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Arlington Park Road to the Million (8/2/06)

Contact: Graham Ross


Winterbeck Manor Stud’s globetrotting Phoenix Reach is due to arrive at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport late Thursday following a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to become the first European candidate for Arlington Million XXIV to set up local headquarters at Arlington Park.

The Grade I Arlington Million, along with the Grade I Beverly D. and the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, will be run Aug. 12 to headline Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing – showcase event of Chicago’s Thoroughbred racing season – and all three classics have attracted some of the world’s best grass runners in their respective divisions.

Scheduled to arrive on subsequent transatlantic flights for this summer’s Arlington Million on the second Saturday in August are Mrs. John Magnier’s Irish-bred Ace, Gestut Park Wiedingen’s British-bred Soldier Hollow and Gary Tanaka’s French-bred Touch of Land.

European-based members of the distaff set expected for the $750,000 Beverly D., sister race to the Arlington Million, are a pair of sophomore fillies – Mrs. Magnier’s Irish-bred Queen Cleopatra and Tanaka’s British-bred Rising Cross – who will be asked to challenge older mares in that mile and three-sixteenths turf test.

Due in from Europe for the $400,000 Secretariat, final leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple restricted to 3-year-olds of international grass caliber, are Dr. Ronan Lambe’s Irish-bred Royal Intrigue, Ecurie des Monceaux’ French-bred El Capitano, Mrs. Magnier, Michael Tabor and Iriving and Marjorie Cowan’s Irish-bred Ivan Denisovich, and Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Ltd.’s Primary, bred in Kentucky but raced thus far in Great Britain and Italy.

Phoenix Reach, Arlington’s first arriving European guest this summer, has not been to North America in almost three years but made his last journey a successful one by capturing Woodbine’s Grade I Canadian International in October of 2003 as a 3-year-old facing older horses. Since that trip, the Andrew Balding trainee won the Group I Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase in December of 2005 at Sha Tin and was clearly best in the Grade I Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba in March of 2005.

Although he has been away from competition since being injured in Great Britain’s Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury a year ago, the 6-year-old has trained brilliantly in progressively advanced gallops on the hills around Kingclere in Berkshire in recent weeks.

“He’s a real star. We’re very happy with the way he’s come along,” said Lindy Reese, trainer Balding’s secretary when confirming travel plans for Phoenix Reach. “He’ll leave here (Berkshire) Wednesday, and leaves on his flight from Amsterdam Thursday.”

Returning to Arlington Park and the Arlington Million following a three-year absence is Aury and Ralph Todd’s The Tin Man, a West Coast-based 8-year-old gelding who was beaten less then three lengths for all of it when sixth in the 2003 Arlington Million.

The Tin Man had also visited Arlington Park in the fall of 2002, when he gained the lead midway through the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf in Chicago that year before weakening in the late stages to finish fourth.

In those previous trips to Chicago, The Tin Man was stabled at the barn of the late revered Chicago conditioner Gene Cilio, who fulfilled the request of The Tin Man’s Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella and had Arlington’s carpenter build a stall with a window in it so The Tin Man could look out.

“He likes his company,” explained Mandella assistant Crystal Brown when the horse and exercise rider were visited at Barn 10 three years ago. “He likes somebody to look at. It relaxes him.”

So what will The Tin Man do for a window this time?

“He doesn’t really need that (the customized window) any more,” said Mandella on Monday, speaking over the phone from his Southern California headquarters. “He’s getting pretty relaxed in his old age. In fact he’s doing real well lately since coming off that win.”

Mandella was referring to The Tin Man’s wire-to-wire winning performance in Hollywood’s Grade II American Invitational Handicap July 2, a stakes that the Affirmed gelding had first won four years earlier.

“Man, it is easy when they run like that,” said winning jockey Victor Espinoza following The Tin Man’s most recent American Invitational ‘Cap victory. “Just on cruise control. The old man…he just likes to run…loves to run. He has such a big heart. Richard (Mandella) really knows how to train this old man.”

In his previous start, The Tin Man had finished second in the Grade I Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba last March 25, losing to Roldvale Ltd.’s David Junior, winner of Great Britain’s Group I Coral-Eclipse at Sandown July 8.

“He (The Tin Man) came back from Dubai good,” said Espinoza, who also rode the 8-year-old in the United Arab Emirates. “A lot of horses don’t, but he loves to travel. It didn’t take anything out of him.”

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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