Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/16/14)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
ARLINGTON MILLION XXXIII: QUIET FORCE THE ‘NOW HORSE’
If last year’s Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million XXXII – won by Andrew Bentley’s longshot Hardest Core – taught the betting public anything, it is to pay attention when a horse is getting good at the right time. This year, that label may be appropriately applied to QUIET FORCE, from the adept barn of Mike Maker. Owned by Warner Thoroughbreds, the regally bred son of Dynaformer was a keen claim in March of last year and ran the best race of his career on Saturday when impressively taking the Grade III Arlington Handicap over capable multiple graded stakes-placed Middleburg and Canadian champion UP WITH THE BIRDS. The plan is now for both Quiet Force and Up With the Birds to march on to the Million, while their Christophe Clement-trained competitor Middleburg searches for easier avenues.
Speaking of Up With the Birds, the Sam-Son Farm homebred son of Stormy Atlantic experienced a bombardment of bumping throughout the first half of the race under Eclipse Award-winning champion apprentice jockey of 2014, Drayden Van Dyke. Upon breaking free of such, he made a bid, but could not catch Quiet Force or Middleburg in the lane. The plan for the Graham Motion trainee is to stay the course for the Million, granted he exits the race well.
Scratched from the Arlington Handicap was Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s likely favorite TRIPLE THREAT, who had a slight fever detected the day prior to the race. Favored on the morning line, the jet-black son of Monsun is still under consideration for the Million and must be respected on form, especially after defeating Middleburg in the Grade II Monmouth Stakes last out. Furthermore, hailing from the Bill Mott barn, it should be of little worry if he enters the Million after a two-month layoff.
Two races later on the card, Midwest Thoroughbreds’ local Illinois-bred hero THE PIZZA MAN stole the show with a measured victory in the Grade III Stars and Stripes at 1 1/2 miles. Winning the race for the second consecutive year, the son of champion turf horse English Channel will now be pointed to the Million – a race his connections feel he could have possibly won last year, especially given his dynamic performance earlier in the card when taking the Listed American St. Leger over internationally respected stayer Dandino.
Elsewhere this week, Phipps Stable’s MR. SPEAKER made an impressive return to the races for Shug McGaughey. A Grade I winner last year at the Million’s 1 1/4-mile distance, the son of Pulpit left much to be desired in his previous two outings this year. On Wednesday, in a salty allowance at Belmont Park the bay easily defeated Jon and Sarah Kelly’s classy multiple graded stakes-placed Clement trainee CHAMOIS. While neither of those two are nominated to the Million, the latter’s connections have shown marked interest in possibly bringing their tough son of Smart Strike to Chicagoland.
A key race to watch in the United States this weekend is Saturday’s Grade I $400,000 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, which is scheduled to feature Million hopeful FINNEGANS WAKE, from the barn of Peter Miller. Owned by Donegal Racing and Rockingham Ranch, the 6-year-old is having a career year and has had Aug. 15 circled on his calendar since late winter. The 6-year-old son of Million victor Powerscourt has started at Arlington’s International Festival of Racing three times already – finishing fifth (2014) and fourth (2013) in the last two Millions and second in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes (2012) – but would be making his first Arlington foray under the tutelage of accomplished conditioner Peter Miller after spending his first four seasons with Dale Romans.
Little Red Feather Racing et al.’s talented 4-year-old MIDNIGHT STORM – also a Million nominee – starts in the Eddie Read in his first race since finishing a game second in the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita on June 13 to Talco for trainer Phil D’Amato. The son of Pioneerof the Nile garners watching, as his best career race was last year over the same nine-furlong trip in the Grade II Del Mar Derby.
A third Million nominee in the bunch is the improving and well-regarded 4-year-old TWENTYTWENTYVISION, from the barn of Dick Mandella and ownership of Peter and Ellen Johnson. The son of Pollard’s Vision will be making only his seventh career start, but has yet to finish out of the money and has developed quickly since debuting on Jan. 4 at Santa Anita.
A Million probable, according to his connections, to keep an eye on as he works toward the Chicagoland classic is Walter Swinburn’s LEGENDARY, from the barn of young Niall Saville. Last seen finishing a sharp third in the Grade I Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park on June 6, the long-striding son of Exceed and Excel skipped the Arlington Handicap to train up to the Million, according to his conditioner. Having already had three outings this year since April – two in Grade I company – the two months between races should be of little fitness worry for the Fair Hill-based 6-year-old.
The International Racing Bureau confirmed that Mrs. Fitriani Hay is likely to send her improving son of Galileo, THE CORSICAN, to the Million after his solid fourth in the Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot. As mentioned in a previous edition of Road to the Million, the David Simcock-trained 4-year-old has improved vastly this year and lost by only 3 1/4 lengths in one of the world’s most contentious and prestigious 10-furlong turf events.
Others to watch from overseas who have shown interest in the Million include aforementioned (in previous Roads) WAKE FOREST, CUSTOM CUT and BELGIAN BILL. A key race to watch is the Group II York Stakes on July 25 at its namesake course in England, as well as the Group I Grosser Dallmayr-Preis at Munich one day later in Germany. Both races are over left-handed courses at about-10-furlongs and have produced significant Million contenders in the past.
BEVERLY D.: WALK CLOSE AND MANGO DIVA STATE THEIR CASES
The field for the 26th running of the Grade I Beverly D. took closer order on Saturday when the Grade III Modesty Handicap – the course and distance prep – produced three possible runners for the $700,000 event. Led by Highland Yard’s impressive and improving winner WALK CLOSE, the race also included a sharp return to form for Augustin Stable’s MANGO DIVA, who started to show a return on investment after her $867,061 sale at Tattersalls’ December sale when finishing second by a half-length on the rain-soaked good going.
While neither are confirmed, it is believed that Michael Matz-trained Mango Diva is the more likely of the two to return, especially with the prospect of running on faster ground next month. Haras Phillipson’s third-place finisher and globetrotting Uruguyan-bred race favorite GAGA A was a little closer to the pace than trainer Neil Drysdale expected and finished an even third, while stepping back in distance from a 1 1/2-miles stakes victory in her American debut last month at Santa Anita.
A filly who skipped the Modesty in favor of having more time before the Beverly D. is Antoinette Oppenheimer’s EASTERN BELLE. A daughter of Champs Elysees trained by Graham Motion who was second last out in the Grade II New York Stakes on June 5, her form was flattered by Walk Close, whom she defeated by a nose when finishing second one race prior in the Keertana Stakes on May 16 at Churchill Downs. That division of the split Keertana has become a key race, as its winner – Glen Hill Farm and Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ Ceisteach – returned to win the Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park this past weekend over 1 3/8 miles. Craig Bernick, president of Glen Hill, confirmed that the daughter of champion New Approach is likely to stay at longer distances and point toward the 11-furlong Grade II Glen Falls Stakes on Sept. 5 at Saratoga.
A stateside race to watch is next weekend’s Grade I Diana Stakes at Saratoga, which has attracted the nominations of Grade I winners and Beverly D. nominees COFFEE CLIQUE, HARD NOT TO LIKE and STEPHANIE’S KITTEN. While Amerman Racing’s Brian Lynch-trained Coffee Clique is a confirmed miler and less likely to attack the 1 3/16-miles Beverly D. trip, it will be interesting to see if Speedway Stables’ Clement-trained Hard Not to Like and Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Chad Brown-trained Stephanie’s Kitten – both proven at longer distances – enter the race. As previously mentioned, the Diana is three weeks away from the Beverly D. this year – unlike four last year – and is thus less likely to produce runners for both races.
On the European front, three fillies are taking a serious gander at the Beverly D. Haras de la Perelle’s Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained CLADOCERA exits a good third in the Group II Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot – a key prep for the Beverly D. in recent years – and has shown an affinity for faster ground and distances slightly beyond a mile. On paper, she is not far behind Team Valor International’s current Beverly D. favorite and defending champ EURO CHARLINE, having finished a half-length behind the daughter of Myboycharlie in the Group I Dubai Turf against the boys in March and both having lost to Sir Robert Ogden’s greatly improved AMAZING MARIA in their respective last races. Amazing Maria – trained by David O’Meara – is not impossible to come over for the Beverly D., but is logically more likely to seek her August riches in Deauville, France.
Augustin has a foreign filly also reportedly under consideration for the Beverly D. in Group I winner WE ARE, who exits a runner-up finish – albeit by a distant four lengths – to two-time Group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Treve in the Group II Prix Corrida at Saint-Cloud on May 29. Though she is a longshot to make the race, she would be a force with which to reckon if she did, especially based on her victory in last October’s Group I Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp.
Qatar Racing and Newsells Park Stud’s quality mare SECRET GESTURE is a more likely contender from overseas. Having already proven her American mettle when a good fifth – beaten 2 1/4 lengths by champion Dayatthespa – in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf last year, the daughter of Galileo was fourth in a salty renewal of the Group I Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh last out on June 28 behind Group I winners Diamondsandrubies, Legatissimo and Ribbons. Previous to that effort, the Ralph Beckett trainee was a smart winner of the Group II Middleton Stakes over 1 5/16 miles at York.
Sixth-place finisher in the Pretty Polly, Chasemore Farm’s Ed Walker-conditioned MUTATIS MUTANDIS is also under consideration for the Beverly D. A sleek gray fast ground-loving daughter of Mastercraftsman who had previously won a listed stakes race, Mutatis Mutandis did not disgrace herself when stepping up considerably in class and losing by three lengths at odds of 33-1.
SECRETARIAT: DIVISIDERO SEEKING REDEMPTION
One of the most promising sophomores so far this year produced one of the most disappointing performances in the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational earlier this month when Gunpowder Farms’ DIVISIDERO failed to produce for trainer Buff Bradley at odds of 5-2. In his fifth lifetime start, the son of Kitten’s Joy ran poorly for the first time after consecutive stakes wins in the Grade II American Turf on the Kentucky Derby Day card and the Belmont Derby’s local prep, the Pennine Ridge Stakes four weeks later on May 30. Bradley has stated that his intention is to race back in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 15, where he may get another crack at Richard Santulli’s Alan Goldberg-trained Belmont Derby winner FORCE THE PASS.
The Grade III American Derby – the local prep for the $450,000 International Festival of Racing fixture – produced an exciting finish and up to four possible runners for the Secretariat. Live Oak Plantation’s well-bred winner WORLD APPROVAL, who was fourth in the Pennine Ridge last out, outfought Godolphin’s CRITTENDEN in an enthralling stretch duel after passing pace-setting NUN THE LESS, who failed to walk the dog to victory and finished in third after setting glacial fractions. While Chris Block-trained Nun the Less seems more likely to pursue a shorter race like the one-mile Mystic Lake Derby on Aug. 23, it is not out of the question for the son of Candy Ride to stay home and try 10 furlongs.
Mark Casse-trained World Approval and Eoin Harty-conditioned Crittenden seem almost certain, if all goes well, to re-engage on Aug. 15 in the Secretariat. Harty has not yet confirmed such, but Casse immediately expressed a will to do so a minute after taking the race with his half-brother to a Breeders’ Cup Mile winner (Miesque’s Approval) and runner-up (Za Approval). Fourth-place finisher KING OF NEW YORK was compromised by the pace scenario, as the son of Street Boss is a deep closer. Still, the bay Harold Lerner-owned colt ran on valiantly to finish fourth for trainer Kenny McPeek.
As mentioned last week, Australian Bloodstock’s GOLDSTREAM seems likely to make the trip over after his private purchase by principals Jamie Lovett and Luke Murrell. Turned over to Andreas Wohler, the Group II Italian Derby winner is 5-for-5 and adds significant intrigue as he tries to replicate the feat of 2014 Secretariat winner Adelaide and parlay a Secretariat victory into a Group I Cox Plate win later in the year Down Under.
Belmont Derby runner-up CANNDAL also seems likely to make the trip over from his base in France. Trained by Mikel Delzangles for His Highness the Aga Khan, the homebred was a best-of-the-rest second on July 4 to Force the Pass and deserves respect.
A fellow French trainee who is possible for the Secretariat and also shows a placing at the top level last out is Joseph Allen homebred WAR DISPATCH, from the yard of Jean-Claude Rouget. Third last out in the Group I French Derby on May 31, the Group III winner won five consecutive races prior to that effort. Another descendent of Allen’s foundation mare Andover Way – the dam of super sire Dynaformer – War Dispatch is closely related to Group I winner Lines of Battle and has already been victorious twice at the Secretariat’s 10-furlong distance.
Another also-ran from the French Derby with eyes on Arlington is Muteb bin Abdullah’s Nicolas Clement-trained MOSTANEER. Sixth at Chantilly in the aforementioned classic, the son of Dutch Art returned four weeks later over that same course to finish an second in the nine-furlong Group III Prix Daphnis behind streaking Freddie Head trainee Almanaar.
An approaching race to watch in France is the Group II Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte – an event that produced His Highness the Aga Khan’s 2012 Secretariat winner Bayrir. Stateside, the nine-furlong Grade III Kent Stakes could be a key race, as it includes nominees CHIEF KITTEN – who may likely go favored for trainer Chad Brown and owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey – and Graham Motion trainee ALL I KARABOUT, a homebred of the prestigious and recently reborn Sagamore Farm.
AMERICAN ST. LEGER: IMPROVING CALVADOS AND SCOTLAND LIKELY
The fourth running of the newly minted Grade III American St. Leger is shaping up as an intriguing contest already. Despite the likely defection of Midwest Thoroughbreds’ local prep – the Grade III Stars and Stripes – winner and defending champion THE PIZZA MAN (in favor of the Grade I Arlington Million), an intriguing cast of longwinded equine characters is contriving in his sizable shadow.
Such is led by two solid performances underneath the son of English Channel last weekend in the Stars in Stripes. Three Diamonds Farm’s ROMAN APPROVAL ran a dynamite race to finish second after making all the running and bravely attempting to hold off a menacing The Pizza Man, despite a noticeable disparity in size between the two charges that favored the eventual winner.
Immediately following the stellar effort by the son of Roman Ruler, Maker keenly stated that his charge “ran a winning race, he just didn’t get paid for it.” Such a sentiment leads one to believe he may bring the front-running dark bay back, especially with his conqueror heading elsewhere and Maker’s penchant for bringing a phalanx to Arlington for its International Festival of Racing.
Many believe that, despite The Pizza Man’s measured victory, he would have lost what was his second consecutive Stars and Stripes had Mom Celine’s CALVADOS had a cleaner trip. The Argentine-bred six-time winner was forced to alter course late in the stretch under Jose Lezcano and finished with a flourish to catch fellow American St. Leger nominee XTRA LUCK for third at the wire. Trainer Ignacio Coreas, IV, confirmed afterward that he would like to bring the 7-year-old gelded son of Snipewalk back in five weeks’ time.
Xtra Luck, on the other hand, was game in his fourth-place effort. Chasing Roman Approval throughout, the Neil Howard trainee made a bold bid at the top of the stretch, but could not match strides with the top three when the real running commenced. A true stayer with a fluid gallop and tactical placement, he could be sleeper in the American St. Leger if owners Michele and Cliff Love decide to bring him back on Aug. 15.
A trio of Euros to watch whose connections have expressed pointed interest in the American St. Leger are Sandford Robertson’s Jeremy Noseda-trained WAKEA and the Andy Balding-trained duo of Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s improving SCOTLAND – a close sixth last out in the Group I Gold Cup at Royal Ascot – and Mick and Janice Mariscotti’s HAVANA BEAT, who was third in last year’s race as a 4-year-old and has noticeably upped his game at age five. Of that triad, the most likely seems to be Scotland – a son of Monsun – at this point, according to the International Racing Bureau. Mrs. Hay’s manager Oliver Cole has stated such and is familiar with the Chicagoland track, having accompanied and managed the final preparations of 2013 Grade I Beverly D. runner-up (behind champion Dank) Gifted Girl, who was conditioned by his father Paul.
Perhaps what one can altogether take from this entire lead-up is that the two currently most-committed – Calvados (named for an apple brandy) and Scotland (a country known for its native malt spirit) – each have a significant chance to be the toast of the fourth American St. Leger.