BY: DEREK KIRCHNER
As the 2019 Breeders’ Cup draws nearer with each passing day, the fall racing calendar sees an uptick in high-profile races across the country as the best in the sport strut their stuff in search of automatic qualifying bids and tune ups for their respective division championships. The various conditions of stakes races offered also gives trainers a chance to flex their muscles, evaluate their barns and put fellow conditioners on alert.
Got Stormy used Saratoga’s Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap to do the former.
Chad Brown certainly used Saturday’s Arlington Park card to do the latter.
According to most bettors and analysts, a filly was supposed to win the Fourstardave. To borrow from a common refrain regarding trainers heard around the track, it was the other filly who stormed home to victory.
While the field of ten let Todd Pletcher’s Gidu open a double-digit length lead and set blistering fractions of :22.65 and :44.61 through the opening half-mile, Got Stormy was content to sit in mid-pack under Ricardo Santana, Jr. and let the leader tire out before turning on the jets inside the final furlong. She surged past Gidu before overtaking Made You Look with a sixteenth of a mile to run and won by two-and-a-half lengths despite late charges from Raging Bull and Uni, the second-choice and favorite, respectively, on the tote board.
Aided Gidu’s blazing early pace, Got Stormy – who’s sire Get Stormy won this race in 2010 – was able to set a new track record, covering the one-mile contest in 1:32 flat. Her victory gave Mark Casse his second Fourstardave victory following World Approval in 2017 as Got Stormy became the first filly or mare to enter the winner’s circle as victor in the race’s history.
The win also punched her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November.
With a quartet of graded stakes featuring the 37th running of the Arlington Million, Brown was able to pull off a four-for-four sweep of the day’s action at the suburban Chicago track.
To kick things off, Irish-bred Sistercharlie pulled clear for a three-length victory in a track record time of 1:52.43 to repeat in the Beverly D. Stakes to punch her ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and become the first two-time winner of the race. It was the fifth straight visit to the Beverly D. winner’s circle for Brown, who also captured the 2011 edition. After settling towards the rear of the field through the early going, jockey John Velazquez began urging the bay mare and she responded immediately with a prolonged run off the turn before cruising past her rivals in the stretch with little urging from Velazquez.
The win marked the fifth straight Grade 1 victory for the daughter of Myboycharlie, who is following the exact same prep schedule she used in 2018 – wins in the Diana and Beverly D. Stakes – before capturing the Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs.
Brown, who captured the 2017 Arlington Million with Beach Patrol and brought back 2018 victor Robert Bruce for this year’s race, gave himself a trump card with heavyweight Bricks and Mortar as he sought his third straight Million crown. This year’s race drew the attention of several European raiders, including a pair from stalwart Aidan O’Brien: Magic Wand, who was scratched out of the Beverly D. in favor of a chance at glory here, and Hunting Horn, a winner in the Group 3 Hampton Court at Royal Ascot last year.
Despite a valiant effort by Magic Wand, who didn’t see Hunting Horn become the rabbit he was expected to be yet still held on for second, it was Bricks and Mortar who showed his superior class as he earned his sixth straight victory dating to December 2018 – including four Grade 1 triumphs – and earned a spot in the starting gate for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
A projected finalist for horse of the year at this point of the season, his five-for-five start to 2019 has come at five different tracks covering eight- to ten-furlongs and over surfaces ranging from yielding (G1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational) to good (G1 Old Forester Turf Classic) to firm (G1 Manhattan Stakes).
Brown’s other victories at the track came from Valid Point in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes and Café Americano in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes. He also became the first trainer to sweep all four graded stakes on the Arlington Million card.
While other divisions may be lacking for star power or a clear leader to emerge, there’s no doubt the turf divisions will shine throughout the fall racing season.