Updated on 09/15/2011 12:39PM

Fan Club's Mister first in American Derby


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Fan Club's Mister, an Illinois-bred 16-1 shot saddled by a trainer with three horses in her barn, upstaged the expected showdown between Royal Spy and Sligo Bay, leading virtually all the way to win the Grade 2 $250,000 American Derby Sunday at Arlington.

Ridden by Randy Meier, who turned 47 and won his 3,500th career race this week, Fan Club's Mister ($38.20), broke sharply from the rail post and turned back several challenges during the 1 3/16-mile turf race. He spurted clear with a half-furlong left to run and beat Monsieur Cat, another longshot, by three-and-a-half lengths.

Royal Spy, the narrow favorite, finished a non-threatening third, almost four lengths in front of a well-beaten Sligo Bay.

Trainer Rickey Harris, who suffered terrible injuries in an auto accident three years ago but is ambulatory now, won the first Grade 2 race of her long training career. Harris's stable, which numbered 50 at its peak several years ago, has been reduced to only three horses. Pat Miessler and Cliff Raber own two of them, including Fan Club's Mister, a son of Mr. Greeley the pair bred in partnership.

"I never lost confidence in him," Harris said of Fan Club's Mister, who finished fourth in the Arlington Classic the last time he ran. Before Sunday, the colt's biggest win had come in the Canterbury Breeders' Cup Derby.

The American Derby, the second leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple for 3-year-old turf horses, was run shortly after a sustained driving rainstorm that turned the turf course to mush. "It was real heavy out there," said Anthony Lovato, who rode Royal Spy. "He handled soft turf at Lone Star but he didn't like this at all."

The conditions led to an unusually slow pace. Fan Club's Mister, dogged throughout the race by Monsieur Cat, set fractions of 25.77 seconds, 51.80, and 1:18.86. "He was relaxed and pricking his ears," Meier said. "He'd settle, I'd touch him and he'd go again. I had a lot of horse turning for home."

Harris said that if Fan Club's Mister continued to train well in the coming weeks, the colt would be pointed toward the Grade 1 Secretariat.

California-based trainer Beau Greely said he would stick to his plan, leaving Sligo Bay here at Arlington to train for the Secretariat. "I really don't think the ground was to his liking," Greely said.

Cherokee Kim, the third choice, pulled up on the first turn with an injury to his left front leg.