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Arlington Park Road to the Million (6/23/04)

Contact: Graham Ross


Royal Ascot 2004 -- European racing's prestigious five-day mega-meeting concluded June 19 -- has added to the promising possibilities for this summer's Grade I Arlington Million.

Several intriguing European-based contenders have now emerged from among the nominees to Chicago's international centerpiece based on their recent performances at Royal Ascot. The Arlington Million, at a mile and a quarter over Arlington's world famous turf course, will be run Aug. 14.

Godolphin Racing, a key player in top Thoroughbred competition throughout the world for more than a decade; and Gary A. Tanaka, increasingly prominent on the international horseracing scene over that same timeframe, each enjoyed tremendous success at the recent Royal Ascot meeting, but more significant to American racing fans: both Godolphin and Tanaka have been consistent supporters of the Arlington Million (as well as Arlington Park's International Festival of Racing) in past seasons. The 2004 International Festival is likely to continue that trend.

Among the leading Godolphin possible scenarios for Arlington Million XXII: the return of 2003 Arlington Million champion Sulamani to defend his title and become the first back-to-back Arlington Million winner in history.

Sulamani, somewhat of a disappointment when fourth in the Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes over 10 furlongs at Royal Ascot June 16, had been tentatively scheduled for a campaign on The Continent in 2004, but his recent run could lead to some reconsideration of that road.

However, Godolphin's Refuse To Bend, another Arlington Million nominee, captured Royal Ascot's Group I Queen Anne Stakes by a neck when going one mile June 15. New to the Godolphin team since a change of ownership last September, Refuse To Bend redeemed himself with his Queen Anne tally in his third start this year. Previously the Irish-bred had finished eighth in both the Grade I Dubai Duty Free at Nad al Sheba and the Group I Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. Refuse To Bend won the Group I Two Thousand Guineas last year for his previous connections.

Godolphin's Doyen, another Arlington Million nominee, won the Group II Hardwicke Stakes at 12 furlongs by six lengths June 19, the final day of Royal Ascot, setting a course record in the process despite being eased up in the late stages. The Irish-bred finished fourth in the Group I Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere at Longchamp last October.

International Festival of Racing supporter Tanaka, a native of Hunt, Idaho, owns Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc., a leading technology investment management company with offices in San Francisco, New York and London. The 61-year-old, who has never won the Arlington Million but finished second with the United States-based Sarafan two years ago, has nominated that Neil Drysdale trainee once again this season, but it is his European-based campaigners that might force some decisions in the near future.

Tanaka's Rakti was most impressive when capturing Royal Ascot's Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes June 16 by two lengths in his first start of the year. Last year, the British-bred was being targeted for the Arlington Million before being sidelined by a minor injury in mid-July. As the winner of this year's Prince of Wales's, Rakti could now go for the $1.6 million bonus put up by the British Horseracing Board for the Summer Triple Crown. That would involve additional victories by Rakti in the Group I Coral-Eclipse at Sandown July 3 and the Group I Juddmonte International at York Aug. 17.

However, Rakti is said to prefer firm going, such as he would likely see at Arlington, and although the ground was unusually fast during Royal Ascot, the European weather may not let it remain so throughout the summer at Sandown and York.

German-bred Epalo, winner of the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup May 16, second leg of the 2004 World Series Racing Championship, is another Tanaka color bearer. His connections have definite designs on the Arlington Million, fourth leg of this season's World Series.

Trainer Andreas Schultz, who saddled Tanaka's Caitano to finish fourth in the 2001 Arlington Million, has already eliminated the Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, sponsored by De Beers, third leg of the World Series to be run July 24 at Ascot, from Epalo's schedule.

Together, the results of the Coral-Eclipse in less than a fortnight, and the King George later next month, will firm up the European candidates for Arlington Million XXII.

Once again the Grade I Beverly D., sister race to the Million for members of the distaff set, and the Grade I Secretariat, restricted to 3-year-olds of international caliber over the lawn, join the Arlington Million to make up this summer's one-day International Festival of Racing. The Secretariat also serves as the final leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple.

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