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Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/19/06)

Contact: Graham Ross


The British are coming! The British are coming!

Winterbeck Manor Stud’s Phoenix Reach – a globetrotting Group I winner three different seasons in three different nations – is training brilliantly in progressively advanced gallops on the hills around Kingclere in Berkshire in advance of his next engagement in the upcoming Grade I Arlington Million Aug. 12.

“We could not be happier with his progress at this stage,” said trainer Andrew Balding, speaking over the phone from England on Monday of his 6-year-old Irish-bred star. “All signs at this time couldn’t be more positive (for Phoenix Reach’s projected Arlington Million start on the second Saturday in August.)

“Phoenix Reach is going to have a racecourse gallop in about 10 days,” Balding said, “and if all goes well we’ll be leaving shortly after that for Chicago. We plan to ship (to Arlington) about 10 days before the Million.”

Included among Phoenix Reach’s accomplishments 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.

Phoenix Reach has been away from competition since aggravating an old injury in last year’s Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond States in Great Britain at Newbury on July 23, 2005.

“When he was a 2-year-old he suffered a split pastern,” explained Balding in mid-June when asked about Phoenix Reach’s injury-prone career. “He needed plating and screws to correct it. Then, last year (in the King George) he suffered a small fissure fracture. We gave him some time to let it heal naturally but it didn’t, so (four) months ago we inserted a pin and started him back cantering about (two) months ago.”

However, now increasingly likely to join British-based Phoenix Reach for this upcoming Arlington Million invasion are British-breds Blue Monday, owned by Mountgrange Stud, and Soldier Hollow, who races in the silks of Gestut Park Wiedingen.

Blue Monday, an altered 5-year-old son of Darshaan, most recently finished third, beaten less than two lengths by the victorious David Junior, in the Group I Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown July 8. David Junior, a son of Pleasant Tap owned by Roldvale Ltd., is considered by some to be the best 10-furlong horse training in Europe this season. Fifth in the Coral-Eclipse, two positions behind Blue Monday, was the brilliant mare Ouija Board, who stumbled in the stretch to lose all chance. Ouija Board won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2004.

Trained by Roger Charlton, Blue Monday won the Group III La Coupe Stakes at Longchamp June 15 and was then compromised by a troubled trip when fourth in the Wolferton Handicap June 23 during the Royal Ascot meeting.

Soldier Hollow concluded his 2005 campaign with a two and a half-length tally in Italy’s Group I Premio Roma last Nov. 6, and was second by a length in the Group I Presidente della Republica over that same Capanella course May 14 this year. Most recently, the 6-year-old son of 1990 Grade I Breeders Cup Turf winner In the Wings was second in Germany’s Group II Pferdewetten.De-Trophy at Koln June 18. Last summer, Soldier Hollow captured the Group I Grosser Dallmayr-Preis at Munich.

Soldier Hollow is conditioned by Peter Schiergen, who began his training career in 1998 after being Germany’s champion jockey for five successive years from 1992-1996. In 1995, Schiergen had his best year by riding 271 winners: a European record that surpassed one set previously in the United Kingdom by Sir Gordon Richards.

Contested along with the Arlington Million to make up Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing Aug. 12 is the Grade I Beverly D., Arlington’s $750,000 race for the world’s best grass-favoring fillies and mares and the Grade I Secretariat, restricted to 3-year-olds of international caliber on turf.

The latest European-based member of the distaff set being mentioned for participation in the Beverly D. is the Irish-bred Luas Line, owned by Eva Stockwell. Following her fifth-place finish behind Soviet Song in the Group II Windsor Forest Stakes June 21 during the Royal Ascot session, the 4-year-old Danehill filly crossed the Atlantic to finish third in Hollywood’s Grade III CashCall Mile Invitational Stakes July 1 despite a wide trip.

Increasingly likely for the Secretariat among European-based sophomores is Highclere Thoroughbred Racing XXVI’s Primary. That son of Giant’s Causeway has raced against such stars as Group I Epsom Derby winner Sir Percy in the past and won the listed Gran Premio d’Italia by two lengths in Milan on June 17.

Incidentally, Harry Herbert, Highclere’s principal operative, is the son of the late Lord Carnarvon, was the racing manager for Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II when her 4-year-old colt Unknown Quantity won the Arlington Handicap in 1989.

Upcoming preps for the Arlington Million include this Saturday’s Grade III Arlington Handicap as the final major local prep for the Million, while on the West Coast this Sunday, the Del Mar Turf Club hosts the Grade I Eddie Read Handicap at a mile and an eighth on the grass.

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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