If you really think about it, sports are not hard to figure out. In some games like football, basketball, and baseball, you simply score more than your opponent. Simple plan it is, right? If we think about horse racing, that’s simple too. If you want to win a race like the Arlington Million, just run faster than everyone else.
Much like the game of life, success in sports is not always that easy to figure. Hours, weeks, and sometimes months of planning and training go into a winning equation, especially in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. When you do all the math, concoct a game plan, and then see it executed to perfection, the rewards are a huge payoff in many ways.
Brendan Walsh is quickly becoming one of the brilliant training minds in the racing game. Deft handling of his horses has resulted in some very nice scores in recent times. Coming into the Arlington Million at Churchill Downs on August 13, this native of Cork, Ireland had a plan for his talented Santin.
Having won the Old Forrester Stakes at Churchill on Kentucky Derby day back in May with Santin at this same distance, the big question was how can we replicate the winning run. This is where Walsh used his Irish adding machine and deduced a fantastic formula.
Lightly raced with only seven-lifetime starts, Walsh’s four-year-old son of Distorted Humor was still a bit of a mystery to some. He had three wins, but his only Stakes victory had happened in the aforementioned Old Forrester. His seven opponents in the Million had a combined forty-seven previous trips to the winner’s circle. Heavy hitters like Set Piece, Sacred Life, and Smooth Like Strait meant this was a tall task.
A real hands-on horseman, Brendan Walsh is a guy that understands his runners. Conditioning Santin to peak form coming in might not be enough against this field. He still knew there had to be some game planning based on the opposition and track condition. This is where it all came together.
Breaking alertly, jockey Tyler Gafflione hustled Santin right up off the flank of the pace-setting Smooth Like Strait. Pressing the leader through moderate fractions for this mile and an eighth race (23.85 opening quarter, 47.43 half mile, 110.64 three quarters), Walsh’s charge had the front runner in his cross hairs. Turning for home, Gafflione unleashed the power beneath him and rolled through the wire a widening length and three-quarters the best.
“Tyler rode him exactly as we had planned”, said Walsh. “From watching the female race earlier on the card (Beverly D) we knew we couldn’t give Smooth Like Strait an easy lead. He ran a brave race and he’s a very nice horse.”
Winning any grade 1 race with a million dollar purse (winner’s share $601,400) is always good, but for Walsh the Arlington Million carries a bit more significance and not because of the money.
“When I first came to this country the track I worked at was Arlington”, says Walsh. “I always dreamed of winning the Arlington Million. I know this wasn’t at Arlington Park, but winning the Million is fantastic no matter where and we’ll take it.”
Owned by Godolphin LLC, Santin now has four wins in eight lifetime starts with just over $1.4 million in on-track earnings.