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Monday, August 21, 2000
Updated: August 23, 2:59 PM ET
A Million successes

By Kenny Mayne
Special to ESPN.com

It sounded like a boatload of money back in 1981 when they first staged the Arlington Million.

Boat.

That's what the track's complaint was about. Boatloads of people gambling on rivers--not at the racetrack (it's a common complaint elsewhere as well). And a staple of North American racing simply vanished.

Saturday's staging of the Arlington Million (for $2 million--but the name Arlington Million remained impressive enough) was a multi-layered story about comebacks. You've seen athletes sit out a season when the deal wasn't right. In this case it was the whole franchise (and all the attendant jobs that went with it) that was taken out of commission for two seasons. The legislators and the track got things together and subsequently it appears Arlington will be getting together with Churchill Downs for even better standing.

It would have been well enough for the race to merely be staged. A track back in business, a tradition restored.

But instead the Million offered up one return to form after another.

Frankie Dettori was there. So he finished last. But he raced. That, like staging the race, was achievement alone. All of Dettori's seasons were nearly canceled in a plane crash that claimed the life of his pilot.

Bobby Frankel was back. He'd never won this event in 12 tries. And he was trying this time with Chester House, who hadn't won in his last nine outs.

Jerry Bailey's comeback was race related only. He took a chance that a hole would open for him on the rail. And it did.

It was big enough for Chester House. It wasn't big enough for a boat. But then, it had already been established that this place was big enough for both boats and horses to thrive.