Arlington Park Road to the Million (7/31/14)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
ARLINGTON MILLION XXXIII: TRIPLE THREAT AND LEGENDARY RESTED AND READY
The field for Arlington Million XXXIII continues to become more complex with the lack of a true standout and the consequential attraction of horses who hope to become one through the race. On the American side of the competition, ex-Europeans TRIPLE THREAT and LEGENDARY are now both confirmed for the Million, despite missing their respective prep races. Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s Triple Threat was scratched the day prior to the Grade III Arlington Handicap (as the morning-line favorite) with a temperature, but is still on course for his tilt at the $1,000,000 Chicagoland classic for trainer Bill Mott, according to Team Valor.
Walter Swinburn’s Legendary has not raced since his third-place finish behind the Chad Brown-trained duo of SLUMBER and BIG BLUE KITTEN in the Grade I Manhattan at Belmont Park on June 6, but continues to train forwardly at Fair Hill for conditioner Niall Saville. The multiple stakes-winning son of Exceed and Excel is 2-for-3 at the Million’s 1 1/4-miles distance, with the lone loss being the aforementioned Manhattan third.
Manhattan one-two (and subsequently reversed in the Grade I United Nations in early July) Slumber and Big Blue Kitten are both probable for the Million, according to trainer Chad Brown. While Michael Dubb and partners’ Slumber has long been aimed to the Million, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s multiple Grade I winner Blue Blue Kitten was only possible, with the obvious alternative being the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational at the end of August at Saratoga – a race he won in 2013. Such focus has shifted in favor of the Million and both Brown warriors are expected to face off for a third consecutive time.
Warner Thoroughbreds’ Mike Maker-trained Arlington Handicap winner QUIET FORCE is still on course for the Million and holds the enviable position as the course prep victor. Last year’s Arlington Handicap winner FINNEGANS WAKE is currently on the fence for the Million, a race in which he would be taking his third stab after finishing fifth and fourth in the last two editions. Owned by Rockingham Ranch and Donegal Racing, the Peter Miller trainee exits a third in the Grade I Eddie Read behind fellow Million possible GABRIEL CHARLES at Del Mar on July 18.
According to trainer Graham Motion, UP WITH THE BIRDS is planning to start in the Million. The Canadian Horse of the Year of 2013 is exiting a rough run in the Arlington Handicap where he was repeatedly bumped and thrown off rhythm on the backstretch, yet still made a bold bid to finish third behind Quiet Force. The son of Stormy Atlantic joins Americans THE PIZZA MAN and minor stakes winner PUMPKIN RUMBLE as those more looking for reasons not to run as opposed to those who are truly on the fence.
Pumpkin Rumble looks likely to play the role of outsider, but is in career-best form after a sharp score in the Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury Park on July 11 and has every right to improve with the added distance. A son of English Channel, the smallish 4-year-old gelding was making his first start since February for trainer Gary Scherer and owners Al and Bill Ulwelling.
The European Million-bound quartet previously mentioned in Road to the Millions: PJL, Byrne and Baker’s George Baker-trained BELGIAN BILL, Damian Lavelle’s David Marnane-trained ELLEVAL, Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s David Simcock-trained THE CORSICAN and Klaus Allofs and Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof’s Andreas Wohler-trained WAKE FOREST are all still on course for Chicago, according to the International Racing Bureau. The two who may be most likely to withdraw from Million consideration are Belgian Bill and The Corsican, who both raced Friday at the Glorious Goodwood meeting – efforts, depending on the results, that may preclude them from Chicago.
A new European face thrown into the mix – and perhaps the most formidable – is improving John Gosden trainee MAVERICK WAVE from the powerful Godolphin operation. A winner of the Group III Huxley Stakes in May at Chester and a six-time winner overall, the son of Elusive Quality has done exceedingly well on left-handed courses and got a class test when defeating highly regarded Cannock Chase in his May win. Unraced since, he must be respected based on his conditioner, who has started 10 horses in the Million and finished in the top three in six of those, including 2010 victor Debussy.
BEVERLY D.: SECRET GESTURE DUE FOR TOP-LEVEL VICTORY
Qatar Racing and Newsells Park Stud’s SECRET GESTURE may not go off as the favorite in the Grade I $700,000 Beverly D. – a role likely for Team Valor International’s defending champ EURO CHARLINE – but she will be very difficult to beat for trainer Ralph Beckett. A four-time winner in 14 starts, the 5-year-old mare has consistently raced well against the world’s best filly and mare turf stars, including second-place finishes in both the Group I English and German Oaks – both in 2013 – a third to The Fugue in the Group I Yorkshire Oaks that year and a third in last year’s Group I Prix Jean Romanet behind Ribbons. The daughter of Galileo closed out 2014 with a game fifth – beaten only 2 1/4 lengths – in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, while closing in that notoriously pace-less affair.
This year, Secret Gesture opened up her campaign with an auspicious victory in the Group II Middleton Stakes at York – defeating Ribbons – before finishing fourth (a neck behind that rival) in a salty renewal of the Group I Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh.
Expected to possibly join Secret Gesture and Euro Charline (whose latest news was that domestic rider Jose Lezcano would have the mount) from Europe are Moyglare Stud’s Dermot Weld-trained CARLA BIANCA, a winner over the boys in Group company last out, Alain Louis-Dreyfus’ Mikel Delzangles-trained improving sophomore MAIMARA and Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof’s Group I-placed German filly LACY, from the barn of Waldemar Hickst.
Removed from consideration was CLADOCERA. Expected to be one of the favorites, the Group II winner will be aimed elsewhere, according to the International Racing Bureau.
The American contingent got a boost when it was announced that Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s STEPHANIE’S KITTEN is possible to give it another go at the Beverly D. after finishing a traffic-riddled second last year behind Euro Charline. Trained by Chad Brown, she exits a fifth – beaten less than three lengths after closing nearly eight in the stretch – in the Grade I Diana Stakes at Saratoga last weekend.
If she makes it, the daughter of Kitten’s Joy looks likely to be joined by compatriots MANGO DIVA (though she has only made two U. S. starts since relocating from the English yard of Sir Michael Stoute) and fellow Brown trainee WATSDACHANCES.
Augustin Stable’s Michael Matz-trained Mango Diva is already proven over the local surface, having finished a game second last out in the course and distance prep, the Grade III Modesty Handicap. Bradley Thoroughbreds et al.’s Watsdachances exits a hard-luck second – beaten a head – in the Grade II Dance Smartly at Woodbine and won the Grade III Gallorette Handicap at Pimlico to kick off her season one race prior on May 16.
Still on the fence are formidable charges EASTERN BELLE, OVERHEARD, FANTICOLA and Modesty winner WALK CLOSE.
SECRETARIAT: ALL-STAR AMERICANS AWAIT EUROPEAN INVASION
As the International Festival of Racing on Aug. 15 draws closer, the 39th running of the Grade I $450,000 Secretariat Stakes continues to stack a dynamic deck of talented turf-loving sophomores. The two most accomplished 3-year-old American grass colts of 2015 – Richard Santulli’s FORCE THE PASS and Gunpowder Farms’ DIVISIDERO – are both already committed to the event, while two other formidable Americans – Live Oak Plantation’s WORLD APPROVAL and Godolphin Racing’s CRITTENDEN (the one-two finishers from the Grade III American Derby) are quickly improving and have thrown their respective hats into the ring.
A new domestic competitor has arisen from the powerful Bill Mott stable in the form of lightly raced CLOSING BELL. By Tapit, the dark bay is from the same WinStar Farm connections who brought light on seasoning/big on talent Tourist to Arlington last year to finish a game second in the Secretariat. Fourth last out in just his third start and first out of maiden ranks, Closing Bell is a half to Grade I-winning 2-year-old Mani Bhavan and seems to be moving in the right direction at the right time for his capable connections.
Two other lightly raced competitors from well-respected connections have also come under serious consideration for the Secretariat in the form of Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Mike Maker-trained GRANNY’S KITTEN and Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Chad Brown-trained MONEY MULTIPLIER. While Granny’s Kitten, a son of Secretariat winner Kitten’s Joy, has had only four starts, he was a game third, beaten only three-quarters of a length behind Force the Pass, in the Grade III Penn Mile two back before throwing a clunker in the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational behind that same rival.
Money Multiplier, on the other hand, has had five starts and raced only once outside of maiden company. What his trainer Brown considers a late bloomer, he has come to hand quickly in his last two starts, including a nice maiden victory on dirt on May 3 and then a fast-closing second in the grassy Grade III Kent Stakes at Delaware Park on July 18 behind Syntax.
On the European side, the three major European players who have long had eyes on Arlington - His Highness the Aga Khan’s CANNDAL, who was second in the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational in his lone stateside start, Australian Bloodstock’s undefeated Group II Italian Derby winner GOLDSTREAM and Joseph Allen’s Group I French Derby-placed WAR DISPATCH – are still very much in the mix for their respective connections. Another European who has joined the fray of possibles is the well-regarded but underachieving DISEGNO from the yard of 2013 Grade I Beverly D.-winning conditioner Sir Michael Stoute and the Niarchos Family’s internationally respected ownership Flaxman Holdings.
Third on Wednesday afternoon in the Group III Gordon Stakes at Goodwood going 1 1/2 miles, Disegno – a homebred son of firm turf-loving Fastnet Rock – has a lone win in his career, but was third in the Group III Tercentenery Stakes at Royal Ascot behind the ultra-impressive Time Test and commenced his season finishing just two lengths shy of Golden Horn (the world’s current top-ranked Thoroughbred racehorse) in the Listed Fielden Stakes at Newmarket going nine furlongs. He beefs up a European team that looks every bit up to the challenge of a salty American crew.
AMERICAN ST. LEGER: FORMIDABLE U. S. TEAM DEVELOPING IN FOURTH RUNNING
While the Americans are quickly coming together as a tough troop for the Grade III $350,000 American St. Leger, ageless European wonder-stayer FORGOTTEN VOICE is a late European nomination to what currently is a somewhat light expected representation from across the pond. With only 33 starts in nine seasons, the 10-year-old son of Danehill Dancer has raced against some of the world’s best marathon horses within his judiciously planned career and held his own, including a runner-up effort in the Summer Stakes (Handicap) earlier this week at Goodwood going 1 3/4 miles.
Twice a Group winner among his nine victories, the maternal grandson of American classic winner Spend a Buck has raced respectably against the likes of Rip Van Winkle, Gloria de Campeao, Sheikhzayedroad, Telescope and Cavalryman in his career and looks to be returning to his best form. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the bay gelding’s career is that he is not only a Group winner on the flat, but also a Graded winner over hurdles.
Team Valor International’s PANAMA HAT is still on course for the American St. Leger and is also a late nomination to the event. Consistent on the handicap level in his native Ireland over the last two seasons – including finishing first or second in eight of his last 10 races – he will get a stern class test in when he arrives for trainer Andrew Oliver.
Speaking of Ireland, another new European face has emerged in Irish-bred LUCKY SPEED from the German connections of trainer Peter Schiergen and owner Stall Hornoldendorf. Of the three Europeans expected (so far) for the race, the son of 2001 Arlington Million winner Silvano holds a class edge, as he was third last August in the Group I Gross Preis von Berlin and won the 2013 Group I German Derby in just his fourth career start. Unlike his fellow Europeans, he has already cleared quarantine and is currently in Canada after racing fourth in the Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine at a nine-furlong distance short of his best.
Scotland is out of consideration for the American St. Leger after being scratched from this week’s Group II Goodwood Cup at its namesake course due to lameness. Expected to go as one of the favorites in the American St. Leger, he joins Sheikhzayedroad and the Ed Dunlop-trained trio of Red Galileo, Red Cadeaux and Trip to Paris off-the-trail for the fourth running of the second-longest graded flat race in America. Sheikhzayedroad’s connections still have time to change their minds, but they are more likely to aim toward the Grade I Canadian International this fall.
The Americans are formidable this year, with Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Grade II winner HYPER looking like arguably the strongest of the bunch, especially after his third earlier this season in the Grade I Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park. The Chad Brown trainee was off for a year and a half prior to that effort and has performed well in his three 2015 starts, including a third last out in the Grade III Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine.
Second- and third-place finishers from the Grade III Stars and Stripes – the course prep – Three Diamonds Farms’ Mike Maker-trained ROMAN APPROVAL and Mom Celine’s Ignacio Correas, IV-trained CALVADOS are both on schedule to compete after finishing behind THE PIZZA MAN in the aforementioned race. Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Roger Brueggemann-trained The Pizza Man is expected to cross-enter with a preference for the Million. XTRA LUCK, fourth in the Stars and Stripes at 5-1 for trainer Neil Howard and owners Michele and Cliff Love, is also probable as of now and appears to be a prime candidate of a horse who would appreciate even more ground than the 12 furlongs of his last two races.
GOLDEN SOUL, who is entered this weekend in the Grade II Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga, is also eying the American St. Leger for owner Charles Fipke and trainer Dallas Stewart. Classic-placed as a 3-year-old, the long-winded son of Perfect Soul exits a fourth behind likely American St. Leger starter CRUCERO in the Grade III San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita. Keith Desormeaux-trained Crucero is currently a planned starter for Big Chief Racing and has been working well at Del Mar since his upset victory.