Jamie Spencer so sweet on Secret Gesture’s Chicago challenge
I found out two weeks ago that I was riding Secret Gesture in tonight’s Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park over in Chicago, and then last week got the call to ride Belgian Bill in the big race, the Arlington Million.
I will be getting up at 5am this morning, kick on to Heathrow, where I should be for half six. I fly at a quarter to eight and will be in Chicago at 9.45am because you gain so much time back on yourself. As I have got plenty of weight I can have something to eat on the plane. I’ll probably kip for three or four hours as it’s an eight hour flight. I’m always good at sleeping. I ride at half five and then my flight leaves at half eight tonight and will get home on Sunday morning by ten. I will have missed a night’s sleep but I will have spent around sixteen hours in an airplane and slept almost ten hours of that. So I don’t feel too bad. I never used to mind flying until I had a crash in Kevin Ryan’s plane. So I’m less enamoured with it now. But it’s like everything you get a fright you’re just a little bit more cautious. But at least on the bigger planes it’s fine.
When I land I’ll then skip over to the track and relax for a few hours. Then I’ll walk the track and just get ready to ride later this afternoon. Arlington Park is a beautiful turf track to ride. It’s obviously left handed and just about a mile round. For the main races the start is on the home straight and you have around two furlongs to get to the first bend. It’s a fair track and there’s no real bias. This is my sixth year in a row riding at the meeting, and I think it’s my eighth time in total. The atmosphere is great. It’s not quite The Breeders’ Cup Classic but there’s a real buzz about the place. It’s good racing and they attract the good European horses. There are plenty of good French horses and German horses running, as well as the English and Irish horses. They look after you quite well and it’s easy for the horses to get in and out.
It helps that I’ve got to know the other jockeys, I know what they do in a race and I’ve got to know their mannerisms. That’s a big part of it and helps during a race. I like riding there. It’s always a clean racing track. Arlington and Belmont are my two favourite American tracks to ride. I always look forward to seeing Joel Rosario. He’s good fun, very amusing. I’ve known John Velasquez a long time and he’s very helpful. I spent a lot of time with Javier Castellano in Hong Kong before, so I look forward to seeing the ‘lads’.
In the Beverly D at 11.05pm I’m on Secret Gesture who I know well. She’s really stepped up her form this year. She was really good at York. She won really well. Then she ran well at The Curragh in the Legatissimo race which Diamondsandrubies won. That was a strong race. You’d have to say her form was right up there. Obviously Wedding Vow would be the big danger based on the odds. Euro Charline is the other one. They are the main two to worry about but I couldn’t be happier with my filly. I’m drawn out a bit further than I’d have liked in ten but will just have to take it as it comes. Carla Bianca goes forward early and I haven’t spoken to Ralph Beckett yet but Secret Gesture likes to go forward so I imagined she’ll be getting involved in the race early. I can’t see why I wouldn’t be handy. She ran a good race at the Breeders Cup in Santa Anita but that’s a sharp track and it’s hard to get rolling there. She was only beaten two and a half lengths but I think on a more expansive track it would have served her better. Even though she’s not very big she’s got a long stride and it probably didn’t suit her. Euro Charline ran a good race last time but I think last year when she won this race, Ryan Moore rode her, she was drawn low, went round on the fence, and the gaps came when she wanted them. She’s drawn wider this time and it will be interesting to see how the race pans out for her.
I’d say the Arlington Million at 11.48pm is a bit down on quality compared to previous years. It doesn’t look the strongest of races. You could probably make a good case for Maverick Wave. He was very tough at Chester and won a handicap before that. He’s stepped his form up a notch. Big Blue Kitten looks solid but he’s not getting any younger. It will be an interesting race. Belgian Bill I’ve ridden once before in Dubai, and finished third on him. He’s a nice horse who tries hard. He’s rated 102 so he’s probably 10lbs below what he needs to be to be competitive in the placings. So he’ll need a lot of luck to get involved. We’ll do our best and see where that takes us. Sometimes horses can jump up and improve in these races, particularly if they are using Bute and Lasix for the first time. It’s a big help. It’s like us taking painkillers when you’re stiff and sore. It’s a big help especially for an older horse.
I thought Highland Reel would be strong in the Secretariat. He ran a good race at Goodwood. The pace was slow that day and he basically out-quickened them. He’s taking on the Italian Derby winner, Goldstream. He looks a nice horse but it’s hard to get a handle on that form. I just think that Aidan’s horse has that bit more class and going back to a mile and a quarter will help him, and Aidan’s won this race before a few times.
I haven’t sat on The Grey Gatsby recently but they are very happy with him. Brian Hughes actually rode work on him last week and was very pleased with him. The Juddmonte is shaping up to be one of the races of the season with Golden Horn and Gleneagles. One’s supposedly the best miler, one’s the best middle distance horse, and that’s without Time Test who’s in the ‘could be anything’ category. Then there’s my horse who’s probably a bit in the shadows but he has taken a few bug scalps before.