08/12/2006 12:00AM

The Tin Man upsets Million

Sixth in the 2003 running, The Tin Man, with Victor Espinoza aboard, won Saturday's Grade 1 Arlington Million by one length over Cacique.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The Tin Man, an iron horse, was sixth best in the at age 5, but second to none at age 8, his cause aided by a dawdling pace that led to a one-length victory over Cacique before 29,979 fans on Saturday at Arlington Park.

Sidelined for more than a year by an ankle injury, The Tin Man came back late in 2005 and started winning again, taking an allowance race and the Grade 2 San Marcos before finishing second of 15 in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free this winter. Saturday, after a victory in the American Handicap last month at Hollywood Park, The Tin Man and jockey Victor Espinoza slipped off to an easy early lead, taking the field through an opening quarter-mile in 24.75 and a half in 50.37.

"I'm not a mathematician, but I understood what 50 meant," said trainer Dick Mandella.

Mandella was in the Million for the seventh time, having finished second twice with Sandpit. Besides his close sixth in the 2003 Million, The Tin Man was fourth here in the 2003 Breeders' Cup, but his career nearly ended when he wrenched an ankle late in 2004, incurring major soft-tissue damage. But this was not the first time The Tin Man had encountered serious physical problems: At 2, Mandella said, The Tin Man bowed both tendons, injuries that required surgical repair.

"He had some injuries that would've stopped some horses along the way," said Mandella. "His body must have a great ability to overcome them."

Saturday, The Tin Man's nine rivals were unable to overcome a high-class horse galloping along on an easy lead. The Tin Man's half-mile fraction was almost four seconds slower than the half-mile fraction a race earlier, in the Beverly D. Stakes.

"I knew when I hit the three-quarters, there had to be some crazy kind of horse to beat me," said Espinoza, who won his first Million in his second try.

There was no crazy horse. With The Tin Man running his final quarter-mile in 22.71 seconds, no one was going past. Cacique, who had stalked the leader all the way around, also finished well for second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of a game Soldier Hollow. English Channel, the 2-1 favorite, got bumped out of the gate and was a bit rank while racing wide around the first turn, running evenly in the stretch for fourth. Cosmonaut was fifth, followed by Ace, Better Talk Now, Touch of Land, Major Rhythm, and Phoenix Reach.

The Tin Man, bred and owned by Aury and Ralph Todd, paid $13 to win and was timed in 2:01.35 for 1 1/4 miles over firm turf.