Arlington Park Stakes Advance: Arlington Million (G1)
Contact: Brian W. Spencer
BIG BLUE KITTEN AND SLUMBER TOP WIDE-OPEN MILLION
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (August 12, 2015) – The 33rd running of the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million on Aug. 15 at Arlington International Racecourse has drawn an immensely competitive baker’s dozen, topped by the hot Chad Brown-trained tag team of Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners and Bethlehem Stables’ Slumber and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Big Blue Kitten. First and second, respectively, in the Grade I $1,000,000 Manhattan at Belmont Park in June and then swapping spots in the Grade I $500,000 United Nations at Monmouth Park four weeks later, they take their dominant show on the road to Chicago, each with an eye on year end honors. The Million, over 1 1/4 miles on Arlington’s world-renowned turf course, is for 3-year-olds and upward and will go as Race 10, 5:48 pm Central time, and is the final leg of the Twinspires.com $150,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 and of a $100,000 guaranteed all-stakes Pick 5. The Million is also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race that provides an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Turf for the winner.
Big Blue Kitten, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, breaks from post four under regular rider Joe Bravo. The only multiple Grade I winner in the field will be aided by a rabbit in the Ramseys’ Brown-trained Shining Copper, who successfully completed his pace-setting mission last out in the United Nations when finishing fourth to Big Blue Kitten’s first. Veteran local rider Chris Emigh picks up the mount on Shining Copper, whose morning line is set at 30-1.
Slumber, whose Manhattan mastery was his lone Grade I victory, breaks from post two under top jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. In the money in four of his five tries at the distance, he has been pointed to the Million all season and lands a 7-2 morning line.
A familiar foe of Big Blue Kitten and Slumber will take them on again in the form of Walter Swinburn’s Naill Saville-trained Legendary. A smart third to the Brown bombers last out in the Manhattan, the Grade III winner is 2-for-3 at the distance and was the lone forwardly placed runner to be around at the end of that event. Sheldon Russell returns to the saddle after recovering from injury and will break from post six at morning-line odds of 15-1.
Local favorite and Illinois-bred Arlington overlord The Pizza Man is undefeated in his last five trips to the post over the surface and exits a popular victory in the 1 1/2-miles Grade III $100,000 Stars and Stripes over it on July 11. Florent Geroux returns to the saddle for the Midwest Thoroughbreds’ homebred and will break from post seven for trainer Roger Brueggemann. A victory by the 10-1 shot would be his 15th in 23 lifetime starts, 10th over the track and hoist him well above the $1 million mark in earnings – not to mention cause a raucous reception from the Arlington faithful.
Sam-Son Farm’s Up With the Birds returns to the Million again this year after finishing fourth – beaten five lengths – in the 2014 version. While last year’s edition was an afterthought in a season where winning at the top level in any race was the overall goal, this year the son of Stormy Atlantic’s connections – including new trainer Graham Motion – have circled the Million on their calendar as their major goal. Coming into the Million in what will be his third race of the season after two strong efforts – each with valid excuses – make this Grade I-winning 2013 Canadian Horse of the Year a major player. The 5-year-old bay breaks from the rail under reigning Eclipse Award champion apprentice jockey Drayden Van Dyke and has been assigned 12-1 morning-line odds.
Two horses who are slightly more fancied on the morning line are Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s Triple Threat and Godolphin Racing’s Maverick Wave. Hailing from two of the most respected trainers in the world and previous Million winners in Bill Mott and John Gosden, respectively, the New York-based Triple Threat and England-based Maverick Wave each exit stylish victories in grade/group company. Triple Threat breaks from post 10 under Jose Lezcano at odds of 6-1, while Maverick Wave – at 8-1 – does so to his outside in post 11 under Godolphin contract rider William Buick.
Two improving charges exiting victories in grade/group company and entering the Million in their best form are Klaus Allofs and Gestut Fahrhof’s Andreas Wohler-conditioned Wake Forest and Warner Thoroughbreds’ Mike Maker-trained Quiet Force. German-bred, -trained and –raced Wake Forest exits a fine triumph in the Group III $61,000 Hamburg Trophy over the Million’s distance for his Million-winning conditioner, while Quiet Force took down the Million’s local prep, the Grade III $100,000 Arlington Handicap at 1 3/16 miles. Wake Forest and regular rider Eduardo Pedroza break from post five with a 12-1 morning line. Quiet Force, on the other hand, breaks from post eight under Robby Albarado at 15-1.
The field for the Arlington Million is completed by three Europeans from three different countries who are not without a chance, but would have to improve in order to prove victorious. Damian Lavelle’s cleverly named Elleval has often shown signs of brilliance, but never broken through at the top level. The Irish-based 5-year-old gelding enters the Million off a respectable run when second in the Group III $66,000 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown on July 16 at nine furlongs. Decorated veteran jockey Pat Smullen picks up the mount from post 12 at morning-line odds of 30-1.
PJL’s globetrotting handicapper Belgian Bill, at the same 30-1 line, breaks to the far outside post 13 for owner-trainer George Baker. Based in England, he exits a useful second in the $234,000 Goodwood Mile on July 31 in which he lost by three-quarters of a length and defeated 16 other horses. Million-winning jockey Jamie Spencer picks up the mount.
The enigma in the Million field is lightly raced and highly regarded Mikel Delzangles trainee Bookrunner. With a sporty American pedigree, being by Tiznow out of a graded stakes-winning mare by Million winner Chester House, the French-based three-time winner has not been seen racing at the top level since finishing 11th in last year’s Group I $759,000 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Last out, he was an unbecoming third in the Group III $89,000 Prix Messidor at Maisons-Laffitte and must improve for owners Papillon Stables and Tony Chedraoui in order to compete against these. Gerald Mosse rides from post three with a 15-1 morning line.
Arlington International Racecourse – the Chicago area’s premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. – will run a 77-day meet in 2015 from Friday, May 1 through Saturday, Sept. 26. Arlington International Racecourse, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates ten off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities in Arlington Heights, Aurora, Chicago, Waukegan, Villa Park, Rockford, South Elgin, Hodgkins, McHenry and Orland Hills. Arlington International Racecourse is a proud member of America’s Best Racing. Information on Arlington International Racecourse and Trackside OTB can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arlingtonpark and www.facebook.com/tracksideotb, and on Twitter at @Arlington_Park for the latest happenings, @arlingtonracing for the latest racing news and @tracksideotb for all things pertaining to off-track wagering.