Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man is on track to contest his third Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 12 at Arlington International Racecourse. In 2015 the son of English Channel became the first Illinois-bred to win Arlington’s centerpiece race, bringing home the trophy for Chicagoland residents Richard and Karen Papiese.
“We’re really excited to have him in the Arlington Million again this year,” said Richard Papiese. “He’s been pointing to this race since the beginning of the season, when he came back from his break at the farm.”
The Pizza Man finished sixth in the 2016 Arlington Million, 1½ lengths behind winner Mondialiste (IRE), leaving some to wonder if his best days were behind him – but a victory in the Grade I Northern Dancer at Woodbine on Sept. 17 assisted in dispelling those worries. Still, after a 10-month and seven-race campaign in 2016 his trainer Roger Brueggemann decided on an extended period of rest at the farm before bringing The Pizza Man back in June to face Illinois state-breds in the Black Tie Affair Handicap at Arlington.
The 8-year-old gelding faced only four rivals in his first start of 2017, but over a yielding course and with an assigned highweight of 128 pounds, The Pizza Man was well off the slow pace early and could only get within two lengths of the winner at the wire. He returned the following month in the Grade III Stars and Stripes, a race he had won twice in four prior starts. The Pizza Man showed improvement, taking the lead in the stretch only to be caught by a quick-closing Keystoneforvictory.
“He’s a serious racehorse,” said Papiese. “He likes to chase horses, and when he gets in front of them he feels he did his job. I think that last race he just moved too early.”
Now making his third start back from the layoff, Papiese believes it’s all systems go for the Midwest Thoroughbreds’ homebred. Taking it one race at a time, his owners are focused on enjoying what The Pizza Man brings to the table, for as long as that may be.
“It’s not about getting anything else out of him, he’s done enough already,” said Papiese. “When he’s ready to retire and find a new job, we’ll do that. We’ll let him tell us.”
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