Midwest Thoroughbreds' homebred The Pizza Man, a fan favorite on the Illinois racing circuit, came home best of all for his first Grade 1 victory in the $1 million Arlington Million at Arlington International Saturday afternoon.
Settling in midpack with jockey Florent Geroux aboard, The Pizza Man began to move up on the far turn and was in good position at the top of the stretch. The gelding took the lead in midstretch and held off a late run by Big Blue Kitten to take the Million.
Roger Brueggemann trains The Pizza Man, who now has 15 wins in 23 starts and is the first Illinois-bred to win the prestigious race.
Shining Copper was third after setting a swift early pace. Final time was 2:02.20 for the ten furlongs.
The Pizza Man earned an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Turf Oct. 31 with his victory in the Million, though he would have to be supplemented as he is currently not eligible for the race. His sire, English Channel, won the Turf in 2007. The gelding is out of the Lear Fan mare I Can Fan Fan.
Quotes from the G1 Arlington Million:
Florent Geroux (jockey, The Pizza Man, winner): “I'm always confident when I ride him, he loves to win and knows where the wire is. But I had no horse the whole way, it looked like he was struggling over the very soft track but when I put him outside he started to hold up and grabbed the bit again and I was thinking oh boy he's going for a big one here! He is a local horse and even going to the track there was a lot of people cheering for us and I'd like to thank them.”
Joe Bravo (jockey, Big Blue Kitten, 2nd): “I think I was on the best horse today but he didn't like the ground. When ‘Kitten kicks, he's a runner.”
Chris Emigh (jockey, Shining Copper, 3rd): “I thought I had a chance turning for home. He tried to win.”
Drayden Van Dyke (jockey, Up With the Birds, 4th): “We had an awesome trip, maybe the wet turf course didn't go in our favor. It was splashing good out there. Overall we saved all the ground, weren't too far behind about mid pack. Had a clear trip, just got outrun.”
Eduardo Pedroza (jockey, Wake Forest, 6th): “He gave me a good run in the corner but when I asked him he didn't have it.”
Jamie Spencer (jockey, Belgian Bill, 7th): “Soft ground was no good for him, he ran a good race, I think we could have placed if the ground was fast.”
Gerald Mosse (jockey, Bookrunner, 9th): “I got a beautiful run, I think it's a bit too soft for him. It sprayed a lot late and I'm not sure he handled it too much. With that ground I feel the distance is too long. I think the ground is quite deep for him.”
Robby Albarado (jockey, Quiet Force, 10th): “I had a good trip, I don't think he got over the ground it was a little soft going. He slipped around there.”
Jose Lezcano (jockey, Triple Threat, 11th): “It's very soft, he was fighting with the ground and he didn't get there.”
Sheldon Russell (jockey, Legendary, 12th): ” I had him in a good spot going the first turn, I just found that the whole way round he was struggling, I don't know if he has ever run on ground as heavy as that. Usually he is an aggressive horse, he wasn't on the bit the whole time. But although the pace was fast early on I never felt comfortable.”
William Buick (jockey, Maverick Wave, 13th): “He is obviously a lot better than that. I was where I wanted to be but he dropped back so fast. That wasn't him..”
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