Ten Things You Should Know: Arlington Million
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Originally published on August 19, 2010

Horses on the turf in the Arlington Million.
Cape Blanco well ahead of Gio Ponti (left) and Dean's Kitten in the 2011 Arlington Million (Eclipse Sportswire)

1) The Arlington Million is a turf race run at 1 1/4 miles at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois just outside of Chicago. This year’s edition is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, the winner will qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November.

2) “The Million,” run for the first time in 1981, was the first Thoroughbred race to offer a purse of one million dollars.

3) Like other high stakes American turf races, the “Million” draws entrants from the more turf-oriented European racing circuit.

4) The inaugural race in 1981 still stands as one of the most memorable. Hall of Famer John Henry beat a horse named The Bart by a whisker at the wire. A year later he ran second. In 1984, John Henry won the race again at the age of nine. He is the race’s only two-time winner.

5) The Arlington Park paddock has a bronze statue commemorating John Henry’s win in the first Arlington Million.

6) On July 31st, 1985, the grandstand and clubhouse at Arlington Park burned down. Twenty-five days later, 35,000 fans watched from temporary bleachers as Great Britain’s Teleprompter won that year’s Arlington Million. It is known as the “Miracle Million” for the seemingly impossible effort by the track’s operators to host the race after such a devastating fire.

7) In 1987, turf superstar Manila won the Arlington Million to round out a Hall of Fame resume that also included the United Nations Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Turf.

8) In 2004, the European shipper Powerscourt crossed the wire first but was disqualified for interference and placed fourth. In 2005, he returned to win the race for the legendary Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.

9) Champion turf female Estrapade is the only filly or mare to ever win the Million. She did it in 1986 for trainer Charlie Whittingham, who also trained winners of the race in 1982 (Perrault) and 1990 (Golden Pheasant).

10) The race was not held in 1998 and 1999 when Arlington Park was shut down. In 1988, the race was run at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada.

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  • I’m pretty sure that it was 1988, not 1989, when the Million was run at Woodbine.

    Steinlen’s win in 89 was the first Million run after Arlington was rebuilt.

    The tents and temporary grandstands that accommodated the fans immediately after the 1985 fire were also used for short Arlington meetings that included the Million in 1986 and 1987.

    And for another little oddity, the Million actually had a two million dollar purse in 2000. After Arlington had been closed in 1998 and 1999, track management thought that a purse boost was needed to get the race back on the radar screens of folks with top turf contenders.

  • Hello Mr. Charles: Yes, Woodbine in 1988 — I made the change. Thanks for the correction and your additional insights. Always appreciated! Kevin

  • Nice close by Debussey to beat Gio Ponti and nice holding on after setting pace by Tazeez. I have one takeaway point after watching the race and the replays of the Arlington Millions. Those trees in the infield are freakin’ annoying!!!

  • Manila was a freak of nature, he beat Theatrical by at Least 5 lenghts in this Race!

  • Where can I find a video or recording of Johnny Vincent singing My Kind Of Town.

  • Hi Bruce – I just looked at YouTube and at Arlington Park’s site and could not find one. Maybe someone you know DVRed it on WGN? If not, I would DVR it next year… good luck!

  • re: #4 john henry ran second as nine yr old gelding then three years later won again at the age of nine


  • Ha, whoops! It’s corrected, thanks for stopping by.

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