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Arlington Park Road to the Million (6/7/06)

Contact: Graham Ross


James Scatuorchio’s English Channel, winner of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day May 6, and Bushwood Racing Partners’ Better Talk Now, hero of Pimlico’s Grade II Dixie two weeks later on Preakness Day May 20, are among 78 of the world’s best grass horses nominated to the this summer’s 24th running of the Grade I Arlington Million.

Arlington Million XXIV, once again the centerpiece event of Chicago’s Thoroughbred racing season, will be contested on Aug. 12 at a mile and a quarter over Arlington’s world famous turf course.

Also to be contested on the second Saturday in August as part of Arlington Park’s one-day International Festival of Racing is the Grade I Beverly D., $750,000 sister race to the Million for fillies and mares at a mile and three-sixteenths over the local lawn, and the Grade I Secretariat at the 10-furlong distance, a $400,000 race restricted to 3-year-olds of international turf caliber.

Arlington’s three world renowned classics are the only Grade I races offered in Illinois on an annual basis.

English Channel came from just off the pace to win Churchill’s Turf Classic by a length and a half after winning Gulfstream’s Canadian Turf Handicap March 11 by three-quarters of a length in his only other start this season.

Last year, the chestnut son of Smart Strike finished second by a length and three-quarters in Arlington’s Secretariat Stakes after posting three straight turf stakes tallies on the Mid-Atlantic circuit. Conditioned by Todd Pletcher, the nation’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer for the last two years, English Channel went on to finish second in Belmont’s Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Oct. 1 following his runner-up Secretariat placing, and was fifth in Belmont’s Grade I John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf Oct. 29 to conclude his 2005 campaign.

Better Talk Now, void of early foot in the Dixie as is his wont, angled out to launch a bold bid when set down for the drive and was up in time to be best by a head in that recent Baltimore outing which served as his 2006 debut.

He was fourth in last summer’s Arlington Million after winning Monmouth’s Grade I United Nations July 2. Trained by English-born but American-based Graham Motion, the 7-year-old Talkin Man gelding returned to the winner’s circle after the Million in Belmont’s Grade I Man o’ War Sept. 10, but was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Turf after winning that event in 2004 when it was held at Lone Star Park. An unplaced finish in the Group I Japan Cup Nov. 27 concluded his 2005 campaign.

Another prominent American-based nominee to this summer’s Arlington Million is Tom Baxter’s Fourty Niners Son, third behind Mrs. John Magnier’s Powerscourt and Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Kitten’s Joy in last year’s Million.

Conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, another British-born but American-based horseman, Fourty Niner’s Son rebounded from his third-place Million effort in 2005 to take down winning honors in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship during Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting Oct. 2. Subsequently, he was ninth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, but a close second in his 2006 bow May 20 at Hollywood Park.

One intriguing European-based 2006 Million nominee is the Irish-bred Phoenix Reach, owned by Winterbeck Manor Stud. The 6-year-old is reportedly being aimed for an Arlington Million seasonal bow by trainer Andrew Balding after being away from competition since Great Britain’s Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Stakes last July 23.

Included among Phoenix Reach’s accomplishments prior to injuries sustained in last summer’s Newbury outing are a win in Woodbine’s Grade I Canadian International in 2003 while still a sophomore, another win in the 2004 Group I Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase when sent to the Far East, and a victory in the Middle East in 2005’s Grade I Dubai Sheema Classic. He was also the runner-up by three-quarters of a length in the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup in a return to the Orient in May of 2005.

An equally fascinating Arlington Million nominee is the Irish-bred Grey Swallow, owned by Vega Fze and Mrs. C. L. Weld, and conditioned by Ireland’s all-time leading trainer Dermot Weld.

In his most recent trip to the post May 13 Grey Swallow was five lengths the best in Hollywood’s Grade II Jim Murray Memorial Handicap in his seasonal and North American debut after boasting a 2005 tally in the Group I Tattersalls Gold Cub at Ireland’s The Curragh, and a win over that same course in 2004 in the Group I Budweiser Irish Derby.

Other Million nominees this year -- European-based last season but now campaigned in North America -- include Juddmonte Farms Inc.’s Cacique and Paul Dixon’s Milk It Mick, second and third respectively behind English Channel in Louisville at the Twin Spires oval on Kentucky Derby Day.

Grey Swallow, English Channel and Cacique are all expected to meet in Saturday’s Grade I Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day in New York.

Martin Schwartz’ Angara, the British-bred defending Beverly D. champion, heads the list of 83 fillies and mares nominated to this summer’s female highlight for grass-running members of the distaff set, while also prominent is Glencrest Farm’s Honey Ryder, most recently the victress in Belmont’s Grade III Sheepshead Bay Handicap May 27.

Angara, trained by international horseman Patrick Biancone, is in a position to become the first two-time winner in the Beverly D.’s 17-year-history this summer.

Arlington Park -- the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. -- will run a 95-day meet in 2006 from Friday, May 5 through Tuesday, Sept. 12. 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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