Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/2/14)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
ARLINGTON MILLION XXXIII: CHROME COMES HOME
After months abroad, America’s prodigal peoples’ horse CALIFORNIA CHROME is finally coming home for owners Steven Coburn and Perry Martin. A valiant runner-up in the world’s richest race – the Group I $10,000,000 Dubai World Cup in late March – the dirt-proven son of Lucky Pulpit set sail for England in an attempt to race against the world’s best turf horses in the Group I $820,000 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, despite a sole race and victory over the grass – a facile victory over an overmatched field in the Grade I $300,000 Hollywood Derby in late November.
Unfortunately, a bruised hoof prevented a European clash from happening for the Art Sherman trainee, but that may not stop him from taking on the world’s best at 1 1/4 grassy miles. The attractive chestnut with the flashy white markings was quickly rerouted to the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million and is set to depart Newmarket for Chicagoland on Monday, July 6.
Though his class and infectious starpower cannot be denied, there are a few who could deny the California-bred in the Arlington Million. Flaxman Holding’s reigning Eclipse Award champion turf horse MAIN SEQUENCE, who nearly entered the Million last year before being rerouted to the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga, could very well commandeer ‘Chrome’s Million and claim wagering favoritism from the 2014 Horse of the Year. Such would be dependent on whether the Graham Motion-trained son of Aldebaran recovers from a seventh-place finish in the Group I $6,000,000 Dubai Sheema Classic – his first loss for Motion in six starts for the Fair Hill, Maryland-based conditioner.
Talented graded stakes winners with two recognizable sets of silks – Stuart Janney, III’s Shug McGaughey-trained IRONICUS and Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Roger Brueggemann-trained THE PIZZA MAN – look to be tentatively aiming themselves toward the Million for their respective connections. The latter returned with a resounding victory to kick off his 6-year-old campaign in the $65,000 Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill Downs at the end of May. The form of such was flattered when the third-place finisher – Claiborne Farm’s Departing – returned to win the Grade II $200,000 Firecracker Stakes last week at the same course. Ironicus left an indelible mark on many peoples’ minds when he sprinted away from a field that included 2013 Canadian Horse of the Year and fellow Million nominee UP WITH THE BIRDS in the Grade II $300,000 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day.
In Europe, one of the most influential races to watch for the Million was the aforementioned Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot earlier this month. This year, Moyglare Stud’s Dermot Weld-trained FREE EAGLE was a game victor over Frank Gillespie’s Kevin Ryan-trained THE GREY GATSBY by the slightest of margins in the 10-furlong contest after the latter experienced considerable traffic issues. While Free Eagle has yet to decide on his next target (possibly the Group I $1,109,000 Irish Champion Stakes in September at Leopardstown), The Grey Gatsby is slated to start this Saturday in the Group I $703,000 Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park against Anthony Oppenheimer’s unbeaten prohibitive favorite and runaway Group I $2,070,000 Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn, from the barn of John Gosden.
While Golden Horn is unlikely to come to Arlington, another Gosden trainee is the prototype of a prime candidate in Robin Geffen and Rachel Hood’s WESTERN HYMN. While periodically flashing brilliance – especially at the Million’s 1 1/4-mile distance – the son of dual Breeders’ Cup Turf winner High Chaparral has yet to win at the Group I level within his 10 career starts. A game third in the Prince of Wales’s, he will also line up in the Coral-Eclipse, which is expected to have a field of five – including intriguing Ballydoyle representative COUGAR MOUNTAIN, who was third last out to one of the top-ranked turf horses in the world, Solow, over a straight mile at Royal Ascot.
Two improving Million nominees to keep your eyes on are Mrs. Fitri Hay’s THE CORSICAN and Saeed Suhall’s CANNOCK CHASE. Both 4-year-olds, they hail from trainers who have won the Beverly D. on Million Day in two of the last three years – David Simcock and Sir Michael Stoute. Listed stakes winner The Corsican ran especially well to finish fourth in the Prince of Wales’s – beaten only 3 1/4 lengths while taking a herculean step up in class – while 2014 Royal Ascot Group III winner Cannock Chase checked in a disappointing seventh. Both horses seem to relish the Million distance and handle the quicker ground they would likely receive in the 33rd running of the oldest seven-figure race in the world.
Major races to watch coming up are the local Grade III $100,000 Arlington Handicap on July 11 and Grade I $500,000 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 5. While Main Sequence is expected to tower over his rivals in the latter – including recent Grade I $1,000,000 Manhattan Stakes winner and Million-aimed SLUMBER – the former is anticipated to be a highly intriguing renewal. The Pizza Man will line up against Team Valor International’s recent Grade II $200,000 Monmouth Stakes winner TRIPLE THREAT, from the barn of Bill Mott. The latter will be making his second stateside start after a French career that saw him chase the likes of Cirrus des Aigles and Treve in 2014. Last year, the nearly black charge was aimed at the Million before two consecutive poor showings terminated that target.
For now, though, and until further notice – it is safe to say that Arlington Million XXXIII is The Chrome Show.
BEVERLY D.: EURO CHARLINE TOWERS
At this point, the road to glory in the Grade I $700,000 Beverly D. looks like it goes through Team Valor International’s defending champion EURO CHARLINE. The daughter of Myboycharlie has done little since – a sole effort when fourth in the Group I $6,000,000 Dubai Turf – but her unprecedented performance in last year’s race as a sophomore was so powerful, the 4-year-old cannot be ignored. She is likely to have a prep race before shipping back over for trainer Marco Botti, as her attempt to do so in the Group II $211,000 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot backfired when a refusal to load into the gate resulted in a swift dismissal from competition.
If she returns, Euro Charline will likely face more than one fresh face from what looks to be a salty renewal of the Grade III $100,000 Modesty Handicap – the course and distance prep for the Beverly D. Pin Oak Stud’s multiple graded stakes-winning OVERHEARD is expected to ship in from Canada for trainer Malcolm Pierce, while Haras Phillipson’s Neil Drysdale-trained GAGA A – an impressive winner in her sole American start in the 1 1/2-mile $75,000 Possibly Perfect Handicap at Santa Anita – plans to invade from the West Coast. Also possible are James Miller’s Wayne Catalano-trained multiple graded stakes winner AURELIA’S BELLE, Carl Pollard’s David Vance-trained recent graded stakes winner KISS MOON and Twin Creeks Racing’s Mike Stidham-trained minor stakes winner NOTTE D’ORO. Perhaps the most improved filly going into the Modesty is Lisa Lex’s graded stakes-placed local allowance winner LOTS O’ LEX, from the barn of Gerry Aschinger.
While the Grade I $500,000 Diana Handicap produced five starters last year – all Grade I winners – for the Beverly D., it seems reasonable to assume that in 2015 there will be less of an overlap in performers. This is mostly because of the three-week, as opposed to four-week in 2014, gap between the races – as well as the fact that only one of those, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Chad Brown-trained STEPHANIE’S KITTEN, cracked the superfecta when finishing a game and troubled second at Arlington. Said daughter of Kitten’s Joy is assumed likely to return in 2015, as her connections have wanted to win this race with her the last two seasons and this is her final year of competing.
Sixth in last year’s Beverly D., Hit the Board Stable’s I’M ALREADY SEXY is possible to return in 2015 to the race that saw her lose by less than three lengths and be beaten by no less than five Grade I winners. Trained by multiple Arlington title-holder Wayne Catalano, the daughter of Ready’s Image looked better than ever when taking the Grade III $100,000 Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park last weekend over a mile. Soon afterward, Catalano and Hit the Board principal Anna Seitz mentioned the Beverly D. as a possibility for the four-time Arlington winner.
Overseas, the aforementioned Duke of Cambridge – a race that produced 2013 Beverly D. winner Dank and 2012 third-place finisher Joviality – begat a shocker when Sir Robert Ogden’s homebred AMAZING MARIA defeated Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum’s Clive Brittain-trained multiple Group I winner RIZEENA for trainer David O’Meara. Finishing behind those two was Haras de la Perelle’s Beverly D. nominee CLADOCERA, from the yard of Alain de Royer-Dupre, who appears the most likely to be considered for an Arlington expedition. Mohd Al Kubasi and Pearl Bloodstock’s fellow nominee LIGHTNING THUNDER did not fare as well, checking in last of six for trainer Olly Stephens. The daughter of Dutch Art has yet to return to the form that saw her finish second in two classics last year, but an improved performance next out could see her shipping stateside.
A key race to watch is the Group II $111,000 Kilboy Estate Stakes – a nine-furlong Irish Oaks Day undercard race that Dank used as her final Beverly D. prep in 2013. This year it is to take place at The Curragh on July 19 – just 20 days prior to the Beverly D. – but the Europeans have proven less hesitant to run on such a rest than their American counterparts.
SECRETARIAT: AMERICAN AND BELMONT DERBIES LOOM LARGE
Much about the American side of the 39th running of the Grade I $450,000 Secretariat Stakes will be said after the next two weeks have been completed, as the two major preps for the race – the Grade III $100,000 American Derby at 1 1/8 miles and the Grade I $1,250,000 Belmont Derby at the Secretariat’s 1 1/4 miles – are to be contested. The major players for each race form what could be a formidable domestic dynamic.
Unlike last year when Coolmore shipped over its well-fancied Aidan O’Brian-trained Adelaide to get nipped at the wire in the Belmont Derby – a race prior to taking the Secretariat with ease – there are no such seemingly world-class horses shipping over to take on America’s top sophomores on grass. Just two runners from global powerhouse ownerships will make the trek – Juddmonte Farms’ Dermot Weld-trained listed stakes winner POSTULATION and His Highness the Aga Khan’s Mikel Delzangles-trained minor winner CANNDAL. One would surmise that the latter of the two is more likely to continue on to Arlington, as his owner was victorious in the 2012 Secretariat for Alain de Royer-Dupre trainee Bayrir and he is already nominated to the race. Like Bayrir, Canndal is a son of Medicean and has shown an affinity for the Secretariat’s distance.
The Americans appear formidable in the Belmont Derby on Saturday, July 4, with trainer Chad Brown sending out the Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence-owned duo of TAKEOVER TARGET and STARTUP NATION to take on Gunpowder Farms’ Buff Bradley-trained DIVISIDERO and Richard Santulli’s Alan Goldberg-trained FORCE THE PASS, who have each won four stakes between the two of them since April. The experience play comes in the form of Golden Pegasus Racing and Earle Mack’s Carla Gaines BOLO, a Grade I $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby also-ran who puts his 3-for-4 turf record on the line after a Santa Anita allowance score over nine furlongs in which he registered a 112 Equibase Speed Figure – a number that towers above his Belmont Derby rivals. Of the aforementioned domestic charges, only Bolo is not currently nominated to the Secretariat.
The American Derby, which draws next week and takes place on Saturday, July 11, is shaping up as anyone’s race. Godolphin Racing’s CRITTENDEN stretches out from his 7 1/2-furlong win in the $75,000 PDJF Stakes at Indiana Grand in late May and is likely to take on the well-regarded Lothenbach Stables-owned NUN THE LESS, from the barn of Chris Block. Possibles for the race are Woody Weeks’ Jamie Ness-trained Woodwin W, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Mike Maker-trained Task Force Glory and Peter Vegso’s Bill Mott-trained GO AROUND – a half-brother Go Between, the beaten 7-5 morning-line favorite in the 2006 Secretariat.
At Royal Ascot, the Group I $586,000 St. James’s Palace Stakes over an undulating mile produced an exciting finish as Coolmore’s Gleneagles continued his ascension to what already looks to be a championship season. Left in his wake were four others and one in particular who looks like prime Secretariat material, despite not yet being nominated. V. I. Araci’s Hugo Palmer-trained AKTABANTAY, who shipped to Santa Anita to compete in the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and impressed many on the track before injuring his hoof and being scratched, was a useful fourth in the St. James’s Palace. The performance was the son of Oasis Dream’s first start since Oct. 5, 2014.
Another key race from Royal Ascot was the Group III $117,000 Tercentenary Stakes at the Secretariat’s 10-furlong distance for sophomores, which was won impressively by Juddmonte Farms’ quickly improving TIME TEST – a fruit of the royal engagement of top sire Dubawi and Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf-placed Passage of Time. While he is less likely to make the trip to Arlington, two left in his wake – Flaxman Holdings’ Sir Michael Stoute-trained DISEGNO (fourth) and Stronach Stables’ Dermot Weld-trained DOM CAMILLO (seventh) – are both nominated to the Secretariat and have connections who enjoy competing at the International Festival of Racing.
AMERICAN ST. LEGER: MAKING THE GRADE
The 2014 edition of the American St. Leger could be its most exciting yet. After Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock annexed the first two editions with the Marco Botti-trained Melbourne Cup-destined duo of Jakkalberry and Dandino, the United States struck back in 2014 in the most American of ways: in the form of a strapping sports utility vehicle of a racehorse by an American turf champion, bred and raced in the Prairie State and owned by one of the most powerful and expansive ownership entities in the country. His name was and is THE PIZZA MAN and under the banner of Midwest Thoroughbreds, the bay son of English Channel sliced and served defending champ Dandino a defeat to the roar of the home crowd under the tutelage of the local jockey-trainer team of Florent Geroux and Roger Brueggemann.
In 2015, while The Pizza Man aims for bigger prizes in the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million (though his connections are leaving the America St. Leger open as a back-up), the newly minted Grade III $350,000 American St. Leger – previously a Listed race – could develop one of the most intriguing fields on the International Festival of Racing card. As expected, we may see some interest from the other side of the Atlantic. In England, at the famed Royal Ascot meeting, the Group I $586,000 Gold Cup saw La Grange Partnership’s TRIP TO PARIS run away from his rivals at a price, leaving well-regarded Irish-based favorites KINGFISHER and FORGOTTEN RULES in his wake.
Though it may be a long shot to have the top three from the northern hemisphere’s most prestigious marathon, others in the field fit the American St. Leger prototype, including none other than last year’s game third-place finisher HAVANA BEAT. Markedly improved since his trip to Arlington, the Mick and Janice Mariscotti-owned 5-year-old made a bid at the top of the straight at Ascot, but simply ran out of both gas and class and faded to ninth of 12. The 2 1/2-mile trip may have also been slightly too far for the son of Teofilo, as he was much sharper third in the Group II $312,000 Yorkshire Cup at York one race prior for trainer Andy Balding over that course’s flatter, faster, left-handed and thus more American-style course. The winner at York, Juddmonte Farms’ Sir Michael Stoute-trained SNOW SKY, would go on to win the Group II $312,000 Hardwicke Stakes over 1 1/2 miles at Royal Ascot – a race used by both Jakkalberry and Dandino en route to their American St. Leger glory.
Balding, who has done well shipping to Arlington over the last few years – including third-place finishes in the last two Millions with Pearl Bloodstock’s Side Glance – also trained Gold Cup sixth-place finisher SCOTLAND. A German-bred son of Monsun owned by Mrs. Fitri Hay – part-owner of 2011 Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes winner Treasure Beach – the lightly raced 4-year-old vastly outran his long odds when closing from last. Both Scotland and Havana Beat are nominated to the American St. Leger.
A charge from the Gold Cup who would not be a surprise to see nominated between now and the cut-off date is TAC DE BOISTRON. In a perplexing performance, the Botti-trained 8-year-old finished last of 12, while appearing to be eased. Owned by the aforementioned Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, he is a two-time winner of the Group I $261,000 Prix Royal Oak at Longchamp going a quarter-mile farther than the American St. Leger’s distance in which his connections have done so well.
While Snow Sky is not nominated, two world traveling geldings astern him in the Hardwicke – Mohammed Jaber’s SHEIKHZAYEDROAD and The Hon. Ronald J. Arculli’s RED CADEAUX – finished fourth and seventh. Sheikhzayedroad hails from the David Simcock yard that has already proven it can win on Arlington’s biggest day when doing so with St. Albans Bloodstock’s I’m a Dreamer in the 2012 Grade I $750,000 Beverly D. Dunlop-trained Red Cadeaux, who has finished second in three of the last four Group I $4.7 million Melbourne Cups, ran poorly for the second consecutive race, but – at 9-years-old – may have an excuse not to be at his peak yet this season.
Stateside, the first two significant preps for the American St. Leger took place over the last month – the $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational over two miles at Belmont Park on June 5 and the famed Grade III $150,000 San Juan Capistrano over about-1 3/4 miles at Santa Anita each produced possibles to watch for come Aug. 15. The top three from the Belmont Gold Cup – Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Chad Brown-trained INNOVATION ECONOMY, Robert S. Evans’ Todd Pletcher-trained UNITARIAN and John C. Oxley’s Marc Casse-trained DYNAMIC SKY – are all nominated to the American St. Leger and would greatly strengthen the American hand in the race.
In California, the good faith trainer Keith Desormeaux has maintained in Big Chief Racing’s 23-1 CRUCERO paid off when the 5-year-old son of Admiral’s Cruise wheeled back off a week’s rest to wear down Haras Phillipson's Neil Drysdale-trained big favorite and American St. Leger nominee GOING SOMEWHERE in the final yards of the San Juan Capistrano to win by a neck. Desormeaux – who kept a small string at Arlington last summer – implied shortly afterward via text that he plans on nominating the long-winded $40,000 January claim to the American St. Leger.
A key race to watch coming up is the course prep, the 1 1/2-mile Grade III $100,000 Stars and Stripes, which is likely to include John James Revocable Trust’s Gerry Aschinger-trained graded stakes winner DRAMEDY, Michele and Cliff Love’s Neil Howard-trained graded stakes winner XTRA LUCK, and AFORTABLE – a highly regarded three-quarter-brother to Team Block’s Chris Block-trained 2013 American St. Leger runner-up Suntracer, from the same connections, who is making his first start at a marathon distance.