December 1, 2022

Robert Bruce Million victory adds to Arlington International flavor

Robert Bruce and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. captured the Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" Arlington Million (G1) on August 11, 2018, at Arlington Park (c) Arlington Park/Coady Photography

The international spice rack that is the Arlington Million (G1) winners list gained another flavor on Saturday when ROBERT BRUCE became the first Southern Hemisphere-bred horse to win the world’s first $1-million race.

Robert Bruce led a Chad Brown-trained exacta, getting the jump on Almanaar and overtaking pacesetter Century Dream. He is now eight-for-nine lifetime with nearly $1-million in career earnings. He also earned an all-fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), as the Arlington Million is part of the “Win & You’re In” Challenge series.

“This is the type of horse who makes you sweat, but when he starts running he’s hard to catch,” breeder-owner Carlos Lavin said. “We have about 50 mares on the farm (Haras Convento Viejo in Chile) but mostly sell, so we don’t have a lot of racehorses. Robert Bruce is the only horse we have in the States. It’s sort of tradition that when they do as well as they did in Chile you try them here.”

Robert Bruce was undefeated in six starts when he came to Brown’s New York base. The four-year-old son of Fast Company had won his four Chilean Group 1 starts by a combined 23 3/4 lengths and his North America debut in the Fort Marcy Stakes (G3) before losing the Manhattan Stakes (G1) by a length next out. Tyler Gaffalione had ridden Robert Bruce in the Fort Marcy and Manhattan, but Irad Ortiz Jr. had the Million call.

“The horse was doing so well, we were very positive, so thank God everything went perfect for us,” Ortiz  said. “Tyler rode a good race; he just couldn’t get out to the clear. It wasn’t easy for him, but today was a smaller field with more speed. I put him in the clear on the stretch.”

Chile is now the sixth country to have been the birthplace of an Arlington Million winner, joining Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland and the United States. Robert Bruce is a complete product of Lavin’s farm, which owns the Argentinean-bred mare Lady Pelusa and stands the Irish-bred stallion Fast Company.

“To breed a horse in Chile and come all the way to Chicago to win this great prize is really wonderful,” Lavin said. “I’m very glad to be in Chicago – a nice city with nice people.”

Brown thought the trip might have made the biggest difference in which one of his horses won the Million. Almanaar was second, comfortably ahead of third-place finisher Century Dream, who was disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Catcho En Die in the stretch.

“Robert Bruce has an unbelievable kick, but so did Almanaar,” Brown said. “They both ran tremendous, and maybe Almanaar having to make a wide move made the difference.”

Robert Bruce’s final time of 2:02.29 was more than a second slower than Carrick needed to win the Secretariat Stakes (G1) earlier on the day, but the Secretariat’s pace was faster.

Brown’s two Grade 1 wins Saturday at Arlington give him nine total at the Chicagoland track, which snapped a tie with Aidan O’Brien at seven to make Brown the leader in that category. He also now has $5.1-million in Grade 1 earnings at Arlington, which surpassed his former mentor Bobby Frankel. Brown’s 10 graded stakes win still trails Bill Mott (13) and Bobby Frankel (12) in that category.