On Saturday at Arlington International Racecourse, Robert Bruce has the chance to achieve a feat no other horse has accomplished.
He can become the first to win the Arlington Million in consecutive years. If he does, he would join John Henry (1981, 1984) as the only horses to win multiple Millions.
Robert Bruce will face some obstacles. He’s going to start from the No. 1 post position, which Arlington President Tony Petrillo said could put him at a disadvantage.
“It’s going to make it tough for him because the race starts somewhere in the turn and [he] can get pushed against the wall real quick,” Petrillo said. “He’s going to have to run his best race to win the Million.”
Robert Bruce isn’t considered the favorite despite being the defending champ and the runner-up at the Manhattan Handicap in June.
The horse who beat him in that race, Bricks and Mortar, the top-ranked horse in the world, has won all four of his races in 2019. He has dominated since taking more than a year off to recover from a hind leg injury.
Petrillo said Robert Bruce’s ability to close out races strong will help in his rematch.
“He can be nine lengths behind coming out of the turn heading into the final stretch, get a clear path and finish strong,” Petrillo said. “Horses, just like any other sprinter you’ve seen, sometimes in a quarter-mile, the guy out in front loses gas and someone comes in, blows by him and beats him by 20 or 30 feet. That’s where Robert Bruce’s strength lies.”
There are four European-based entries in the race, including Magic Wand, who hasn’t won a race since the Royal Ascot in June 2018 and finished 11th in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July.
Captivating Moon, who is trained by Chris Block with Jose Valdivia Jr., also will be competing. Block is based in Arlington Heights.
“If Chris is able to get his horse across the finish line first, it’s going to be a really great experience,” Petrillo said. “You just have that deeper connection with someone you know on a personal basis. You really root for him.”
The race takes place a week after the National Museum of Racing inducted Arlington owner Richard “Dick” Duchossois into its Hall of Fame.
Under Duchossois, Arlington became the first track to win the Special Eclipse Award in 1985 for the “Miracle Million,” when it held the race less than a month after a major fire at the track.
“Watching Mr. Duchossois has put a big imprint on Illinois racing,” Block said. “Without Arlington Park, there isn’t any Illinois racing I can see of any quality. He’s responsible for Arlington Park and the Arlington Million. I’d say he’s had the biggest imprint on Illinois racing.”