ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- The gate sprang for the 35th Arlington Million on Saturday and Joel Rosario dropped low in the saddle, getting right up onto the neck of Beach Patrol and urging him forward.
It was as if the 1 1/4-mile Million were being run at a quarter-mile, and for Beach Patrol, it almost was.
The key to unlocking Beach Patrol is to get him out of the gate, get him into the race, and get him relaxed. Rosario did his part and Beach Patrol took care of the rest, giving Rosario his first Million win.
"He's a tricky horse to ride," trainer Chad Brown said. "He doesn't break. Joel had to Quarter Horse him a little bit to get him into position. I feel like he won the race going into the first turn."
Brown? It only seems like he wins every graded turf stakes in the land these days. A race earlier Brown won the Grade 1 Beverly D. for the third year in a row (his horses finished first, second, and fourth in the race), and when Beach Patrol chugged across the finish a half-length in front of 73-1 runner-up Fanciful Angel, Brown became the first trainer to win the Beverly D. and the Million in the same year. The Million dates to 1981, the Beverly D. to 1987.
Beach Patrol is the second horse to win both the Grade 1 Secretariat for 3-year-olds and the Million, following Kicken Kris in 2003 and 2004. Kicken Kris was placed first in his Million when Powerscourt was disqualified. The Million is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race, and Beach Patrol gained an automatic berth with free entry into the BC Turf.
Oak Brook quickly made the lead from post 1 Saturday, and with Beach Patrol coming up to his flank as the field passed the stands for the first time, Oak Brook set moderate splits of 24.45 and 49.53. In behind, Ryan Moore had maneuvered 9-5 favorite Deauville into a perfect spot in the pocket, waiting to see what unfolded.
The Pizza Man, caught wide, moved forward into the far turn, but positions mainly remained unchanged through six furlongs in 1:14.38. Then Beach Patrol attacked Oak Brook, and Moore, anticipating the pacesetter drifting off the fence, guided Deauville through on the rail and into a perfect trip. Deauville punched, but Beach Patrol hit back, turning back Deauville's run and staying on bravely to the finish.
"The horses come to him and he just keeps going forward," Rosario said. "He's a fighter. He likes to be in the game. I had a lot of confidence in him the whole time. They were all coming to me but he never gives up."
Beach Patrol ($11.80) stopped the timer in 2:02.39 over a course rated firm but probably closer to "good." Deauville was out-finished by a neck for place by Fanciful Angel, easily the longest shot in the race, paying $51.40 to place.
Fanciful Angel, who pulled hard early, was making his Grade 1 debut and looked overmatched on paper, but had long been pointed to the Million by trainer Marco Botti.
"On paper he had a lot to find, but he likes a turning track and the race panned out nicely for him," said Daniel Muscutt, who rode his first race in the U.S. "It was a thrill to be here."
Deauville finished a head in front of another longshot, Enterprising, who crept up the fence in the homestretch and finished with good energy while slightly short of room. Just behind Enterprising came Ascend, the Grade 1 Manhattan winner, who broke poorly from post 11 and raced from the back of the pack Saturday, finishing well for fifth. Then came Oak Brook, who held on respectably, Divisidero, Oscar Nominated, Kasaqui, Mekhtaal, Ghost Hunter, and The Pizza Man.
Four-year-old Beach Patrol, by Lemon Drop Kid out of Bashful Bertie, by Quiet American, was bred in Kentucky by Nancy Shuford and is owned by James Covello, Sheep Pond Partners, and Head of Plains Partners LLC. Sheep Pond Partners also are part owners of Beverly D. winner Dacita.
Beach Patrol won three of eight during a productive 3-year-old season but had gone winless in his first four starts in 2017. The colt had gotten caught up in a costly pace battle last out as the favorite in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. Saturday at Arlington, things worked out much better - as they tend to do for Mr. Brown and company.