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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (8/12/05)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Grade I Arlington Million candidate Powerscourt, Grade I Beverly D. prospect Mona Lisa and Grade I Secretariat contestant Grand Central -- all trained by champion Irish conditioner Aidan O'Brien -- galloped once around the Arlington Park turf course Friday morning during training hours, one day prior to Arlington's International Festival of Racing.
European champion jockey Kieren Fallon rode to the course initially astride Mrs. John Magnier's Powerscourt, and hopped off that Million candidate at the gap to breeze Mrs. Magnier & Michael Tabor's Grand Central, who was clocked three-eighths in :40.80 (with the "dogs" well out from the rail) prior to his Secretariat engagement Saturday.
Fallon then dismounted from Grand Central to gallop that partnership's Mona Lisa, who will start in Saturday's Beverly D. as the sister race to the Arlington Million.
"The rain has made a difference," Fallon said shortly after his turf tandem of canters. "The track is riding soft today. That will suit Powerscourt, but Mona Lisa is a firm ground filly, so it will work slightly against her."
Powerscourt will be seeking revenge in Saturday's Arlington Million XXIII. Last summer, the British-bred came from far back to finish first under the wire by a length and a half, but was subsequently disqualified and placed fourth for drifting in and bothering rivals in the stretch run. In his most recent start he ran second in the Group II Scottish Derby July 18 at Ayr in a tune-up for the Million.
Last year's winner of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes -- Ken & Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Joy -- will attempt to become the fourth Secretariat winner to later annex the Grade I Arlington Million, with Ryehill Farm's Awad, Michael Tabor's Marlin and Brushwood Stable's Kicken Kris as the others to have pulled off that difficult double.
"I think Kitten's Joy is training even better this year than he did last year," said trainer Dale Romans during training hours at Arlington Park Friday morning.
Romans maintains that he is not bothered by the pressure associated with running favorites in big races. "Kitten's Joy was 4-5 last year, so there was a lot of pressure then," he said. "I'm kind of getting used to it.
Romans is similarly nonplussed by the recent rains that have softened the Arlington Park turf course. "I'm sure the ground will be in good shape," he said. "It might be a little soft, but Kitten's Joy ran good in the (Grade I) Joe Hirsch (Turf Classic Invitational) last year over soft ground, so I think he'll like it here."
Kitten's Joy's competition received a significant addition Thursday with the news that 2004 Grade I John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now, owned by Bushwood Racing Partners and the horse who beat Kitten's Joy by a length and three-quarters that day, would run in the Million rather that Saturday's Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap at Saratoga.
Romans was not surprised by the late change in plans from the Better Talk Now camp.
"I thought it made sense for them to run here," Romans said. "They drew a good post. There's a good pace in the race. Now they've got soft turf. I didn't think there was any reason for them not to come."
Gary Tanaka's Touch of Land has a trainer -- Henri-Alex Pantall -- who speaks limited English. But the French conditioner had no difficulty making himself clear when asked about the prospect of soft ground for the running of Saturday's Grade I Arlington Million.
"Big problem," Pantall said. "He likes it good to firm."
Touch of Land enters the Million off an impressive, come-from-behind tally in the Group II Grand Prix de Vichy-Auvergne in France July 20. "The Vichy was a prep race for the Million," said Pantall. "We're trying to secure a Grade I win with him, and the owner is very fond of Arlington and competing on this weekend."
Wet weather conditions aside, Pantall is pleased with how his horse is coming up to Saturday's big race. "I'm very happy with my horse," he said. "He shipped well. We just pray for the rain to stop. But we know the grass here takes the rain very well."
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