Martin Panza, the senior vice president of racing operations for the New York Racing Association, stressed the importance of “big event” days while speaking at The Jockey Club Round Table at Saratoga this week.
Of course, the idea is not new. Allen Gutterman produced one of the first big event days, “Million Dollar Babies,” while the marketing guru for Meadowlands harness.
And Arlington Park, near Chicago, has been doing it since carding the first Arlington Million program in 1981.
It makes me feel old that the Arlington Million will turn 33 years old this Saturday. It was the world’s first million-dollar horse race and remains just as prestigious today.
The Chicago card offers four major races: the $400,000 American St. Leger, the $500,000 Secretariat, the $750,000 Beverly D and the Arlington Million.
I have an opinion in all four, so open up your Daily Racing Form and let’s handicap.
In the St. Leger, Eye of The Storm (6-1) jumped off the page at me. He won a Group 3 race at Leopardstown on Aug. 7, and trainer Aidan O’Brien ships him to the U.S. for a race nine days later. He’ll race first time with Lasix, a legal diuretic in the U.S. He also is dropping 14 pounds, from 135 to 121. Stable rider Ryan Moore has the mount.
In the Secretariat, Adelaide (8-5) looks like the surest winner in the all stakes Pick 4. He was narrowly upset by long shot Mr. Speaker in the Belmont Derby last time. He has the same trainer and jockey as Eye of The Storm, O’Brien and Moore. The only colt I fear is Tourist, who will try to lead wire to wire.
The Beverly D looks like an open race, and I prefer two horses, Alterite (4-1) and Euro Charline (8-1). Alterite was too eager in the Diana off an eight-month layoff. She fought for the early lead when she likes to race covered up and rally late.
Euro Charline ran well at Ascot, which should transfer well in here. Moore rides for trainer Marco Botti, so the jock could have a monster day.
The Million drew only seven horses, but it includes last year’s winner, Real Solution (5-2), and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician (7-5).
Real Solution won the Manhattan last out and is flattered by two horses that he beat, next-out winners Kaigun and Seek Again. Kaigun just won the Play the King at Woodbine, while Seek Again won the Fourstardave at Saratoga.
Magician is a world-class grass horse, and if he runs his “A” race, he is the likely winner. Joseph O’Brien, the son of the trainer, has the mount.
■ COLLMUS GETS NYRA GIG — Larry Collmus was named the new announcer at the New York Racing Association tracks. He replaces the retiring Tom Durkin.
Collmus will begin at NYRA in April 2015, basically calling the races during the Belmont Park and Saratoga meets.
Collmus currently announces at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park. He will retain the job at Gulfstream Park during the winter championship meet. And after he calls two short meets at Churchill this fall, he will leave that position.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.