08/10/2007 11:00PM

Perfect trip for Jambalaya in Million

Pat Tyrrell/Horsephotos
Jambalaya enjoyed a perfect trip and won the 25th Arlington Million by three-quarters of a length over The Tin Man.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Is Robby Albarado having a year, or what?

Winner of the Preakness with Curlin, and the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on Flashy Bull, Albarado gave Jambalaya a perfect trip to win the 25th Arlington Million by three-quarters of a length over The Tin Man, who was denied an historic second victory in Arlington's signature race.

"I had such a good feeling all day today," Albarado said. "Sometimes I just get these little feelings. Looking at the race, I thought I'd be laying fourth or fifth, and that's where he ran his best races at Gulfstream this winter."

Five-year-old Jambalaya ($17.20), owned by the Kingfield Farm, and trained by Catherine Day Phillips, won the Grade 1 Pan American Handicap over the winter, but looked like an outsider in the Million. Canada's best longer-distance grass horse, Sky Conqueror, had been considered possible for the race, but wound up passing, and Jambalaya had finished third in a pair of Canadian Grade 2 races in his most recent starts.

But Day Phillips said the stretch at Arlington, shorter than the one at her home course at Woodine, helped. "He comes flying off the turns," she said.

Jambalaya broke from post 1 Saturday, and saved ground all the way, coming out three wide in midstretch, first passing tiring pacesetter Sunriver, then taking the measure of The Tin Man in deep stretch. Jambalaya won going away, with The Tin Man narrowly second over French invader Doctor Dino, who raced between horses and lacked the necessary stretch punch. Sunriver ran on decently, dead-heating for fourth with Stream Cat. They were followed by two more overseas horses, Danak and Pressing.

The Tin Man, bidding to become the first winner of consecutive Millions, turned in a game performance at age 9, but barely held second over turf labeled "good," but playing much more like a yielding surface. Jambalaya was timed for 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.76, the third-slowest Million, and several jockeys throughout the day described the course as "dead."

The Million took a major hit Saturday morning when After Market, the morning-line favorite, was scratched because of course conditions.

"I've been out on the course every day since I've been here," trainer John Shirreffs said. "It's drying out, but it's not quite fast enough yet."

Jambalaya once was thought to prefer firm going by Day Phillips, daughter of trainer Jim Day, who finished in the 1992 Million with Sky Classic.

"Last year I think every time he was entered it seemed to rain and rain and rain," Day-Phillips said. "We though the soft turf wasn't helping him at all - we said it'd be nice never to run him on an off turf again."

The Tin Man popped out of the gate as the crowd roared, but Sunriver made the lead, galloping along through splits of 26.34 seconds for a quarter-mile, 50.68 for a half, and 1:16.15 for six furlongs. The Tin Man and Victor Espinoza loomed to challenge before the quarter pole, and took over in upper stretch, looking briefly like a winner before Albarado swung three wide for his final run.

"Great race," said trainer Dick Mandella, who suggested The Tin Man was not finished at age 9. "We've got a couple more years to try this," Mandella said with a smile.

Jambalaya can try the Breeders' Cup Turf if he cares to, having earned a spot in the race through the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" program. Shamdinan ($11.60), winner of the Secretariat, also won a berth in the BC Turf, and began a Saturday all-Grade 1 Pick 3 that continued through Beverly D. winner Royal Highness ($20.40), and paid $577.60 to those who had Jambalaya in the final leg.