08/08/2008 11:00PM

Spirit One tops 1-2-3 Euro finish

Four-Footed Fotos
Spirit One, ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal, beats the favorite Archipenko to the wire in the Arlington Million.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Archipenko and Mount Nelson got the publicity, but Spirit One got the candy, taking the 26th Arlington Million wire to wire over his more highly regarded fellow European shippers.

Spirit One balked at going out onto the Arlington racetrack for the post parade, but he was all heart holding on by a neck over heavily favored Archipenko, who was crying for racing room the entire stretch run. In deep stretch, Archipenko finally got clear of Mount Nelson, who had held him in tight quarters on the fence, and made his run at the pacesetter, but his belated bid fell short, and Spirit One held on for his first Group 1 victory.

Based in France with trainer Philippe Demercastel, Spirit One was piloted by Ioritz Mendizabal, who was riding for the first time in the United States. Mendizabal warned post-race interviewers that he spoke poor English, but managed to reach the crux of the matter.

"This is a very good horse," Mendizabal said just after pulling up his Million winner.

Spirit One had a spirited Polytrack workout this week, but his connections had been hoping that the horse might not make the lead in Saturday's race. Demercastel said Spirit One had gotten in the habit of leading to the stretch and fading late, and in a faster-paced American race, the hope was he could relax more and run at a target. When the speedy Sudan was scratched on Friday, that plan went out the window, but it mattered not a whit.

"With Sudan out, we told Ioritz to ride his race," said Demercastel, who came to the U.S. in 1992 as the exercise rider for the Andre Fabre-trained Al Nasr.

Einstein looked like he might contest the early pace, but a stumbling start placed Einstein last as the horses went past the stands for the first time, and Spirit One, who backed himself into the winner's circle when he was supposed to be parading to the post, took a clear advantage while setting splits of 24.66 for his first quarter-mile, 48.57 for the half, and 1:12 for six furlongs.

Archipenko and jockey Kevin Shea - also making his U.S. debut - raced in behind the leader, with Mount Nelson closest to the pacesetter, racing about two paths off the rail. Einstein made a wide far-turn move that soon flattened out, and quickly the race was down to the three Euros. Archipenko had run but nowhere to go, and Shea bitterly decried the tactics of jockey Johnny Murtagh on Mount Nelson, who held Shea in his box to deep stretch.

"He should've won, no doubt about it," said Shea.

Mike de Kock, Archipenko's trainer, has regularly used Murtagh on his horses, but he also felt Murtagh rode Mount Nelson to keep Archipenko from winning.

"There was no need for Johnny to keep us in like that," said de Kock.

Murtagh was here to ride Mount Nelson and Plan for trainer Aidan O'Brien. O'Brien was Archipenko's trainer in 2006 and 2007 before the horse was sold privately and turned over to de Kock.

Trifecta bettors who took note of the Euros' one-two finish earlier Saturday in the Secretariat were rewarded with a $264.20 payout for a $2 bet. Spirit One paid $29.70 to win, and the win odds on six horses in the race rose as Archipenko was the subject of furious late wagering, going off at 6-5.

While fifth-place Einstein had a major excuse for his loss, Stream Cat just seemed to run poorly, checking in sixth, beating only a dull Cloudy's Knight. Silverfoot led the U.S. contingent with a late-running fourth-place finish.

Spirit One, a 4-year-old son of Anaaba Blue bred and owned by Kamel Chehboub, was timed in 2:02.17 for 1 1/4 miles on turf rated firm. The time was .51 seconds slower than Secretariat winner Winchester's about 90 minutes earlier. Spirit One won for the fifth time in 18 starts, and the $594,000 winner's share more than doubled his career earnings. The colt is not Breeders' Cup eligible, but he earned an automatic entry into the BC Turf with the win, and his connections said they would consider returning for that race.