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Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/7/05)

Contact: Graham Ross


Eclipse Award turf champion Kitten's Joy, this summer's long range Arlington Million favorite since winning last year's Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington for Ken & Sarah Ramsey, annexed his much anticipated 4-year-old debut in impressive fashion July 4 by capturing the Grade II Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"It's a relief that he made it all this way, and excitement for what he's going to do the rest of the year and what I think his potential is for the rest of the year," said trainer Dale Romans when indicating that the Grade I Arlington Million Aug. 13 would be Kitten's Joy's next scheduled trip to the post.

"I think he's better than he was last year," added Romans after his one-length tally over the Louisville lawn. "He's grown up, he's stronger and he's doing everything right."

Kitten's Joy, a son of El Prado out of a Lear Fan mare, will be attempting to emulate the feat of last summer's Arlington Million champion Kicken Kris, owned by Brushwood Stable, who won the Secretariat Stakes in 2003.

Michael Tabor's Marlin, in 1996-1997, is the other horse that swept the Secretariat-Million double in successive seasons, and Ryehill Farm's Awad also accomplished the feat, although not in consecutive years.

The upcoming Arlington Million XXIII is the centerpiece event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season, and along with Arlington's $400,000 Secretariat and the Grade I Beverly D. -- sister race to the Million with its $750,000 purse -- the three top-tiered turf races make up Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing on the second Saturday in August.

When presenting the International Festival each year, Arlington Park showcases the only three Grade I races offered in Illinois on an annual basis.

Prior to his bang-up return in the Firecracker, Kitten's Joy had been idle since his runner-up finish to Bushwood Stables' Better Talk Now in the Grade I John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park last Oct. 30.

Better Talk Now, also nominated to Arlington Million XXIII, kept up his pace along that road to Chicago with his impressive score in the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park July 2.

"Naturally, the Arlington Million remains on the radar screen," said trainer Graham Motion of Better Talk Now last week, "but because we won Saratoga's (Grade I) Sword Dancer (Invitational Handicap) last summer, we'll also be giving strong consideration to that race."

Meanwhile, according to representatives of the International Racing Bureau Ltd., speaking from their Newmarket headquarters this week, Dominque Baret's Alost is now being considered for an appearance in the Arlington Million by his trainer Antonio Spanu.

The French-bred gelding made an Atlantic crossing recently to finish fourth in Belmont's Grade I Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 11, but was only beaten a length for all the money.

In three European starts this year, Alost finished third in the Prix Lord Seymour at Longchamp Mar. 24; fourth in the Prix de la Porte de Madrid at Saint-Cloud April 19; and third, beaten only a half-length for the win, in the Group III Prix d'Hedouville at Longchamp May 9.

Last year, following a game victory by a nose in Grand Handicap de Bordeaux at Le Bouscat in France on Oct. 13, Alost journeyed to New York and finished third beaten two lengths in Aqueduct's Grade II Red Smith Handicap Nov. 20.

Out on the West Coast July 3, Triple B Farms' Whilly, an Irish-bred trained by Doug O'Neill and a nominee to Arlington Million XXIII, made the pace in Hollywood's Grade II American Handicap, refused to surrender when headed in upper stretch, and came again to win by a half-length.

In post race comments, O'Neill indicated that he was also considering a trip to Chicago for Whilly's next run.

A 4-year-old son of the Red Ransom sire Sri Pekan, Whilly won the Grade II San Marcos Handicap Jan. 22 and ran second to Australian champion Elvstroem in the Grade I Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba March 26. The bay returned to the United States to finish fifth in Hollywood's Grade I Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile May 30.

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

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