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Arlington Park Road to the Million (6/22/05)

Contact: Graham Ross


Mrs. John Magnier's Powerscourt, first under the wire in last summer's Grade I Arlington Million -- only to be disqualified and placed fourth for an errant stretch run -- is a nominee again this season and is now increasingly mentioned as an interesting possibility for a return engagement.

The British-bred son of Sadler's Wells finished fourth in Saturday's Group II Hardwicke Stakes on the final day of the Royal Ascot meeting. That session was transplanted to the Knavesmire at York last week as Ascot undergoes a massive redevelopment project.

"Powerscourt didn't run badly at all," said Alastair Donald, managing director of International Racing Bureau Ltd., speaking over the phone from his Newmarket headquarters on Monday about the Aidan O'Brien trainee's most recent effort. "But you could see that the ground was too firm and the trip was too far. The Hardwicke is run at 12 furlongs, and Powerscourt is much better at the 10-furlong distance of the Arlington Million, and he loves the course at Arlington because it has some 'give' to it."

The Arlington Million, traditional centerpiece of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season observing its 22nd renewal this summer, is one of Illinois' only three Grade I races conducted on an annual basis. The top-tier troika, which will also include the 16th running of the $750,000 Beverly D. and the 29th running of the $400,000 Secretariat, will all be run Aug. 13 as part of Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing.

In last summer's Arlington Million, Powerscourt raced far back early, rallied boldly while circling the pacesetters entering the stretch but drifted in sharply under right handed whipping to impede rivals. Nevertheless, he was clearly best by a length and a half at the wire.

Following his aborted Chicago run, Powerscourt returned to Europe to run third, beaten less than a length for all of it, in the Group I Irish Champion Stakes at a mile and a quarter Sept. 11. He came back to North America for the Grade I John Deere Breeders' Cup on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park and finished third again, but well behind more proven routers Better Talk Now and Kitten's Joy, when asked to extend to a mile and a half.

Better Talk Now, owned by Bushwood Stable, and Kitten's Joy, last year's Secretariat winner owned by Ken & Sarah Ramsey, as well as Hardwicke hero Bandari, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, are also nominated to Arlington Million XXIII.

Another race run during last week's "Royal Ascot at York' meeting that could provide a European invader for this summer's Arlington Million was the Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes contested June 15.

Gary Tanaka's Touch of Land ran fourth in the Prince of Wales's, but was in contention most of the race. Bred in France, Touch of Land is trained by Henri Alex Pantell, who told Donald, as a representative of the International Racing Bureau, that the Arlington Million was likely to be his next target.

"Touch of Land is a pretty decent horse," said Donald, who witnessed the entire Ascot at York session. "He was third in the Hong Kong Cup last year and chased home Valixir earlier this season in France."

(Irish-bred Valixir, owned by His Highness the Aga Khan, won the Group I Queen Anne Stakes June 14 during the Royal Ascot meeting.)

According to Donald, Tanaka's Epalo, fourth under the wire in last year's Arlington Million and subsequently placed third, should also be considered a Million possibility again this year. Trainer Andreas Schutz and Tanaka are both devotees of the World Racing Championships, and Arlington Million XXIII is the fourth leg in the 2005 Race Series.

"Epalo had the lead in Hong Kong before he was found wanting," said Donald of the Group I Audemars Piquet Queen Elizabeth II Cup, run April 22 as the first leg of the 2005 edition, "but as he's gotten older it may be taking him a little longer to reach top fitness.

"In Singapore (the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup May 15, second leg of the Series), Epalo drew the inside along with the two other speed horses, and simply had to do too much too early," Donald said.

As the sister race to the Arlington Million, the Grade I Beverly D. annually attracts the best grass-running fillies and mares throughout the world, and early possibilities from Europe at this point in time include the Irish-bred New Morning and the Japanese-bred Sundrop.

"New Morning (owned by N. R. A. Springer and trained by Michael Jarvis) is from the Islington family," said Donald, referring to the 2003 Grade I Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner, "and she had an eye-catching win at Sandown earlier this month (beating last year's Group I Epsom Derby winner North Light in the Group III Brigadier Gerard Stakes June 1.)"

Sundrop is owned by Godolphin Racing Inc., who won last year's Beverly D. with the South African-bred Crimson Palace. The daughter of 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence was runner-up in the Group II Windsor Forest Stakes during the Royal Ascot at York meeting on June 15. Previously, Sundrop captured the Group III Princess Elizabeth Stakes, sponsored by Vodafone, at Epsom June 3.

One final encouraging note concerning European representation in this summer's Arlington Million came from Italy, where Earle Mack's Electrocutionist, an Arlington Million nominee, scored his first Group I win in Milan on Sunday.

Despite being bumped in the stretch run of the $431,274 Gran Premio di Milano, Electrocutionist recovered from that mishap and tallied by three-quarters of a length.

"I'm very happy with Electrocutionist," said trainer Valfredo Valiani in post-race quotes. "He won his first Group I and proved again that he is a real good horse. Now we have to sit down and discuss with Mr. Mack about the next target.... Mr. Mack would be proud to run the horse in the United States, maybe in the Arlington Million."

Electrocutionist is a Kentucky-bred son of Red Ransom out of an Arazi mare, and has now won five races in six starts with career earnings of $729,809.

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