The best of the best to ever compete at Arlington Park

  • The best of the best have raced and trained at Arlington Park.

    The best of the best have raced and trained at Arlington Park. John Starks | Staff Photographer

By Dick Quagliano
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 6/1/2021 12:15 PM

It's wonderful to look forward in anticipation of what the future will bring.

That is the case with Arlington Park and the surrounding property for sale and proposals due in the coming weeks.


With that in mind, let's look back on all some of the greatest horses, moments, jockeys, trainers and biggest winners at Arlington since the track opened in 1929.

In honor of the turf course -- one of the crowning jewels of Arlington since its original opening -- there are eight selections; one for each furlong of the milelong oval.

Top horses

Everyone comes to see the horses, and tens of thousands have raced at Arlington. Among the most memorable:

Secretariat: Many wanted a look at "Big Red." Fresh off a Triple Crown triumph, a crowd of 41,233 screamed in glee on June 30, 1973, as the horse that made the cover of Time and Newsweek beat three others with a 9-length win. The time for the 1-mile race was 1:47, a fifth of a second off the track record. Secretariat paid $2.10, and there were plenty of winning tickets that were never cashed.

John Henry: The only horse to win the Arlington Million twice. His first win in the inaugural Million is memorialized in a bronze statue called "Against All Odds" on the balcony overlooking the paddock. John Henry came back three years later to win the million again at age 9. He won his first graded stakes at the Round Table Handicap and went on to 39 career wins.

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Dr. Fager: How fast can a racehorse run a mile? In 1968 Dr. Fager won in a world-record 1:32-¹⁄₅ in the Washington Park Handicap. Dr. Fager's record-setting race stood for 30 years.

Cigar: The fact Cigar tied Citation's 16-race winning streak was incredible. That he did it at Arlington was even more special. It was a special race called the Citation Challenge. Carrying 130 pounds and running from the outside gate in the 10-horse field, Cigar beat Dramatic Gold, pulling away in the final furlong.

The Pizza Man: One of the most beloved horses to run at Arlington had some of his greatest wins at Arlington. They included in 2015 the Stars and Stripes and the Arlington Million, where he became the only Illinois-bred horse to win that race. He won 17 races and retired in 2017.

Citation: Citation ran at Arlington three times. He broke the track record for 5 furlongs in his third start in 1947. Always remembered for his Triple Crown win in 1948 and his 16-race winning streak, Citation ran at Arlington twice that year. He won the American Derby and the Stars and Stripes. He won 32 races in his career.


Buckpasser: Running in the American Derby, Buckpasser set the work record in 1966 in the mile in a time of 1:32-3/5ths, Buckpasser won 15 consecutive races including the Chicago Stakes.

Volponi: His had the largest purse at Arlington and he delivered to the bettors. A 43-1 longshot, Volponi won the $4 million Breeders' Classic in 2002 by 6½ lengths.

Biggest races

From small claiming races to million-dollar jaunts, there have been some fabulous races at Arlington. There is nothing like watching horses and jockeys thunder down the stretch with thousands of fans cheering their favorite to cross the wire first.

Here's a sampling of Arlington's most significant races:

Arlington Million in 1981: No race had a purse so large and it drew worldwide attention. With Willie Shoemaker aboard, John Henry charged from 3 lengths back to catch The Bart. The finish left track announcer Phil Georgeff asking who won. The photo showed John Henry by a nose.

Miracle Million in 1985: Despite a fire that destroyed the racetrack July 31, Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois declared Aug. 4 the Million would take place 21 days later. Workers hauled steel and debris away, only stopping to allow horses to train on the oval. There were 43 tents erected. As promised, the race went on, with a reported 35,000 fans. Teleprompter won, sporting the colors of his owner which were soot black and white ash.

Breeders' Cup 2002: For the first and only time the Breeders' Cup came to Chicago Oct. 26. The 46-degree temperatures could not cool the enthusiasm for the 46,118 fans that packed every open space at Arlington. The 8-race card was highlighted when 43-1 longshot Volponi won the final race of the day, the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

Citation Challenge in 1996: The race was put together to give Cigar an opportunity for his 16th consecutive win. The crowd of 34,223 did not go away disappointed as Cigar bested a field of nine others, winning in 3½ lengths.

Arlington Million in 2015: As the winner approached the finish line, announcer John Dooley screamed over a loud and boisterous crowd, "Chicago is about to erupt!" It did as The Pizza Man, the first and only Illinois-bred horse, won the 33rd Arlington Million. The 5-1 horse made his move about one-half mile back and outran three others.

Beverly D in 2010: The race was named for Beverly Duchossois, wife of the Arlington Park owner. Mrs. Duchossois died in 1980 and the race -- for fillies and mares -- began running in 1987. In 1990, Dick Duchossois entered Éclair de Lune to run. It was the first time he entered a horse in this race. Éclair de Lune won, and Duchossois reportedly said: "This is more important to me than winning the Kentucky Derby."

Triple Dead Heat: It happened twice. The last time was May 20, 1990, and Marshua's Affair, Survival and All Worked Up, which was ridden by Pat Day all crossed the line together. It was the ninth race of the day and was an $18,000, seven-furlong allowance race. The first time was in 1963 when Royal Redress, Livingston and Mr. S. Chance all were in a $3,500 claiming race.

Mike Spellman Memorial Handicap 2015: The race was named for the late Daily Herald sports writer who passed away in 2015. The inaugural race was Aug. 9 and won by Cabana, the 8-5 favorite.

Top jockeys

With the lure of top-quality races and purses, Arlington has attracted nearly all the hall of fame jockeys to ride on dirt or turf. Many were coming in for a day or two to race.

There have been some like Carlos Silva, who moved here permanently, or Mark Guidry, who rode year-round when there were three racetracks in the area.

Earlie Fires: The all-time leader in winning mounts at Arlington with 2,886, the National Racing Hall of Famer retired in 2008 with 6,470 wins. He twice had seven winners in one day at Arlington. He won the Lincoln Heritage handicap seven times.

Pat Day: He's a hall of famer and five-time Eclipse winner. He's fourth all-time with 8,803 wins, 1,330 of those at Arlington. He liked to summer at Arlington, and holds the track daily record with eight wins in nine mounts.

Chris Emigh: He began riding in 1989 and has over 4,000 career wins including 1,157 at Arlington. He won the racing title at Arlington in 2006. He has won 15 graded stakes, eight coming at Arlington.

Carlos Silva: His 1,078 wins at Arlington rank third. Silva won 3,515 races from 1978 to 2010. When he retired as a jockey he became a trainer.

Mark Guidry: Called the "King of Chicago" for his success at Arlington, Hawthorn and Sportsman's, he won 1,050 times and earned two riding titles at Arlington.

Eddie Arcaro: A world-class jockey and an Arlington regular. He had 4,779 career victories in three decades. He won three Arlington Classics, two Stars and Stripes and three Arlington Futurities.

Bill Hartack: He's the only jockey to win three national racing titles from 1955 to 1957. During that span, he was the leading jockey at Arlington with 175 wins. He also won 20 stakes races at Arlington.

Jose Valdivia Jr.: He won four consecutive racing titles from 2015 to 2019.

Top trainers

There has been a plethora of world-class trainers come through Arlington Park for top races. Our focus is on trainers who made their impact on the day-to-day racing.

Richard Hazelton: "King Richard" made his mark in the 1970s and 1980s. He trained 1,181 winners before retiring in 2010 with seven training titles at Arlington. When he died at 88 in 2019, he had 4,745 winners, 10th all-time in North America.

Wayne Catalano: He won 1,792 races as a jockey and switched to training with 1,107 wins through 2020. He has five Arlington training titles.

Larry Rivelli: In 2019 he became the first trainer in Arlington history to win five consecutive training titles. He has been the leading trainer the last eight seasons with 749 wins through 2020.

JR Smith: A Chicago area training staple, he's been at Arlington, Sportsman's and Hawthorn in his career. His 783 wins at Arlington rank third all-time.

Harvey Vanier: Known as a blue-collar trainer for blue-collar horses according to his obituary, he trained from 1951 to 2007 with 719 wins and seven training titles.

Chris Block: Heads the famous "Team Block." Block has won more stakes races at Arlington than any trainer. He won his 45th and passed Harry Trotsek's previous mark in July 2019. To date, Block has won 1,334 races in North America.

Harry Trotsek: The only hall of famer to call Arlington Park home. His career began as a trainer in 1931 when his career as a jockey ended. Trotsek won 44 stakes races at Arlington plus 5 Stars and Stripes and three Arlington Handicaps.

William Hal Bishop: He won four straight racing titles at Arlington in the 1950s and six overall. He also won national training titles in 1949 and 1962. Bishop won 3,160 races from 1944 to 1976.

Top purses

To attract the best horses you must have the best races.

It began with the Arlington Classic, the Arlington Handicap and the Stars and Stripes. The Arlington Million became the first North American race with a total purse of $1 million.

Arlington hosted its lone Breeders' Cup in 2002. There were five races worth $1 million each, a pair of $2 million races and it culminated with the Classic worth $4 million.

Breeders' Cup Classic in 2002, $4 million: The 1¼ mile Classic was won by Volponi, breaking through on the stretch for a huge upset win.

Breeders' Cup Turf and Distaff in 2002, $2 million for each race: High Chaparral from Ireland won the 1½-mile Turf while Azeri won the 1⅛-mile Distaff.

Arlington Million, $1 million: It is attracted horses world wide. It began in 1981 and continued through 2019. It will now become the Mr. D Stakes with a $600,000 purse.

Beverly D, $750,000: Named for the late wife of Dick Duchossois, the race is the counterpart for the Arlington Million and is open to fillies and mares and has been run since 1987.

Secretariat Stakes, $500,000: It was originally the Arlington Invitational when Secretariat was invited to run in 1973. The race was renamed the following year. It will be renamed again this season to the Bruce D Stakes and the purse will be $300,000.

Arlington Classic, $300,000: This event has been around since 1929. It is open to 3-year olds and been won by greats like Native Dancer, Buckpasser and Dr. Fager.

Arlington Handicap, $150,000: This race has been run since 1929. It was the prep race for the Arlington Million. Rahystrada has won the race three times, winning back-to-back in 2012 and 2013. Cosmonaut won in 2006 and 2007 while Round Table won it in 1958 and 1959.

Stars and Stripes, $100,00: A race dating to 1929, Rossi Gold won it three straight years from 1981 to 1983. In the first, Rossi Gold was in a dead heat with Ben Fab. The race was dropped in 2019.

• The Top 8s resulted from research plus interviews with Ken Kiehn, Tony Petrillo, Bob Smolka, Jim Rush, Mike Sullivan and Bill Payne.

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