by | 11.17.2010 | 12:48am

By Ray Paulick

American champion Gio Ponti surged to the lead with a powerful move at the top of the stretch, but Debussy ran him down nearing the wire to post a half-length upset at 11-1 odds in the 28th running of the Grade 1 Arlington Million at Arlington Park on Saturday. Tazeez finished third with Rahystrada fourth in the field of nine, followed by Summit Surge, Tajaaweed, General Quarters, Just as Well, and Quite a Handful. Time of the race was 2:03.01 for the 1 1/4 miles on a good turf course.

Trained by John Gosden and ridden by William Buick, Debussy races for Princess Haya of Jordan, the wife of Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed.

Debussy settled into fourth early as Quite a Handful carved out the early fractions of :25.30 for the opening quarter-mile and :50.03 for the half. Tazeez then took over down the backstretch and opened up a long lead under Richard Hills, the six furlongs in 1:13.69 and mile in 1:37.85. Gio Ponti was last in the early stages of the race under Ramon Dominguez, switched to the outside on the final turn and swung seven wide into the stretch. He quickly took command from Tazeez, but Debussy mounted a powerful surge up the rail to get the win. He rallied so quickly some wondered whether Gio Ponti or Dominguez saw him coming.

“Mr. Duchossois has been trying to win the Beverly D for more than 20 years and I've been trying to win this one for 28 years, and we both finally got the job done,” said Gosden, a 59-year-old native of Sussex, England, who was based in California during the 1980s when the Million was inaugurated. He returned to England in 1988. Gosden was referring to the victory in the Beverly D Stakes, a race named after Duchossois's first wife who died of cancer in 1980, by Eclair de Lune, owned by Duchossois. Duchossois said after the Beverly D it was a race he wanted to win even more than the Kentucky Derby.

(Coincidentally,the composer Debussy, for whom the Arlington Million winner was named, wrote a popular song named Clair de Lune. Classical music fans had the double.)

Debussy came into the Million off a fourth-place finish in the Group 2 York Stakes in England last month but was a Group 2 winner in 2009 and earlier this year won the Group 3 Huxley Stakes at Chester in England. The victory was the fifth in 14 lifetime starts for the 4-year-old son of Diesis out of Opera Comique, by Singspiel. Debussy was bred in Ireland by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley.

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