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Who is the best Illinois-bred Thorougbhred of all time?

Profile Picture: Rowan Ward

February 26th, 2021

We are less than two weeks away from the Chicago racing season. Hawthorne begins March 6 and runs through April 25, and Arlington's summer meet begins April 30

Just in time for our favorite sign of spring in Illinois, let's remember some of the greatest Illinois-breds of all time, and then let you decide...

Who is the best?

Buck's Boy

Buck's Boy was the first Illinois-bred to win a Breeders' Cup race. Though he began his career on the Arlington dirt and was a Grade 3 winner on dirt at Hawthorne, this frontrunning son of Bucksplasher did his best work on the grass.

Buck's Boy rose to the top of the turf division in 1998, when he won six stakes races on grass, including the Turf Classic Invitational (G1) and the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1). He earned the Eclipse Award for champion turf male home to Illinois that year.

Buck's Boy finished his career a winner, in the 2000 Pan American Handicap (G3), his 16th win from 30 starts. He banked an impressive $2.7 million.

Dust Commander

Though fans of racing and literature may remember the 1970 Kentucky Derby from Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo masterpiece, The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved, racing fans in the Land of Lincoln have another reason.

That year, Dust Commander became the only Illinois-bred to wear the roses.

Article Image

Dust Commander wins the 1970 Kentucky Derby. (Photo Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby)

Even though the son of Bold Commander won the Blue Grass S. earlier that spring, bettors dismissed him at 15-1 in the Derby. Dust Commander defied that number and drew off to win by five lengths, over favored My Dad George.

He retired with eight wins from 42 starts and earnings of $215,012, and went on to sire 1975 Preakness (G1) winner Master Derby.

Polar Expedition

If durability is part of your definition of a great racehorse, Polar Expedition is your man.

The gelding was a brilliant two-year-old. He thrashed Illinois-breds by 10 1/2 lengths on debut and won both the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G2) and the Breeders' Futurity (G2) in 1993.

His last graded stakes win came in the National Jockey Club Handicap (G3) in 1998, at the age of seven.

In a 49-race career, he won 20 races and banked nearly $1.5 million. Not bad for a son of the unheralded sire Kodiack, out of a mare who ran off the board in claimers at Ak-Sar-Ben in both her starts.

Work All Week

Outside of Illinois, Work All Week seemed like an overnight sensation in the fall of 2014, when he won the Phoenix (G3) in his first graded try and followed with a 19-1 upset in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1).

However, Chicago fans knew him well by then. True to his name, he took a workmanlike route to the top.

Through 2013, the son of City Zip dominated the allowance and state-bred stakes ranks, he won listed races at Oaklawn and Prairie Meadows in early 2014, and was undefeated in eight starts on dirt going into the 2014 Phoenix.

He won the 2014 Eclipse Award for champion sprinter and retired in 2015, with 13 wins from 19 starts and $1.5 million in purses.

The Pizza Man

How can we make a list of Illinois-bred stars without The Pizza Man?

A fan favorite, thanks to his Chicago-style name and pizza-shaped star, he dominated Illinois-bred turf horses before he advanced to the big time.

In 2014, the son of English Channel held off defending champion Dandino to win the American St. Leger S. The next year, he became the first Illinois-bred to deliver in the Arlington Million (G1), where he held off Big Blue Kitten to win by a neck. In 2016, he added another Grade 1, when he denied Wake Forest and World Approval in the Northern Dancer Turf.

He retired with 17 wins fron 36 starts, and $2.1 million in the bank.

The poll

Now you know the candidates.

Who is the best Illinois-bred racehorse?

Let us know here, and stay tuned for the results and a new poll next week!

Who is the best Illinois bred Thoroughbred of all time?

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