To give you an idea of how unusually long the inaugural running of the St. Leger at Arlington Park was Saturday, consider this: if you lined up a field of horses for an average thoroughbred race on eastbound Euclid Avenue at Wilke Road and opened the gates, the finish line would be somewhere around the Arlington Heights Post Office.
In the St. Leger, however, that would be considered just warming up, because the horses in this marathon had to continue running over the railroad tracks, past Christian Liberty Academy and beyond the library before finally hitting the wire just beyond Arlington Heights Road.
Thankfully, the turf course at Arlington is much more hoof-friendly then Euclid Ave. ever would be, but the distance no less grueling.
That's why Jakkalberry has to get his props. Not only for surviving the 1 11/16ths mile endurance test, but for doing it in style with a 2¼-lengths victory over pace-setting Ioya Bigtime from the barn of Chicago-based trainer Chris Block.
"That was the horse that scared me -- the winner," Block said. "Other than that, I thought we'd be real tough to beat."
For much of the marathon it sure looked like that would be the case as Ioya Bigtime (5-2) jumped right out to the front and set a reasonable pace.
When they neared the turn for home, however, the pressure started mounting.
"Coming into the lane, I saw Jakkalberry (8-5) coming, but I still felt down the lane we had a big shot of holding him off," Block said.
Ioya Bigtime did indeed stay with the favorite for a while, but at the sixteenth-pole, or library, if you will, Jakkalberry pounced and began pulling away for his 10th career victory.
And he did it in style, just like his connections thought he would.
"That was the kind of race we expected from him," said Luci Botti, the assistant trainer for Jakkalberry and wife of trainer Marco Botti. "We're delighted."