pursued on the outside by Fleeting Shadow, with favored Admiralofthefleet down inside in third. Positions remained virtually unchanged through a quarter-mile in 24.97 and a half in 48.94, but with a half-mile left in the race, Leparoux asked Shamdinan to begin moving - and liked what he felt, even though Red Giant had first run.
"At the half-mile pole, I thought I would win," Leparoux said. "At the eighth pole, I knew I had him."
The top two were much the best, with Going Ballistic some 5 1/2 lengths back in third, and Admiralofthefleet a mildly troubled fourth. Shamdinan was timed in 2:04.02 for 1 1/4 miles, and paid $11.60 to win.
Sea O'Erin: Another upset by Spotsgone
Spotsgone registered his second major upset of the meet, leading wire to wire in the $148,500 Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Handicap in his first start on turf.
With Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires riding for his brother, trainer Jenks Fires, Spotsgone opened a big lead in midstretch, then was under heavy pressure to hold off favored Galantas by a head. Load a Chronic finished another 2 1/2 lengths back in third in a field of eight.
Spotsgone, owned by Robert Yagos, won the Hanshin Handicap on the Arlington Polytrack earlier in the meet as an 81-1 shot. He returned $35.80 in the Sea O'Erin, an about one-mile turf race run in 1:38.10 over a yielding course.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee
Arlington Park, 7th Race - August 11, 2007