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Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/14/04)

Contact: Graham Ross


German-bred Epalo, owned by Gary Tanaka and the winner of the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup May 16 as the second leg of the 2004 World Series Racing Championship, continues to train forwardly in Europe and remains one of the prime European-based runners with definite designs on the 22nd running of Grade I Arlington Million Aug. 14.

Trainer Andreas Schutz, who saddled Tanaka's Caitano to finish fourth in the 2001 Arlington Million, indicated some time ago that his plans were to bypass the Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, sponsored by De Beers, as the third leg of this year's World Series at Ascot July 24 in favor of the Arlington Million, fourth leg of the Series and the showcase event of Thoroughbred racing in Chicago.

"I went out with Epalo to Singapore and saw him run there," said Alastair Donald, managing director of International Racing Bureau Ltd., while speaking over the phone from his Newmarket headquarters earlier this week. "He was most impressive. Epalo drew the #16 post out of 16 horses, but despite that disadvantage he was able to burn them off by about four or five lengths. He's a very nice horse."

Irish-bred Refuse to Bend, upset winner of the Group I Coral-Eclipse at Great Britain's Sandown July 3, continues to be most frequently mentioned 2004 Arlington Million possibility among the perennially strong Godolphin contingent of nominees. That group also includes Sulamani, the Million's defending champion. Last year's adjudged Million winner was most recently second in the Group II Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket July 7.

Refuse to Bend appears to have regained the form that saw him win last year's Group I Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket. Prior to his most recent Coral-Eclipse tally, the son of Sadler's Wells out of a Gulch mare had captured Royal Ascot's Group I Queen Anne Stakes June 15 at one mile, but proved in the more recent Sandown effort that he can extend his talents to 10 furlongs, also the Arlington Million distance.

British-bred Scott's View, owned by The Great Escape Partnership and trained by Mark Johnston, is also now being mentioned as a candidate for the upcoming Arlington Million. Scott's View was a close third in the Group I Audemars Piquet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong on April 25. That mile and a quarter race served as the first leg of the 2004 World Series Racing Championship.

Mrs. John Magnier's Powerscourt, another British-bred, is also now to be considered as a European-based candidate for the Arlington Million, now only one month away. Powerscourt, trained by Aidan O'Brien, was second to Gary Tanaka's Rakti in the Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot June 16, but was only beaten two lengths by the winner while clearly besting defending Arlington Million champion Sulamani, fourth in that test.

Once again this year, Arlington Million XXII is to be joined by the 15th running of the $750,000 Beverly D., sister race to the Million, and the 28th running of the $400,000 Secretariat, final leg of the Mid-America Triple, to make up this summer's one-day International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park Aug. 14. Those three classics are Illinois' only three Grade I races presented on an annual basis.

As the Festival nears, prospective European-based candidates for the Beverly D., restricted to grass favoring fillies and mares of international caliber, have also surfaced.

Heading the European-based members of the distaff set likely to make the Atlantic crossing to Chicago's premier Thoroughbred oval is Godolphin's Crimson Palace, a South African-bred mare who has not lost a race when facing members of her own sex during the last two years of her career overseas.

Included among Crimson Palace's winning efforts are a score in Great Britain's Group III Totepool Middleton Stakes at York May 16. Before that in the Grade I Dubai Duty Free March 27 at Nad al Sheba, the Godolphin color bearer finished fourth when facing male rivals but was beaten less than a length for the win.

The German-bred filly Next Gina, winner of the German Oaks in 2003, owned by Gestut Wittekindshof, and another trained by Andreas Schutz, is one more name mentioned as a prospective member of this year's Beverly D. field. Most recently she finished third in a Group III event at Hamburg but was compromised by soft ground as well as her long layoff before that start.

Another German-bred filly, Ingeborg Von Schubert's Aubonne, conditioned by Eric Libaud, is currently being considered for a start in the Beverly D. She has been campaigned in France and won a Group III outing at Longchamp in mid-June when racing against male rivals.

However, while European candidates for the Arlington Million and Beverly D. have been coming to the fore, there has been one major defection from the prospective Million field among the American-based candidates.

Horizon Stable's Meteor Storm, hero of Belmont's Grade I Manhattan Handicap June 5 but seventh in Monmouth's Grade I United Nations July 3, has now been eliminated from Arlington Million consideration this year.

"We had to do a myectomy on him," said trainer Wally Dollase, speaking from his Southern California headquarters earlier this week, "so we won't be able to make it to the Million this year. I'm really sick about it. I was really looking forward to coming."

A myectomy -- derived from the Latin for the verb "to cut" and the noun "muscle" -- is a minor surgical procedure to help prevent the displacement of the soft palate. While not considered serious, the operation requires some recovery time

"We got unlucky this year," said Dollase of Meteor Storm, who bled in the U.N., "but at least we know the reasons why. Now, we can look forward to coming back to the Arlington Million next year."

But there was also good news earlier this week among West Coast-based horses training for this year's Arlington Million when trainer Donald Burke II advised that Gary Tanaka's Freddy, winner of South America's Group I Carlos Pellegrini in 2002, remains a candidate for the upcoming Million.

"It looks like we're going to go next in the Sunset Handicap," said Burke, speaking of Hollywood Park's Grade II event at a mile and a half July 20. "We've had him awhile now, and we've got to run him somewhere. We'll see how he goes in there. Assuming he runs well, we'll continue to try and make the Million with him. I hope we can do it. That would be grand."

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