Arlington Park Road to the Million (6/19/13)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
ARLINGTON MILLION XXXI: PRINCE OF WALES’S RECAP, WILLCOX INN TO TEST LITTLE MIKE IN U.N.
The international Grade/Group I middle distance turf division saw a stirring renewal of the Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes Wednesday, June 19, as slight 5-2 favorite Al Kazeem caught 15-1 longshot Mukhadram in the final strides to win the prestigious race. Even more importantly in terms of the Grade I Arlington Million, the race saw two key performances which could mean a great deal more on August 17.
Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum’s Asfare, making his first start since a solid second in last year’s Arlington Million, made a strong run in mid-stretch, but showed signs of needing the race when tailing off slightly at the end to finish eighth behind no less than four Group I winners. Trainer Luca Camani, who has finished in the top five with six of his eight Arlington Million starters – including a win in 1983 with the John Henry-defeating sophomore Tolomeo – seems to have the son of Dubawi on target for another bow on Arlington International Racecourse’s biggest stage.
Bookending Asfare in seventh and ninth were Million nominees and world-traveling middle distance turf horses Side Glance and Red Cadeaux. Both charges seem to perform slightly more effectively on left-handed courses like Arlington, as evidenced by their second (Red Cadeaux) and fourth (Side Glance) in this year’s Dubai World Cup. Red Cadeaux, whose trainer Ed Dunlop has also nominated Unbridled Command to the Million, also ran a much more competitive race in the left-handed Singapore Airlines International Cup in May.
The surprise in the race was Mukhadram, who outran his 15-1 odds to nearly steal the race wire-to-wire under Paul Hanagan. Headed strides from the wire, the lightly raced and Million-nominated 4-year-old is owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell Farm, an ownership entity that has often supported Arlington’s International Festival of Racing with well regarded competitors.
On the local front, Arlington saw an ace performance from Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s improving 4-year-old Coalport in a salty renewal of the Black Tie Affair Stakes. Earning a commendable 98 Beyer Speed Figure for his win while doing it comfortably, the Wayne Catalano trainee may turn up next in the July 13 Grade III $200,000 Arlington Handicap at the course and distance of the Million. That race should gauge the son of Kitten’s Joy’s ultimate class level.
A race to watch this Saturday June 22 for possible Million competitors is the Grade II $300,000 Colonial Turf Cup at 1 3/16-miles at Colonial Downs. Last year, Rahystrada, Robert E. Courtney, Jr.’s gelded son of Rahy, finished third in the Colonial Turf Cup prior to finishing in a dead-heat for third in the Million.
On Saturday July 6, all eyes will be on Monmouth Park for its Grade I $500,000 United Nations Stakes. Scheduled to compete are reigning Million champion Little Mike, in his first race since Dubai, and Arlington-based Willcox Inn, who finished eighth behind Little Mike last year. In 1989, Wildenstein Stable’s Steinlen pulled off the U.N.-Million double, while Sandpit (1995) and Equalize (1988) went on to finish second in the Million after proving victorious in the U.N.
BEVERLY D.: LA TIA KEEPS IMPROVING
Locally based Hernandez Racing Club’s La Tia proved her powerful turf win in an allowance last month was no fluke with a striking victory in last Saturday’s 1 1/16-miles Lincoln Heritage Stakes. Racing on the lead throughout, La Tia was unchallenged as she dismantled a group of Illinois-bred fillies.
A winner of the Grade III Arlington Oaks on Polytrack in 2012, La Tia is set to try a graded stakes again in the Grade III $200,000 Modesty Handicap on July 13. In that spot, she could possibly meet Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Grade I-winning filly Stephanie’s Kitten, whom many consider the best turf filly or mare in the country. If La Tia keeps improving and runs her race, her goal is the Grade I $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes.
In Europe at the Royal Ascot meet, two Beverly D.-nominated fillies ran excellent races in the Group II Duke of Cambridge Stakes over a testing mile. Dismissed at 25-1, Mrs. H. Steele’s Ladys First attempted to wire the field, but fell just short as favorite Duntle proved victorious at the wire. Trained by Richard Fahey, the filly comes from the same connections that sent Barefoot Lady across the Atlantic last October to win the Grade II Canadian Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack. James Wigan’s Dank, third at 4-1, finished strongly while suggesting a need for more ground. The Dansili filly is trained by Sir Michael Stoute. Last year, the Duke of Cambridge (then known as the Windsor Forest) produced Beverly D. third-placed Joviality.
SECRETARIAT: CENTAUR AND HILL PRINCE PRODUCE EXCITING POSSIBLES
Last weekend saw two noteworthy stakes that could produce starters in the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes. At Indiana Downs, Secretariat-nominated War Dancer got back on track with a quality runner-up finish in the $200,000 Centaur Stakes behind unchallenged pacesetting favorite Free World. Trained by Kenneth McPeek, the War Front colt should improve in the future for owner Magdalena Racing.
In New York, the Grade III $150,000 Hill Prince Stakes also produced a deceptively good runner-up performance by a Secretariat-nominated contestant. Dennis Narlinger’s Play It Loud fought valiantly with eventual winner Notacatbutallama in his first start since February for trainer Michelle Nehei. The well bred son of Unbridled’s Song out of Multiple Grade II-winning Bsharpsonata would fall a mere neck short while making only his third career start.
At Royal Ascot this week, Godolphin’s star pupil and recent acquisition Dawn Approach came back on short rest to defeat a talented field of sophomores in the Group I St. James’s Palace Stakes over a one-turn mile. Worth noting in defeat is Sheikh Joaan bin Hama al Thani’s Secretariat-nominated Mshawish, who finished an eye-opening fourth while sent off at 25-1 under Frankie Dettori. With American-heavy bloodlines and a running style that begs for more ground, the son of Medaglia d’Oro out of a Thunder Gulch mare could be a heavy hitter if trainer Mikel Delzangles decides to ship him over in August.
Though it is too early to speculate who the partners of Coolmore and conditioner Aiden O’Brien will send over for the Secretariat, a keen eye must be kept on their charges, as they have won the race twice. One Coolmore competitor who looked like perfect Secretariat material in the St. James’s Palace was third-placed Mars, who outran his odds to finish a respectable third behind two of the best milers on the European continent, the aforementioned New Approach and the highly regarded Toronado. The handsome chestnut son of Galileo will appreciate more ground and may be wheeled back to run in the June 29 Group I Irish Derby. In 2011, Coolmore’s Treasure Beach, also a son of Galileo, pulled off an Irish Derby-Secretariat double.