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Arlington Park Road to the Million (6/14/06)

Contact: Graham Ross


Nominees to this summer’s Arlington Million XXIV, to be run Aug. 12 as the centerpiece event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season, finished first through fourth -- less than a length apart -- in Saturday’s Grade I Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park.

The Manhattan, traditionally a significant step on the road to the Million, was carded as New York’s co-feature Saturday, one race prior to the Grade I Belmont Stakes. Run at the Arlington Million distance of a mile and a quarter over Belmont’s inner turf course, the Manhattan underlined the competitive quality among the North American-based Million candidates this season.

(A host of European-based Arlington Million nominees are expected to sort themselves out during Great Britain’s prestigious Royal Ascot meeting June 20-24.)

Juddmonte Farms’ Cacique, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and ridden by Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Edgar Prado, was the Manhattan winner by a head, and Frankel indicated after the race that the Grade I Arlington Million would be the next goal. The Juddmonte-Frankel team most recently annexed the Arlington Million in 2002 with Beat Hollow, and posed in the winner’s circle with Chester House in 2000. No ownership group has won the Arlington Million three times in its 23 renewals.

Prior to his Manhattan score, the Irish-bred Cacique was second by a half to English Channel in the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day May 6, and fourth, beaten only a neck for the win, in Santa Anita’s Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap March 4. During a French-based campaign in 2005, the 5-year-old son of Danehill captured the Group III Prix du Chemin de Fer du Nord at Chantilly in June.

Moyglare Stud’s Relaxed Gesture was the Manhattan runner-up despite the jockey’s loss of his whip, finishing a neck in front of Vega F.Z.E. and Mrs. Marguerite Weld’s Grey Swallow, who was a head to the good of James Scatuorchio’s English Channel.

Relaxed Gesture, also an Irish-bred, disappointed in his only previous start this season in the Grade I Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba March 26, but captured Woodbine’s Grade I Canadian International last Oct. 23. French-born but American-based trainer Christophe Clement conditions the 5-year-old homebred chestnut.

Grey Swallow, still another Irish-bred, had captured Hollywood Park’s Grade II Jim Murray Memorial Handicap May 13 in his seasonal and North American debut that was his start prior to the Manhattan. Last year, the son of Daylami won the Group I Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh and annexed the Group I Budweiser Irish Derby over that same course in 2004. Dermot Weld, Ireland’s all-time leading trainer, conditions Grey Swallow.

English Channel began his 2006 campaign at South Florida’s Gulfstream Park March 11 with a win in the Canadian Turf Handicap before winning the Woodford Reserve in Louisville at the Twin Spires oval. The Kentucky-bred finished second in last year’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day in Chicago. The 4-year-old son of Smart Strike out of a Theatrical mare is trained by Todd Pletcher, the nation’s Eclipse Award-winning conditioner for the last two years.

The Manhattan’s fifth and sixth-place finishers -- Stronach Stable’s Silver Whistle and Darley Stable’s Sabre d’Argent -- are also nominated to the upcoming Arlington Million.

Out on the West Coast last Saturday, less than three hours after the Manhattan ‘Cap, Arlington Million nominees King’s Drama, owned by Gary Tanaka; Red Fort, owned by Walter Swinburn; Sweet Return, owned by Red Oak Stable; and Artiste Royal, owned by Sidney L. Port Trust and San Gabriel Investments; finished second through fifth respectively in the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The Whittingham winner, STD Racing Stable’s Lava Man, is expected to return to the main track for a run at the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup and Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic later this summer, with the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, powered by Dodge at Churchill Downs Nov. 4, as the long range goal.

The Arlington Million is one of three Grade I races -- the only three conducted in Illinois on an annual basis -- that make up the International Festival of Racing at Arlington on the second Saturday in August. Also contested on that day is the $750,000 Beverly D., for fillies and mares at a mile and three-sixteenths over the local lawn, and the $400,000 Secretariat, run at the Million’s 10-furlong distance but restricted to sophomore grass stars of international caliber.

Winning Saturday’s Grade II Just a Game Handicap in New York on Belmont Stakes Day was Martin Schwartz’ Gorella, a 2006 Beverly D. nominee trained by Patrick Biancone. That French-born but now American-based conditioner has indicated to the local racing office that the Beverly D. is penciled in on that filly’s future schedule.

Racing against males in the Woodford Reserve, the French-bred Gorella finished fifth but was beaten less than two lengths by the winning English Channel, and last fall when racing against the boys in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile, she was third, beaten three-quarters by the victorious Artie Schiller, but only a nose by runner-up Leroisdesanimaux, eventual Eclipse Award winning Turf Male of 2005.

Last year’s Beverly D. champion Angara, also owned by Schwartz, breezed five furlongs on grass in 1:01.64 Sunday at Belmont Park. The daughter of Alzao is nominated again to this summer’s 16th renewal and is in a position to become the Beverly D.’s first two-time champion.

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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