Arlington Million Week Begins: Barn Notes

From the Media Team at Arlington Park:

  • Block Carries Arlington Banner at International Festival
  • First European Contingent Arrives at Arlington


Year by year, the International Festival of Racing is known for its salty bunch of European contenders that ship over for the main events, but the locally based horsemen also are known for a competitive presence as well.

Long time Arlington International Racecourse trainer Chris Block will be represented by Captivating Moon in the Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes and possibly Prado’s Sweet Ride in the Grade I $600,000 Beverly D. Both of Block’s trainees hit the track on Sunday morning for their final serious preparations for Saturday’s big events. Owned by Lothenbach Stables, Captivating Moon breezed a half-mile in :48.00 under jockey C.H. Marquez, Jr. It was the ninth-fastest of 46 recorded works at the four-furlong distance, but it was stablemate Prado’s Sweet Ride who recorded the swiftest of the 46 breezes. The Grade III Modesty Handicap runner-up drilled a half-mile in :46.20.

Captivating Moon will add blinkers for the Secretariat and will be ridden by Florent Geroux, who piloted the 3-year-old son of Malibu Moon in four of his last five outings.

“They both worked fine,” Block said. “Captivating Moon had a nice work. He’s been doing well between the American Derby and this. With the Million being a mile-and-a-quarter I’m sure the fractions won’t be real lively, but it sounds like a big field so hopefully we’ll get some pace in there.

“He’s adding blinkers for the Secretariat so I used those this morning. I came up with this idea about a week ago to see if I can get him to be a little more tactical. I’m hoping that the blinkers would keep him more focused and keep him strong for the start of the run.”

While Captivating Moon is confirmed for the Secretariat Stakes, Block is still considering running Prado’s Sweet Ride, who raced tenth in last year’s Beverly D.

“She always looks good on the synthetic surface,” Block said of Prado’s Sweet Ride. “She’s ready to go, it was a good and solid maintenance breeze for her. I’m sort of on the fence on whether to run her or not. The race is coming up quite a bit deeper than I expected. I’ll talk to the owners tonight and make a decision tomorrow night on whether she goes to the entry box. They may want to run because she does get a free entry, but I need to discuss with them.”

Block has had representation in all of the International Festival of Racing’s Grade I events in the past, but is still in search of a win in the trio of races. In addition, he is currently tied with the late Harry Trotsek for the most stakes victories at Arlington. Both Block and Trotsek own a total of 44 stakes wins at the Chicagoland oval.

“It would mean the world to me, this is home,” Block said. “The Beverly D. is a real prestigious race and there’s a lot of phenomenal horses and horsemen that have in the past won it so that would be incredible. The Secretariat is something that I have always wanted to not only have a horse in, but win because Secretariat was one of my favorite racehorses of all time, so that would mean a lot.”

Block even remembers watching Secretariat’s dominant 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes.

“I was seven years old and I remember it,” Block recalled. “I was watching it on TV and the way he won the Belmont, I was so young and didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, but just remembering the distance that he put between the rest of the field in the middle of that far turn to the wire was just unbelievable. My mom and dad took me to visit him at Claiborne – I specifically remember seeing him and I was in awe looking at him in the pasture.”

On the International Festival of Racing undercard, Block stated that Wile E. Peyote would point to the $100,000 Bruce D. Memorial Stakes, while Strollin The Bayou would either join her stablemate in the Bruce D. against males or race in the Grade III $100,000 Pucker Up Stakes, which Block won with Vacare (2006) and Leading Astray (2012).


Six of the 10 European runners expected to run in the International Festival of Racing arrived on the Arlington International Racecourse backstretch early Sunday morning to begin quarantine.

The contingent includes Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million contenders Circus Couture (IRE) and Century Dream (IRE), Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes contenders Ming (IRE), Platinum Warrior (IRE) and Bandua as well as Nyaleti (IRE), who races in the Grade I $600,000 Beverly D. Stakes.

The Air France flight arrived in Chicago at approximately 10:00 p.m. on Saturday evening. The sextet of Thoroughbreds will spend 36-48 hours in quarantine and are likely to step out on the track for training Tuesday morning.

The remaining quartet are schedule to arrive late Monday evening for trainer Aidan O’Brien. The Ballydoyle-based conditioner sends Deauville (IRE) for the Arlington Million, Athena (IRE) for the Beverly D. as well as Hunting Horn (IRE) and Lucius Tiberius (IRE) for the Secretariat.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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