ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — Father Time, not another horse, this year kept John Henry from possibly winning the Budweiser-Arlington Million for the third time. The 10-year-old gelding is going to be flown today from California to Lexington, Ky., where he'll spend his retirement at the Kentucky Horse Park.
But while John Henry didn't win the fifth running of the Million, "The English John Henry" did. That's what they call Teleprompter across the briny, and on Sunday at Arlington Park, before 35,651 fans in a setting that more resembled a country fair than a race track, the 5-year-old English-bred gelding grabbed an early lead and then held off a charge through the stretch by favored Greinton to score a three-quarter-length victory.
So, for the second time, a foreign horse won the Million, and although Sunday's outcome doesn't compare with the Irish-bred Tolomeo's upset at 38-to-1 odds in 1983, it was still a shocker. Never having won at the Million distance of 1 miles, Teleprompter was given the least chance among the three English entries and went off at 14-1.
Running on a yielding course that had been softened by early weekend rains, Teleprompter paid $30.40, $11.20 and $6.60 while being timed in 2:03 2/5, well off the 1:58 4/5 record for the Million that Perrault set in 1982.
Greinton, who might have won with better racing luck, was the 9-5 favorite with stablemate Dahar and paid $3.40 and $2.80. Flying Pidgeon, longest price on the board at 31-1 and the only East Coast entrant among the 10 American starters, finished third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Greinton, and paid $12.40. After the first three, the order of finish was King of Clubs, The Noble Player, Al Mamoon, Tsunami Slew, Both Ends Burning, Dahar, Gate Dancer, Drumalis, Free Guest and Kings Island.
If the Million had been run in England, Teleprompter wouldn't have even been eligible. The English don't allow castrated horses to run in major races, because their wins would do nothing for their stud value. Consequently, Teleprompter's form was difficult to analyze, because he had seldom run against Europe's best horses.
Going into the Million, Teleprompter had made four starts this year, with an eighth, two seconds and a first at 1 1/8 miles in the Pacemaker International at Ireland's Phoenix Park. That was the second straight time he had won the Pacemaker. Lifetime before Sunday, Teleprompter had nine wins and was in the money in 17 out of 21 starts. His $600,000 share of the Million purse dwarfed his previous lifetime earnings of $185,000.
The win was the biggest in the career of 33-year-old English jockey Tony Ives, though certainly not the largest for owner Lord Derby and his family. The Derby, first run in England in 1787, is named after the Derby family, and the Lord's forbearers have won it four times.
Late Sunday, Lord Derby discussed his horse's trip to America, standing outside one of 40 tents that had been erected for the race after the Arlington clubhouse and grandstand were destroyed by a three-day fire that started on July 31.
"My trainer (Bill Watts) pushed me to come here with my horse," Derby said. "He had more confidence in the horse than I did. And my wife also wanted to come. So I had no choice, really."
Watts felt that the turns on an American track, which are much sharper than on Europe's elongated courses, might help Teleprompter relax and enable him to carry his speed. The opinion was shared by Ives, who had been doubtful until Friday as the horse's rider because of a spill last Monday at Windsor, England, in which he was knocked unconscious for about a minute.
"When that happens, normally you are suspended for seven days because of medical reasons," Ives said. "But I was only suspended for two. Then I failed a physical examination on Wednesday, but got another chance Friday. I passed that one and got on a plane that got me here Friday night."
Teleprompter, a son of Welsh Pageant out of the mare Ouija, is the biggest horse Ives has ever ridden, standing 16.3 hands (67 inches). He broke slowly from the inside post position, but took the lead from Tsunami Slew and Drumalis as the field swept under the finish line for the first time.
"He was running easily once he got the lead," Ives said. "The turns tended to give him a couple of breathers. At the end, I heard Greinton coming from behind me, but I wasn't sure how quickly."
Not quickly enough, though trainer Charlie Whittingham, who won the Million with Perrault, thought a better trip would have given his horse the win.
"He had all kinds of trouble," Whittingham said. "He got stuck down on the rail and then he had to come wide on the turn. He was flying down the stretch, but he needed more ground to catch the winner. If the race had been from here-to-the-wall longer, we would have got him."
Laffit Pincay, riding Greinton, had to check slightly at the three-quarter pole.