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May 21, 2010

Just as Well pointed to Arlington Million XXVIII


Arlington Heights, IL (Sports Network) - Coming off a second-place finish in last Saturday's Dixie Stakes at Pimlico, Just as Well is on the road to this year's Arlington Million at Arlington Park.

The 1 1/4-mile race, a furlong more than the Dixie, is being targeted by the seven-year-olds' owner and trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Just as Well finished second in last year's Arlington Million, on a yielding turf course, as a 19-1 longshot behind 3-2 favorite Gio Ponti.

Gio Ponti would go on to win Eclipse Awards as champion turf male and older male thoroughbred.

Ridden by E.T. Baird in the Million, Just as Well had an awkward start and was last in the eight horse field. His rally came up 1 1/4-lengths shy of catching the winner.

"He was tracking the winner (Gio Ponti) around the last turn," Sheppard noted following the 2009 Million, "but then Einstein weakened and dropped in front of him, which broke his stride slightly. I'm not saying he would have won, but he would have made it closer."

The 1 1/8-mile Dixie proved to be a little short too in distance for Just as Well.

"I thought he ran great," Sheppard noted after Saturday's race. "Julien (jockey Leparoux) gave him a good ride and we just got beat by a better horse on the day. Probably a little more distance wouldn't hurt him, but he ran well. He's back where he was, that's the main thing. We're happy."

Just as Well was second in last year's Dixie before winning the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Handicap. Strike A Deal, 14-1 at post-time, won the 2010 Dixie by less than a length over Just as Well.

Sheppard's horse has won five of 23 career starts with five second-place finishes for $1.1 million.

After the 2009 Million, Just as Well was sent up to Woodbine for a pair of starts. He was second to Marsh Side in the Northern Dancer, but was a disappointing fifth in the Canadian International to Champs Elysees. He concluded the year in the Japan Cup in Tokyo, finishing seventh.

His first start in 2010 was in the Ben Ali at Keeneland. The 1 1/8-mile race on Keeneland's artificial main track was used as a tightener. Just as Well was fourth to Dubious Miss, beaten by 6 1/2-lengths.

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