08/21/2010 4:58PM

Romans pays Paddy O'Prado big compliment following Secretariat win

Doug Clark/Fourfootedfotos
Paddy O'Prado draws clear under Kent Desormeaux to win the Secretariat at Arlington.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Trainers do not make a habit of comparing star horses that have passed through their barn. Bad politics. But after Paddy O’Prado had won his third straight graded turf stakes, capturing the $400,000 Secretariat by 1 1/4 lengths over English invader Wigmore Hall on a steamy Saturday at Arlington Park, trainer Dale Romans did not hesitate to bring up a standout from the past.

“I thought I’d never see a horse as good as Kitten’s Joy,” Romans said. “I’m starting to think this one might be.”

Kitten’s Joy won the 2004 Secretariat, then went on to win the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, earning an Eclipse Award. The winning time for the race six years ago was a stakes-record 1:59.65 for 1 1/4 miles, more than five seconds faster than the 2:04.71 Paddy O’Prado put up on Saturday. But Arlington’s grass course took some water Friday night and Saturday morning, and was rated good for the Secretariat, and with longshot Cherokee Lord laying down slow fractions in the Secretariat, there was no way anyone was running a fast final time. Paddy O’Prado ran plenty fast in the final quarter-mile, finishing in about 23 seconds

“When we turned for home, the guys in front of me just cut for the wire,” said winning rider Kent Desormeaux. “He was just faster than them.”

With speedy Two Notch Road an early scratch from the Grade 1 grass stakes, Cherokee Lord went to the front, setting pedestrian fractions of 25.80 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, and 51.78 to the half. Paddy O’Prado actually made the early lead, but soon settled into a stalking position, racing fourth into the far turn. Workin for Hops tracked the leader, and was the first to attack as the field approached the stretch run, but Paddy O’ Prado quickly joined the fray, and powered to the front. Wigmore Hall, last into the far turn, followed Paddy O’Prado’s move, and briefly loomed a threat on the far outside, but he was no match for the winner in the final furlong.

“No excuses,” said Wigmore Hall’s rider, Jamie Spencer. “The best horse won. I had plenty of time to get him in the straight. He needs a stronger pace.”

Workin for Hops finished third, with Cherokee Lord holding on for fourth. Paddy O’Prado paid $3.00 as the heavy favorite.
Romans said Paddy O’Prado, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby on dirt and second in the Blue Grass Stakes on Polytrack, was likely to run back in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park, and, if all goes well, move on to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

The winner is owned by Donegal Racing, a 10-owner partnership. Paddy O’Prado was one of eight yearlings the group purchased in 2008, the first horses Donegal has owned.