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|Arlington Park Stakes Advance: The Grade I Arlington Million
Contact: Graham Ross
TURF CHAMP KITTEN'S JOY TOPS SATURDAY'S ARLINGTON MILLION XXIII; EUROPE'S POWERSCOURT SEEKS REVENGE AFTER 2004 DISQUALIFICATION
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (August 10, 2005) -- Ken & Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Joy -- hero of Arlington's Secretariat Stakes one year ago on his way to an Eclipse Award as Male Turf Horse of the Year -- is set to match strides with Mrs. John Magnier's Powerscourt -- first under the wire in last summer's Arlington Million before being disqualified -- when they face as many as eight rivals, all contentious, in Saturday's 23rd running of the Grade I Million.
The Million, along with Saturday's Grade I Beverly D., for fillies and mares and often called the Million's sister race; as well as Saturday's Grade I Secretariat, restricted to 3-year-olds of international caliber on the grass; make up Arlington Park's one-day International Festival of Racing, annually the showcase of event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season.
Arlington Million XXIII, contested at 10 furlongs on the grass since its inception in 1981, also serves as the fourth leg in this year's World Racing Championships.
Eight of the best grass horses throughout the world have been named to challenge Kitten's Joy and Powerscourt Saturday -- including last fall's John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf champion Better Talk Now -- but that Bushwood Stable color bearer, although assigned post position #6 in Saturday's Arlington Million, is likely to opt for Saturday's Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap at Saratoga, where he would be the projected choice in the wagering for that upstate New York affair.
Beginning with his 2004 Secretariat score, Kitten's Joy became the long-range 2005 Million favorite, and underlined that early status when he faced older rivals for the first time in the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Oct. 2. The Kentucky-homebred dominated that field with a two and a half-length tally.
Although Better Talk Now subsequently upset Kitten's Joy in the Breeders' Cup Turf at long odds Oct. 30, Kitten's Joy has reaffirmed his quality in his lone start as a 4-year-old, closing strongly to capture Churchill's Grade II Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap July 4.
Better Talk Now, although entered Wednesday against Kitten's Joy in the Million, was estimated by his connections to be 90 percent certain to go for Saratoga's less challenging option that same afternoon.
However, Powerscourt could present an equally formidable challenge for Kitten's Joy. In the 2004 Million, the European invader came from far back, surged to the front in mid-stretch, but then drifted in during the final furlong. Although the British-bred drew clear by a length and a half at the wire, he had impeded rivals in the late stages and was subsequently disqualified and placed fourth.
In last fall's Breeders' Cup Turf, Powerscourt finished third behind Better Talk Now and Kitten's Joy, and was also third, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Group I Bailey's Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardtown three weeks earlier.
This season, Powerscourt was fifth in the Grade I Dubai Sheema Classic March 26, fourth in the Group II Hardwicke Stakes during the Royal Ascot-at-York meeting June 18, and second in the Group II Scottish Derby at Ayr July 18 in a tune-up for Saturday's run.
Leading the charge of Million invaders from Southern California is Red Oak Stable's Sweet Return, last year's morning line Arlington Million favorite, who subsequently finished eighth after being steadied on the first turn.
Sweet Return comes to the Arlington Million with a two-race win streak after capturing Del Mar's Grade I Eddie Read Handicap by a length and a half July 24, as well as Hollywood's Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap June 11. Both those West Coast wins came in front-running efforts.
Another highly regarded European Arlington Million invader is Gary Tanaka's Touch of Land, a French-bred who won the Group III Grand Prix de Vichy-Auvergne over France's Vichy course July 20 and was fourth in the Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes during the Royal Ascot-at-York session June 15. Touch of Land also finished third in the Group I Hong Kong Cup last December.
Heading the list of East Coast-based candidates for Saturday's Arlington Million is Ogden Mills Phipps' Good Reward, who won the Grade I Manhattan Handicap June 11 on the Belmont Stakes Day program in his last start, and also captured the Grade I Hollywood Derby last fall. Both those outings were at Saturday's 10-furlong distance.
David Garner's Cool Conductor, who won the Grade III Arlington Handicap July 23 by three and a half lengths as the last major local prep for the Million, heads the Midwest-based Million candidates. The 4-year-old colt won Pimlico's Grade II Dixie Handicap May 21 on Preakness Day at Pimlico, defeating Good Reward that day.
Completing the field for Arlington Million XXIII is Triple B. Farms' Whilly, hero of Hollywood's Grade II American Handicap July 3; Tom Baxter's Fourty Niners Son, second to Sweet Return in the Eddie Read; and Dominique Bayet's Alost, fourth in the Manhattan Handicap, beaten only a length for all of it, in his last trip to the post.
Arlington Park -- the Chicago area's premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. -- is running a 94-day meet in 2005 from Friday, May 13 through Sunday, Sept. 18. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates eight off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities: Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Chicago, Trackside McHenry, Trackside Rockford, Trackside South Beloit, Trackside Waukegan and Lucky's featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin. Information on Arlington Park can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com.
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