Arlington Park Road to the Million (8/11/10)
Contact: Graham Ross
GIO PONTI’S COMING – EUROPEAN INVADERS THINNING IN MILLION XXVIII; BEVERLY D., SECRETARIAT STAKES FIELD CHANGING RAPIDLY THIS WEEK
Gio Ponti giveth and Gio Ponti taketh away – especially when it comes down to the field now likely for the 28th running of the Grade I Arlington Million a little over one week away on Saturday, Aug. 21.
The suddenly likely presence of Gio Ponti, the Arlington Million’s defending champion owned by Castleton Lyons, has significantly changed the landscape of those likely to challenge last year’s Eclipse Award-winning Male Turf Horse in the showcase race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season on the third Saturday in August.
Trainer Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti’s French-born but American-based conditioner, announced last week the Million was the next likely start for his champion after keeping the racing world in suspense since July 10 when his 5-year-old star won Belmont’s Grade I Man o’ War Stakes with a dramatic late rush.
So Arlington Million XXVIII gets its star attraction – along with the tease that should Gio Ponti win the upcoming running he would become the first horse in history to win back-to-back renewals of the mile and a quarter-turf test.
To date, the only horse to win Arlington Million twice was Dotsam Stable’s legendary John Henry, who took the inaugural running in 1981 and came back three years later to win the 1984 edition.
Mrs. John Magnier’s Powerscout was the first horse under the wire in the 2004 Arlington Million but was disqualified and placed fourth. The following summer, Powerscourt was the first horse under the wire again and that result was not challenged.
However, the news that Gio Ponti is expected has also caused some collateral damage to the prospective overflow makeup of this month’s Million field. For instance, the previously announced likelihood of a half-dozen European invaders has been cut in half.
Still likely to make an Atlantic crossing next week: Shadwell Stable’s Tazeez, who finished third beaten just over a length in the Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes behind the highly regarded Byword and Twice Over during the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting June 16; HRH Princess Haya of Jordan’s Debussy, a second John Gosden-trained colt who was seventh in that same Royal Ascot run but more recently fourth in the Group II Sky Bet York Stakes at York on July 24 after the rider dropped his stick; and William Bellew’s Summit Surge, a 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding who won Great Britain’s Sky Bet York Stakes by a length and a quarter last month and was a close second in Italy’s Group II Premio Carlo Vittadini at San Siro last May 30.
European invaders now deleted from the upcoming Arlington Million are: Kirsten Rausing’s Lady Jane Digby, slow to recover from her victory in Germany’s Group I Bayerisches-Zuchtrennen July 25: Juddmonte Farms’ Famous Name, with connections concerned about the possibility of firm ground in Chicago; Godolphin’s Allybar, apparently not training aggressively in recent days; and Alan Spence’s Jukebox Jury, who did not perform as expected in his last start.
Still on track for the Million among American-based runners are Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada, Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well and Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, first, second and third respectively in the Grade III Arlington Handicap as the designed local prep for the Arlington Million. Also Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, sixth in the Arlington Handicap, who would come only if the ground had some “give” to it.
Jean and Ted Barlas and Michael Porcaro’s Quite a Handful, a winner in optional claiming company at Indiana Downs’ July 12, remains a Million possibility depending on who looks likely to go to the post as the race gets closer.
Don Van Racing, Michael Nentwig, George Saadeh and Jeffrey Byer’s The Usual Q. T., winner of the Del Mar’s Grade I Eddie Read Stakes, was still a possible Million starter as of Wednesday morning providing firm ground was expected at Arlington on Million Day, trainer James Cassidy advised.
The complexion of the 20th renewal of the Grade I Beverly D. as the Arlington Million’s sister race changed rapidly following the unfortunate death last Sunday of William de Burgh’s Tuscan Evening, Arlington’s Grade III Modesty Handicap winner who was the projected Beverly D. favorite.
Richard Duchossois’ Éclair de Lune, runner-up to Tuscan Evening in the Modesty, may now inherit the favorite’s mantle, but is expected to be challenged once again by Nelson McMakin’s Hot Cha Cha and Augustin Stable’s Rainbow View, third and fourth respectively in the Modesty.
Others probable in the $750,000 Beverly D. – some of whom are late additions – are: Helen Alexander’s Acoma, winner of Churchill’s Grade III Cardinal Handicap last November, second in the Grade III Mint Julep June 5 and fourth in the Grade III Locust Grove at that same Twin Spires oval on July 3; Three Chimneys Racing’s Ave, second by a nose in Woodbine’s Grade II Dance Smartly July 18 and third in Belmont’s Grade II New York Stakes June 19; Marquesa de Moratalla’s Biased, third in France’s listed Prix de la Pepiniere July 25 at Maisons-Lafitte; and Team Valor International’s Gypsy’s Warning, fifth in Woodbine’s Dance Smartly but winner of Monmouth’s Grade III Eatontown Handicap May 31.
Other fillies and mares considered probable for the Beverly D. are Michael Deegan’s Pachattack, a European-based daughter of Pulpit who won Great Britain’s listed EBF Chalice Stakes at Newbury Aug. 1, Newcastle’s listed EBF Hoppings Stakes June 24 and was third in Epsom’s Group II Princess Elizabeth Stakes June 5; California-based Turning Top, owned by Michael Tabor and heroine of Hollywood’s Grade III Beverly Hills Handicap in her last start June 26; Princess Haya, owned by Eileen Hartis and fourth in that same test; Frank Calabrese’s Romacaca, winner of Mountaineer’s $75,000 Firecracker Stakes on July 3 at last asking; Juddmonte Farm’s Treat Gently, winner of the Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park July 17 and Belmont’s Grade II Sheepshead Bay Stakes before that May 22; and Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena, who breezed a half in 50.20 Wednesday morning after finishing fourth in Monmouth’s Grade III Matchmaker Aug. 1. Trainer Mike Stidham indicated that he was “on the outside looking in” and would wait to see the likely competition in the Beverly D.
Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado, considered the top turf-favoring sophomore in North America at this time, worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 over the main course at Churchill Downs July 31 and will work once more before traveling from Louisville to Chicago for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes Aug. 21 as the final leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple.
Awaiting Paddy O’ Prado, who won the Grade II Virginia Derby July 17, the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup June 19 and was third in the Kentucky Derby before that May 1, will be Estrorace LLC’s Workin for Hops, who won the 75th renewal of the $100,000 Arlington Classic May 22 and the Grade II American Derby July 17 to win the first two legs of Arlington’s Triple.
Other notable probable starters in the Secretariat Stakes are: Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten, second and third respectively behind Workin for Hops in the American Derby; James Hackman and Glenn Thompson’s Two Notch Road, fourth in Monmouth’s $145,000 Jersey Derby Aug. 1, fourth in the Virginia Derby and third in the Colonial Turf Cup; European invader Wigmore Hall, owned by Mark Hawtin and winner of his last two at Great Britain’s Newmarket on Aug. 6 and over the Knavesmire at York July 10; Craig Family Trust’s Twirling Candy, heroine of Del Mar’s $112,000 Oceanside Stakes July 21; and Millard Seldin Revocable Trust and the Estate of Hoss Inman’s Cherokee Lord, second in optional claiming company at Arlington July 29.
Arlington Park – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run a 91-day meet in 2010 from Thursday, April 29 through Sunday, Sept. 26. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates 11 off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities: Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Chicago, Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Waukegan, Shooters Bar & Grill at Don Carter Lanes featuring Trackside Rockford, Fat Sam’s Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in Lockport, Lucky’s featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin, Nicolino’s featuring Trackside OTB in McHenry, Tad’s Sports Bar & Grill featuring Trackside OTB in South Beloit, Salerno-Pincente Ristorante featuring Trackside OTB in Hodgkins and Sundance Saloon featuring Trackside OTB in Waukegan. Information on Arlington Park can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com.