08/13/2016 8:16PM

Mondialiste wins thrilling edition of Arlington Million

Four Footed Fotos
Mondialiste, ridden by Daniel Tudhope, wins the Arlington Million by a neck Saturday.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Mondialiste was bred in Ireland and is trained in England, but from all appearances, he is most at home in North America. In his first trip overseas, he won the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile; in his second, he finished second to Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile; and in his third, on Saturday at Arlington, he won a thrilling edition of the Arlington Million by a neck over the South American import Kasaqui.

Kasaqui surged up the fence to nip the Irish 3-year-old Deauville for second, the top three all lapped on one another at the wire. It was three-quarters of a length back to Greengrassofyoming in fourth, and the entire 11-horse Million was separated by less than five lengths.

But Mondialiste proved best of the tightly packed bunch, getting a flawless ride from Daniel Tudhope, whose second U.S. mount produced his first North American win, his third Group or Grade 1, and the most important victory of his career.

Tudhope plunked Mondialiste in sixth, two wide outside Kasaqui, and never let the leaders, who set a slow tempo, get too far out of range. Tudhope and Mondialiste began moving up starting at the half-mile pole, getting into position on the far turn. Mondialiste came into the stretch with run, and when Tudhope truly called on him at the furlong grounds, Mondialiste gave it all, and all was just enough.

“It couldn’t have worked out better, to be honest,” Tudhope said. “We went over the race so many times beforehand, but you just don’t know how it’s going to go. We couldn’t have asked for a better run.”

The Million is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race offering a fees-paid berth into the BC Turf, but that 1 1/2-mile race lies outside of Mondialiste’s scope, and Mondialiste is more likely to return for another crack in the BC Mile, according to trainer David O’Meara, who is already widely respected at age 39 and has done fine work getting Mondialiste back into form this year.

Owners Geoff and Sandra Turnbull purchased the Irish-bred 6-year-old son of Galileo out of Occunpandiste, by Kaldoun, before his 5-year-old campaign last year, but after hitting peak form at Woodbine and Keeneland, Mondialiste finished 12th in the Hong Kong Mile in December and was little better in his first two starts this year, when he was a distant seventh in the Prix d’Ispahan and 12th at Ascot.

But O’Meara never lost faith. He said the Hong Kong trip knocked out his horse, the race in France was especially salty and not really run to suit his horse, and that Mondialiste had never run worth a damn over the straight course at Ascot. And voila, Mondialiste popped right back into form, finishing a strong second to the high-class Time Test in the York Stakes on July 23 in England.

“It was a few days after that we took a look at the Million,” said O’Meara.

Take the Stand made the front comfortably Saturday and galloped along on a clear lead, setting splits of 25.56 seconds, 49.74, and 1:14.14 on a course that was firm because heavy rain Friday just barely missed Arlington. Getting a perfect outside pressing trip was 7-2 favorite World Approval, with Deauville tracking the leaders from the No. 2 path. The field stacked up across the track at the top of the stretch, anybody’s race, but there was Tudhope, tall by American jockey standards, raising his crop in a mighty swoop, Mondialiste poised for one final surge that carried him to victory. Mondialiste was timed in 2:01.87 and paid $10.80 to win.

Take the Stand stopped badly and finished last, and World Approval, finally taking a step back after coming forward all year, faded to seventh. “I have no excuse for him,” said trainer Mark Casse. “It just wasn’t his day.”

Kasaqui, the Arlington Handicap winner, had a bit of a hard-luck tale. Jockey Robby Albarado thought he might have won had he been able to find room earlier, and Kasaqui did finish gamely up the fence, running the best race of his life. “You can’t expect more from our horse,” said trainer Ignacio Correas. “He’s all heart. We’re very pleased and very proud of him.”

Just one 3-year-old has won the Million, and Deauville, with a poor post in 12, turned in a good performance to be third. Like all of trainer Mike Maker’s horses Saturday, Greengrassofyoming ran to the best of his ability, edging Danish Dyafmormer for fourth. The latter was followed by The Pizza Man, the race’s defending champion, who still has not found his best form this year. 

“He’s just not himself right now,” said jockey Mike Smith. “He’s just going through the motions.”

Tryster, the 4-1 second choice who had been pointed to this spot for months by Godolphin, was reluctant to load, was hindered by the slow pace, and, after looming at the top of the stretch, fell back to eighth.

“Things just didn’t really go his way before the race, and he kind of ran that way as well,” said jockey William Buick. “Down the back before the last turn, I got behind the winner, and he traveled well, and I thought when I pulled him out he’d go ahead and do something, but the usual response wasn’t there.”

Mondialiste, on the other hand, gave his usual response – the response, at least, he has to North American racing.