Three key figures share their Million memories
- Photos (2)
Legendary jockey Laffit Pincay rode in nine Arlington Million races.
Photo courtesy of Arlington Park
Bobby Belpedio, the head clocker at Arlington Park, has witnessed every Arlington Million race.
Photo courtesy of FourFootedFotos
Thirty years ago, in 1981, the very first Arlington Million was held. Here are some memories from three key figures with distinct perspectives on the race, which has amassed a rich history:
The head clocker has seen every running of the Arlington Million. But one really, really sticks out. "It was Estrapade's win in 1986. I remember watching that filly working out on the long grass they used to have here and she was going so well. When the Million came up, I took the filly. The problem was she was coupled with another horse in the race here and only paid about $6 to win. Well, the English journalists were loving me because she wasn't coupled back at Ladbrokes … and she paid $50 or $60.
"That was my first education about Ladbrokes."
Laffit Pincay Jr.:
The Hall of Fame jockey rode in nine Millions, twice making it to the winner's circle.
"I won my first Million with Perrault (1982). I thought I had a very good chance that day to win it and it was such a dream come true to win that race. With Tight Spot (1991), boy he ran a super race. When you win the big one by a nose, you feel like you contributed to winning that race.
"The Million was the first $1 million race — it was definitely the type of race you love to win. Those two wins were thrilling."
The legendary announcer called the very first — and most memorable — Million, with John Henry edging The Bart by a nose.
"At first I thought, like everyone else, that The Bart had won it. In my thousands of race calls I always give the outside closing horse a nose advantage to make up for watching the finish with your natural eye, and I did that in my mind. So I did think John Henry won it … after the race.
"Following the race, the fella in the booth with me at NBC talked to his people and told them 'Phil thinks it might be John Henry.' They said, 'Tell Phil to mind his own business.' NBC went ahead and flashed The Bart as the winner. And then for maybe 5 seconds they flashed him as the official winner. They never apologized afterward when they had to change the results."
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