Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Miracle Million

Teleprompter won the 1985 Arlington Million in front-running fashion in a time of 2:03 2/5 under the ride of Tony Ives. This seems like such a simple sentence on the face of it. OK, great, horse goes out and gets the lead, turns back the challengers, and wins a million-dollar horse race. Of course, there is so much more to the story than just the winner of the 1985 Arlington Million.

The 1985 Arlington Million was run less than a month after the grandstand at Arlington Park just about burned to the ground as the result of a devastating fire that thankfully didn't cause any injuries or fatalities. How could the racetrack possibly run the race after such a disaster? They had fortitude and determination on their side and the belief that they could get the job done to put on the race and the NBC television broadcast that went along with it.

The Arlington Million had been run just four times before 1985 and had already taken its place on the racing calendar as an important event for turf runners from around the world. Teleprompter, the 1985 winner, was from Great Britain. John Henry won an epic Inaugural Arlington Million by overcoming the gritty and gutty performance of The Bart, a performance that is immortalized with a statue at the current Arlington Park. After that first Million, the race sustained the momentum with a win by Perrault in 1982 for trainer Charlie Whittingham with a time (1:58 4/5) that survived as track record until Awad broke it in 1995. Three-year-old Tolomeo won the third Arlington Million in 1983 and he remains the only three-year-old ever to win the race. John Henry claimed a second Million the following year at nine years old. He was acclaimed as a "living legend" at the end of that win by Arlington track announcer Phil Georgeff and is still the only horse to have won the Arlington Million twice.

So, as you can see, the Arlington Million was a race that was going to be run if at all possible. There was essentially 24 hours a day of reconstruction at the track in the small slice of time they had to put together a modest grandstand of tents and towers. There is an excellent documentary that has aired on "Inside Information" to show just how impossible it was to do this, but get done it did. What also must be remembered is that not only was there reconstruction of the new, temporary facility, but also the removal of the massive debris of the old, burnt-out grandstand. It was a tremendous undertaking, but it was accomplished by those fine folks at Arlington Park, and in the end, they had a tremendous day of racing that culminated with Teleprompter's victory under Tony Ives. The race has been run continuously at Arlington Park since, with the sole exception of moving the race to Woodbine in 1988 during construction of the current, resplendent Arlington Park facility, which re-opened in 1989.

Tune in tomorrow for a preview of the 29th Arlington Million from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

No comments: