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Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/21/04)

Contact: Graham Ross


For the fourth straight year, Million Preview Day returns to Arlington Park Saturday to allow American-based Arlington Million and Beverly D. hopefuls an introductory outing over the Northwest Chicago oval's world famous grass course.

Saturday's Grade III Arlington Handicap will serve as the final major local prep for the Grade I Arlington Million, and the Grade III Modesty Handicap on the same program will fill that same role as a dress rehearsal for the Grade I Beverly D., Arlington's sister race to the Million that offers a $750,000 purse of its own.

However, also part of this Saturday's Million Preview Day is the Grade II American Derby, presented by Jack Daniel's, as the prelude to the Grade I Secretariat. The $400,000 Secretariat, final leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple, annually attracts to the world's best grass favoring sophomores, and the $250,000 American Derby is the middle leg of that Triple.

Once again this year, The Million, Beverly D. and the Secretariat will all be run during Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing on Aug. 14.

Heading the field for Saturday's $250,000 Arlington Handicap is Port Trust, Marsha Naify & San Gabriel Investments' Ballingarry, hero of Arlington's Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf July 4. The Irish-bred trained by Laura de Seroux, who also won last year's Stars and Stripes, will be cutting back two furlongs in distance for the Arlington 'Cap but has shown a distinct liking for the Arlington course. Ballingarry arrived back at Arlington from the West Coast's San Luis Rey Training Center on Tuesday and galloped Wednesday morning.

Team Block's Mystery Giver, third in last year's Arlington 'Cap and winner of the Fair Grounds' Grade II Mervyn Muniz Jr. Handicap this winter, as well as Robert B. & Beverly J. Lewis's Senor Swinger, runner-up in Churchill's Grade II Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap July 3, are also both scheduled to start in Saturday's Arlington 'Cap.

Others expected for this Saturday's Million prep are Iron County Farms Inc.'s Sharbayan, who breezed three-quarters in 1:21.80 Wednesday morning over firm going (with the "dogs" up), Barry Golden's On the Course, who breezed three-eighths in :35.60 Wednesday morning over that same going ("dogs" up), George Brunacini's Grey Beard, and Laura Melnyk's Rowans Park.

In addition to the upcoming Arlington Handicap, however, there are two other American updates on the road to the Arlington Million.

Brushwood Stables' Kicken Kris, hero of last year's Secretariat, regained his winning ways with a length and a half tally in the Grade II Bowling Green Handicap July 17 at Belmont, and is a strong possibility for Arlington Million XXII.

"As of now, we're considering the Million," said trainer Michael Matz shortly after the Bowling Green while obviously relieved at Kicken Kris' return to the winner's circle. "I don't know what the trouble was with him (regarding lack of earlier form this year). I wish I could tell you it was something I did that brought him back, but I just don't know. What I do know is that he loved the Arlington course last year."

Out on the West Coast last weekend, Gary Tanaka's Freddy, Argentina's Horse of the Year and a winner of the Group I Carlos Pellegrini in 2002, ran fifth in the Grade II Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park July 18 and now appears less likely for this year's Million.

"I don't think so," said trainer Don Burke II, when asked about the Million for Freddy. "He needed the race Sunday. He was rusty all the way around the track. We'll see if his energy comes back quickly, but what I'd really like to do now is try him on the dirt."

Updates concerning this summer's 15th running of the Beverly D. center on this Saturday's Modesty 'Cap, and expected to head the Modesty field is Pin Oak Stable LLC's Bedanken, heroine of the $41,875 Possibly Perfect Stakes July 5 at Arlington. The daughter of Geri breezed three furlongs in :40.80 with the "dogs" up over the firm course Wednesday.

"She is right on the money in her training," said Bruce Bull, an assistant at the Don Von Hemel barn where Bedanken has been in residence. "The gallop boy says she's training her best ever. She's just happy as she can be."

Andrena Van Doren's Shaconage, winner of Churchill's Grade III Locust Grove Handicap June 26, is also slated to make her next trip to the post in Saturday's Modesty 'Cap, as is Willmott Stables Inc.'s Aud, fourth to Bedanken in the Possibly Perfect.

N. J. Samford Trust's Blue Sky Baby, winner of Hawthorne's $40,000 Nicole Stakes; and Richard Otto Stables Inc.'s Julie's Prize, victress in Hawthorne's $100,000 Peach Of It, are also expected for the Modesty.

Nancy A. Vanier & Lyda Williamson's Beret, winner of two straight over the Arlington lawn last summer, and the Estate of Robert Sangster's Ocean Silk, coming off a win over the Churchill grass, are also likely Modesty 'Cap starters.

Missing the Modesty but now pointing to the Beverly D. is Santa Cruz Ranch Inc.' Stay Forever, runner-up in the Grade II New York Handicap July 5 at Belmont but winner of Churchill's Grade III Mint Julep Handicap before that.

"Yes, I'm looking that way," said trainer Marty Wolfson, speaking over the phone from his barn at Calder Race Course when asked about the Beverly D. "I think the soft turf course hurt her in that last race, and I'd like to try her in a race like the Beverly D. next time."

It should be noted that one significant prep race for the Arlington Million, and another for the Beverly D., are coming up this weekend at Del Mar. The Southern California oval hosts the Grade I Eddie Read Handicap Sunday, almost always an important stepping stone to the Million, and highlights its Saturday card with the Grade I John Mabee Handicap, usually a worthy Beverly D. barometer.

Finally, concerning this weekend's American Derby, Moyglare Stud Farm Ltd.'s Simple Exchange arrived from Ireland Monday for that upcoming engagement. His trainer Dermot Weld, who saddled the winner of two of the last four American Derbys, with a runner-up in a third of those most recent renewals, will arrive later this week.

Sidney L. Port Trust's Toasted, hero of the Grade II Arlington Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve as the first leg of the Mid-America Triple, will try to continue his chance to sweep Arlington's Triple by making it two in a row in Saturday's middle leg. The Laura de Seroux trainee arrived back at Arlington from the West Coast on Tuesday and galloped Wednesday with de Seroux due in for Saturday's race.

Spendthrift Farm LLC's Samwise, a California-based sophomore trained by David Hofmans, arrived from the West Coast Tuesday for the American Derby with Hofmans scheduled to follow Thursday. Samwise won his last start in an allowance race at Hollywood Park June 24.

Ann Marie Farm's Kilgowan, conditioned by Mike Stidham, breezed three furlongs in :35 Wednesday morning (with the "dogs" up) in preparation for Saturday's American Derby. Kilgowan was fourth in the Grade III Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park in his first career effort on grass. The gray Smoke Glacken colt out of a Dynaformer mare ran sixth in the Grade II Illinois Derby last April 3 at Hawthorne.

Also due to start in this summer's American Derby is Ralls and Foster's Up Anchor, who had a troubled trip when fourth in the Arlington Classic.

Timber Way Farm & Mrs. Thomas J. Walsh's Artie Schiller, second in the Grade III Virginia Derby July 10 but winner of Belmont's Grade III Hill Prince before that, will bypass the American Derby but is now being pointed for the Secretariat.

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