STAKES RECAP: Grade I Secretariat Stakes

December 10, 2019


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (August 15, 2015) – Highland Reel went right to the front under Seamie Heffernan and never looked back to give trainer Aidan O’Brien his fourth victory in the Grade I $450,000 Secretariat Stakes on Saturday at Arlington International Racecourse as part of the International Festival of Racing featuring the Arlington Million presented by Liftmaster.

Highland Reel entered the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat off a victory in the Group III Gordon Stakes going 1½ miles, and the front-end victory was the plan when the Galileo colt’s connections saw the field.

“There was so little pace in the race, if we couldn’t make the lead and then make all, we didn’t deserve to win,” said T.J. Comerford, assistant to O’Brien, who trains for owners Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor.

“I didn’t see much pace, and he won easy,” agreed Heffernan.

In a driving rain storm that descended on Arlington as the horses entered the track for the Secretariat, Highland Reel was up by a length through an opening quarter of :24.53. He faced little challenge through fractions of :50.09, 1:14.72, and 1:39.01 before completing the 1¼ miles on turf rated as good in 2:02.26, 5¼ lengths ahead of Closing Bell, who was a head in front of 3-to-2 favorite Force the Pass.

“When they opened the gate, he went straight up in the air,” said Joel Rosario aboard Force the Pass. “He can be like that and be nervous; he made a good run.”

Italian Derby winner Goldstream suffered his first defeat when fourth. Crittenden and War Dispatch pressed the pace and faded to fifth and sixth, respectively, while Granny’s Kitten checked in seventh.

The jockeys of the fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-place finishers all lamented the change in ground because of the weather. The turf course had been firm before the Secretariat.

Highland Reel has won four of eight starts and has earned more than $850,000 lifetime. Comerford indicated that Highland Reel could follow a similar path as last year’s Secretariat winner Adelaide and point toward the Cox Plate in Australia.

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