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Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/20/05)

Contact: Graham Ross


With the two highweights for Saturday's Grade III Arlington Handicap both expected to participate, this weekend's mile and a quarter turf test -- the final major local prep for the upcoming Grade I Arlington Million -- should help separate the wheat from the chaff in that showcase event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season Aug. 13.

Similarly, Saturday's Grade III Modesty Handicap for fillies and mares, and Grade II American Derby -- presented by Jack Daniel's for grass-favoring 3-year-olds of international caliber -- are expected to help separate contenders from pretenders for the Grade I Beverly D. and the Grade I Secretariat Stakes respectively.

David Garner's Cool Conductor, winner of Pimlico's Grade II Dixie Handicap on Preakness Day May 21, is expected to shoulder the top impost of 120 pounds in Saturday's Arlington Handicap. The son of Stravinsky, most recently fourth in Monmouth's Grade I United Nations Handicap July 2, is familiar to Illinois racing fans for winning the Grade III Hawthorne Derby last fall and for finishing second by a neck in last summer's Secretariat Stakes at Chicago's premier Thoroughbred oval.

Bloodstock Management Services Inc. & Cheveley Park Stud Ltd.'s Vangelis, next in the Arlington Handicap weights at 119 pounds, comes up to Saturday's race off a third-place finish in Hollywood's Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap June 11 after being forced wide. Previously, the 6-year-old son of Highest Honor, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, was second in Hollywood's Grade III Jim Murray Memorial Handicap May 14.

The French-campaigned Artiste Royal, now owned by Chicago native Sidney Port and trained by Laura de Seroux, and the third horse inscribed on the Arlington Handicap weights list, is also now in residence at Arlington for Saturday's Million prep. Artiste Royal won the Group III La Coupe Stakes at Longchamp in his last trip to the post June 16. Before that the Danehill colt out of Agathe, a mare by 1987 Arlington Million champion Manila, was fourth in the Group III Prix d'Hedouville May 9 at that same oval on the outskirts of Paris.

Another European runner, Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof's Dayano, who arrived at Arlington Sunday, came down with a slight fever following his transatlantic journey, developed a subsequent throat infection and has now been scratched from the Arlington Handicap.

Dayano left Arlington Park Tuesday night for further treatment at an equine clinic.

Meanwhile, Mrs. John Magnier's Powerscourt, first under the wire in last summer's Arlington Million before being disqualified, ran second in the Group II Daily Record Scottish Derby on Monday at Ayr and remains an intriguing candidate for Arlington Million XXIII. Powerscourt, who is being ridden this year by Kieren Fallon, was not equipped with blinkers for this week's outing in Scotland, and gave a solid performance while losing to the favored Imperial Stride.

Other European runners considered possible candidates at this time for the Arlington Million but not coming for Saturday's Arlington Handicap include Gary Tanaka's Touch of Land, Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Maraahel, and Thomas Mohan's Hazyview.

Touch of Land ran fourth in the Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes on June 15 during the "Royal Ascot at York" meeting in his last start, but was in contention most of the race. Bred in France, Touch of Land is trained by Henri Alex Pantell, and has told representatives of the International Racing Bureau Ltd. that the Arlington Million is his likely next target.

Maraahel, an Irish-bred, was the runner-up in Group II Hardwicke Stakes June 18 on the final day of the "Royal Ascot at York", beaten by stablemate Bandari in that 12-furlong test, and Maraahel, who is trained by Sir Michael Stoute, may be better suited to the 10 furlongs of the Arlington Million.

Hazyview, who gave an uncharacteristically poor performance when sixth in last summer's Secretariat Stakes, has rebounded to his better form as a 4-year-old, and most recently ran fourth in the Group I Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown July 2.

European members of the distaff set currently being mentioned for Arlington's $750,000 Beverly D. include Mrs. Noel O'Callaghan's Alexander Goldrun, most recently second to the brilliant mare Soviet Song in the Group I UAE Equestrian & Racing Federation Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket July 5. Just 10 days earlier, the Irish-bred Alexander Goldrun had beaten a competitive field in the Group I Audi Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh.

In Saturday's Modesty 'Cap at Arlington, American-based Beverly D. candidates that should sort themselves out include Andrena Van Doren's Shaconage, second in Churchill's Grade III Locust Grove Handicap July 2 and Grade III Mint Julep Handicap June 4; and Haras Santa Maria de Araras's Noisette, third in Minnesota's Lady Canterbury Breeders' Cup June 19.

Other Modesty probables among that Beverly D. prep's higher weighted fillies and mares include Augustin Stable's Spring Season, winner of Philadelphia Park's Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap July 2; and Nelson Bunker Hunt's Voz De Colegiala, heroine of Lone Star's Fresa Stakes July 1.

Expected to head the field for Saturday's American Derby, middle leg of Arlington's tradition-rich Mid-America Triple, is E. J. Sukley's Purim, winner of the Grade III Arlington Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve on July 2 as the first leg of the Triple. The $400,000 Secretariat Aug. 13 is the final leg of that troika restricted to sophomores.

Newly arrived from Ireland to challenge Purim in the American Derby is Michael Smurfit's Merger, trained by Ireland's all time leading conditioner Dermot Weld, who has saddled the winners of three of the last five American Derbys.

Also expected for Saturday's middle leg of the Triple are Gabe Grossberg's Cosmic Kris, Martin Grotheer's Earths Vain Shadow, Brant Laue's Gun Salute, Diane Perkins' Take the Bluff, and Eliah & Lisa Kahn's Exceptional Ride.

However, waiting in the wings for the Secretariat on the second Saturday in August is Avastar LLC & John Pregman's English Channel, winner of the Grade III Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs July 16. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the nation's Eclipse Award-winning conditioner last year, English Channel previously won Virginia's Colonial Cup June 25, and is now halfway home in a newly-created series called the Grand Slam of Grass.

Should English Channel win Arlington's Secretariat, and go on to win the Grade I John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park Oct. 29, the Pletcher trainee would win a $3 million bonus for completing the four-race sweep.

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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