The Tin Man runs like a Million




 
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August 13th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: The Tin Man runs like a Million


8-year-old gelding leads all the way


The Courier-Journal


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- The Tin Man showed he has heart, and trainer Richard Mandella didn't need to take the 8-year-old gelding to Oz to discover that.
The Tin Man -- who could be called The Iron Man after battling through myriad leg problems to emerge in the best form of his career -- led all the way yesterday to take the 24th Arlington Million by a length over second choice Cacique.
Before an Arlington Park crowd of 29,979, the son of 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed became the second-oldest horse to win the Million. John Henry was 9 when he won his second Million in 1984.
The Tin Man earned his second Grade I victory and his first in four years.
"Wait till you see him when he's 10," Mandella quipped.
The Hall of Famer gained his first Million victory after finishing second twice and third twice in six prior starts. The Tin Man was sixth in 2003.
"It's a great feeling," Mandella said. " It really puts a tingle in me. I couldn't be happier."
Jockey Victor Espinoza, who also won his first Million, was allowed to slow the pace to a crawling 50.37 seconds for the half-mile and 1:15.18 for six furlongs before finishing 1 miles on turf in 2:01.35.
The Tin Man paid $13 as the fourth choice in the field of 10 older horses, of which he was the oldest.
"Turning for home, when no one was coming to me, I knew we were going to win the race," Espinoza said. "Any time there's a slow pace, he's hard to catch."
Said Mandella: "I'm not a mathematician, but I understood what 50 (seconds) meant."
Cacique was the closest in pursuit of The Tin Man but couldn't chase him down.
"I was exactly where I wanted to be," jockey Edgar Prado said. "When I asked him for more he gave it to me, but we couldn't catch the winner."
It was another 1 lengths to German star Soldier Hollow, who defeated 2-1 favorite English Channel by a head in a four-horse photo for third that included Cosmonaut and Ace.
English Channel won Churchill Downs' Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the United Nations.
"It was a ridiculously slow pace for this caliber of horses," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of English Channel. "Hat's off to The Tin Man. He got to the lead, slowed it down, 1:15, end of story."
Better Talk Now, the upset winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf, finished seventh, followed by Touch of Land, locally based Major Rhythm and Phoenix Reach, who had won Group 1 races in three countries but was making his first start in a year.
Mandella said The Tin Man sustained bowed tendons in both front legs as a 2-year-old before he ever raced. Two years ago a wrenched ankle resulted in torn soft tissue -- which frequently is career-ending -- and kept him off 15 months.
"We'd never bring him back to run cheap," Mandella said. "He'd have to come back at his old self or we wouldn't bother. We'd have retired him."
Old self? How about better self?
Upon his return in an allowance race Dec. 28, 2005, The Tin Man ended a seven-race losing streak. He hadn't won since a Grade II stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 15, 2003.
Now he has won four of five starts in his latest comeback and finished second in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free in March. He won Hollywood Park's Grade II American International Handicap.
The Million improved his record to 11-5-2 in 26 starts, with earnings of $2,976,860 for owner-breeders Ralph and Aury Todd.
"He had some injuries that would have stopped most horses along the way, and he overcame them," Mandella said. "His body must have a great ability to heal. Now he's the soundest horse in the barn."
The next objective is Santa Anita's Clement Hirsch as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Turf on Nov. 4 at Churchill. The Tin Man finished fourth in the 2002 BC Turf at Arlington.
"That was just practice," Mandella joked.

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