Juddmonte’s Set Piece powered his way to a course and stakes record of 1:58.19 in the Grade 1 Arlington Million held August 12 at Colonial Downs. The 1¼-quarter mile race was being held in Virginia for the first time in 2023 after having all but two of its previous editions held at Arlington Park where the previous stakes record had been 1:58.69, set by Awad in 1995.
Under Florent Geroux, Set Piece was allowed to sit at the back of field of 11 for the first mile of the 10-furlong race before shifting to the outside toward the top of the stretch. The son of Dansili rallied some seven wide in the lane and drew off to win by two lengths over defending champion Santin. It was another half-length back to third-place finisher Adhamo.
Fourth in this race last year when it was contested at Churchill Downs, this year’s Million represented the first Grade 1 win for the Brad Cox-trained son of Dansili who earned $582,800 to boost his bankroll to $1,686,904 while improving his record to 13-2-3 from 29 starts.
“It’s awesome for us (to get a Grade 1 win for this horse),” said Katie Tolbert, assistant to Cox. “He just hit $1 million (in purse earnings) in his last race and that was a big steppingstone for him. (Owner) Juddmonte has been wonderful to us. It’s great have a horse like this for them. He is the barn favorite. “Frenchie” (jockey Florent Geroux) loves him. We’re really happy for him. He is Florent’s favorite horse.”
This was the second Million victory for Geroux who previously scored with Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man in 2015 at Arlington Park.
Sent off at odds of more than 5-1 Set Piece returned $13.40, $6.20 and $4.20. Santin paid $8.20 and $5.60. Adhamo returned $4.
Never Explain, Win for the Money, Rockemperor, Strong Quality, Master Piece and Atone completed the order of finish.
Handle for the 11-race Festival of Racing Card was a Colonial Downs record of $9.955,739 smashing the previous mark of $6,512,767 set on Virginia Derby Day 2022 (September 6).