08/18/2012 4:59PM

Arlington Park: Bayrir overcomes slow start to win Secretariat Stakes

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Four-Footed Fotos
Bayrir, with jockey Christophe Lemaire up, rallies to win the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Bayrir overcame an awkward start to prove clearly best Saturday at Arlington Park in the 34th running of the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes, marking a second straight year that a European horse captured the Grade 1 fixture for 3-year-olds.

With jockey Christophe Lemaire biding his time in the 1 1/4-mile turf race, Bayrir began surging past tired rivals leaving the half-mile pole, then only had Summer Front to beat with a furlong to run. The colt was kept to steady urging when prevailing by 1 1/4 lengths over another late-runner, Finnegans Wake, with Summer Front tiring to third, another 1 1/4 lengths back. Handsome Mike was up in the final jump to take fourth from Silver Max, who led most of the way as the 2-1 favorite in a field of eight.

Bayrir, a homebred French-bred owned by the Aga Khan and trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, returned $8.40 to win as second choice after finishing in 2:02.92.

“It wasn’t the plan [to be far back early], but the race started out very quickly,” Lemaire said. “I let my horse get into the race. On the backstretch, he was racing very well and he took the bit on his own around the last corner. When I put him out, he reacted very well. He’s a very clever horse. He’s a very classy horse.”

Silver Max, ridden by Robby Albarado, took the lead as expected, while Bayrir spotted the field maybe a couple of lengths with his tardy getaway. Leaving the backstretch, while Summer Front, the 5-2 second choice, was creeping ever closer while in good position under Ramon Dominguez, Daddy  Long Legs and jockey Colm O’Donoghue suddenly zoomed up from the outside to take a short-lived lead. He would eventually tire badly to finish last.

That frantic action up front would take a toll on Silver Max as Summer Front spurted to a clear lead once they straightened for home – but it was the back runners who now had the edge. Bayrir was full of run, angled to the outside, and steadily drew off. Finnegans Wake, an 8-1 shot ridden by Jose Lezcano, had a spot of trouble when clearly second best.

“At the eighth pole, I had horse, but a horse came over and closed my hole,” Lezcano said. “As soon as my hole opened up, bam, he went.”

Trainer Dale Romans had three horses in the race: Finnegans Wake, Silver Max, and Cozzetti, who was never a threat when sixth.

“I am disappointed because I did think one of them would win,” Romans said. “I thought Finnegan ran an awful big race. As for Silver Max, I kind of wonder what the jock on the 6-horse [Daddy Long Legs] was doing, but that’s horse racing. We’ll take them all home and regroup.”

The Secretariat victory by Bayrir followed the 2011 win by Treasure Beach, the British-bred colt who would run later Saturday in the Arlington Million.

Bayrir, a bay colt by the English sire Medicean, now has won 4 of 5 career starts. He was coming off a victory in a Group 2 race in France, where all his prior races had been.

Said Royer-Dupre: “We had a good pace in the race, and he has a good turn of foot.”

The $2 exacta (7-4) paid $55.60; the $1 trifecta (7-4-2) returned $101.40; and the dime superfecta (7-4-2-1) was worth $104.79.