Arlington Park Road to the Million (8/6/14)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
ARLINGTON MILLION XXXIII: IMPROVING EUROS VS. ESTABLISHED AMERICANS
In this final Road to the Million, the goal will be to get as close as we can to establishing the likely fields for the 33rd running of the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million and its supporting events. From this point until Saturday, Aug. 15, the Arlington International Racecourse notes will be almost exclusively International Festival of Racing Notes, with focus on individual stories, news of additions and deletions and general happenings surrounding one of the premier racing festivals in the world.
Despite lacking a true standout on paper, Arlington Million XXXIII is lush with accomplished and competitive types from each side of the Atlantic Ocean. The connections of eight graded stakes winners based in America, including four Grade I winners, are readying their charges for the 10 grassy furlongs that await them. Chief among those is the Chad Brown-trained duo of Michael Dubb and partners’ SLUMBER and Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s BIG BLUE KITTEN. Two horses who have faced each other and swapped places in the exacta in two consecutive Grade I races – the Manhattan at Belmont and United Nations at Monmouth – the bay 7-year-olds must be mentioned as the top United States-based chances.
Grade I winners GABRIEL CHARLES and UP WITH THE BIRDS, who each have a lone win at the top level, must be respected. The former, owned by Sam Britt and Michael House and trained by Jeff Mullins, exits a knockout punch of a victory in the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar and is very much the ‘now horse’ if his form holds when shipping east. Up With the Birds, on the other hand, scored his lone Grade I in October 2013 and will look to improve upon his distant fourth in last year’s Million while under the care of Malcolm Pierce. The Sam-Son Farm homebred – now with Graham Motion – has been locked in on the Million since the commencement of the 2015 season. This will likely be his last year of racing and the Million is at the center of an American campaign aimed at creating a United States-based stallion prospect out of the son of top turf sire Stormy Atlantic.
Graded stakes winners LEGENDARY, QUIET FORCE, THE PIZZA MAN and TRIPLE THREAT bring solid form into the Million for their respective connections. Each also provides an intriguing storyline. Legendary will look to provide champion English jockey-turned-owner Walter Swinburn and young Maryland-based conditioner Niall Saville with their first wins (in their first attempts) in the Million.
Warner Thoroughbreds’ Quiet Force will stake his claim to be named claim of the year (though his bargain $40,000 acquisition actually occurred in 2014) when the Mike Maker trainee tries to duplicate the form that saw him win the local prep Grade III Arlington Handicap.
Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Illinois-bred The Pizza Man will attempt to bring the house down as the local fan favorite attempts to manifest the form that saw him dominate the 2014 American St. Leger on the same card for longtime Prairie State conditioner Roger Brueggemann.
Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s Bill Mott-trained Triple Threat will attempt to break through at the Grade I level and justify Team Valor principal Barry Irwin’s long-held belief that the Million was the jet-black son of Monsun’s ultimate race.
PUMKIN RUMBLE has the look of an outsider, but is a hard-trying, smallish son of champion English Channel who is rounding into top form at the right time. Exiting his lone stakes victory against much lesser in the Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury Park, the 4-year-old gelding draws enough similarities to shocking 2014 Million champ Hardest Core to garner a decided degree of deference.
A sextet of serious players from four different European countries has emerged, yet there are no Cape Blancos, Magicians or The Apaches in this year’s field. Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s THE CORSICAN and Godolphin Racing’s MAVERICK WAVE are likely to receive the most respect based less on form and more on for whom they run. The English-based duo are owned by connections with winning form at the Festival and trained by conditioners who have each won on the day, 2012 Beverly D. victor David Simcock and 2010 Million winner John Gosden.
Other Europeans expected to make the journey include PJL’s globetrotting George Baker trainee BELGIAN BILL, Papillon Stables’ Mikel Delzangles-trained BOOKRUNNER, Damien Lavelle’s David Marnane-trained ELLEVAL and Klaus Allofs and Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof’s Andreas Wohler-trained WAKE FOREST.
All in all, there are 15 pursuing the Arlington Million, with two horses cross-nominated in the Grade III American St. Leger: The Pizza Man and Pumpkin Rumble.
BEVERLY D.: STEPHANIE’S KITTEN GETS HER FINAL SHOT
As tough as the 27th running of the Grade I $700,000 Beverly D. is coming up, it is hard to look past the first two finishers from last year. On one hand we have the defending champion EURO CHARLINE, whose picture-perfect trip in 2014 gave rider Ryan Moore the ideal set up for victory. Such was aided by the troubled and traffic-riddled closing drive of Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s runner-up STEPHANIE’S KITTEN. The latter, who is in her final year of racing for trainer Chad Brown, will hope for better luck this year under new rider Irad Ortiz, Jr.
While Marco Botti-trained Euro Charline will be tough to overlook and has proven class, others coming from Europe have questions to answer. Ballydoyle’s Aidan O’Brien-trained sophomore fillies TOGETHER FOREVER and OUTSTANDING – mentioned in last week’s Road to the Million – have shown significant class, but seem a slight step below Euro Charline last year.
O’Brien has thrown one more into the mix this week in WEDDING VOW – another 3-year-old Coolmore filly from the 2012 crop of the great Galileo, like the aforementioned duo. A winner versus older last out in the Group II Kilboy Estate Stakes at The Curragh – the same race Dank won before winning the 2013 Beverly D. – she could be the toughest of the three possible runners from the international powerhouse stable and has already established an affinity for the trip after winning said event over nine undulating furlongs. It is assumed that Ballydoyle will send two of the three, with Saturday morning works to decide which.
Qatar Racing’s Ralph Beckett trainee SECRET GESTURE remains on target for her second trip to the United States after finishing fifth in last year’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Fellow Europeans LACY and CARLA BIANCA spice up a strong foreign contingent for Germany and Ireland, respectively.
Stephanie’s Kitten’s stablemate WATSDACHANCES co-headlines Team America, has long been aimed toward the Beverly D. by Michael Kisbe, Nelson McMakin and Bradley Thoroughbreds and owns one of the strongest accelerations in the field. A multiple graded stakes winner, the Chad Brown trainee has yet to break through at the top level, but did finish second in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf three years ago.
European transplant and Michael Matz trainee MANGO DIVA appears to be sitting on a big race for owner Augustin Stable off her runner-up performance in the Grade III Modesty Handicap over this course and distance, and should only improve in her third race of the year – especially if the ground comes up firm.
The two American outsiders who are definitely not without a chance are Lisa Lex’s temperamental LOTS O’ LEX, whose antics before the Modesty cost her and trainer Gerry Aschinger all chance, and Loooch Racing Stables’ MAID ON A MISSION, from the Peter Walder stable.
GOLDSTREAM BRINGS BIG GOALS INTO SALTY RENEWAL
If Australian Bloodstock’s undefeated new acquisition GOLDSTREAM is to attempt to emulate 2014 Grade I Secretariat Stakes winner Adelaide and win both the Secretariat and subsequently the prestigious Group I Cox Plate in its ownership’s home country, he must go through the talented American duo of Richard Santulli’s red-hot FORCE THE PASS from the barn of Alan Goldberg and Gunpowder Farms’ DIVISIDERO from that of Buff Bradley.
A winner of the Group II Italian Derby last out, the 5-for-5 Goldstream has been dominant, including what the running lines called a “comfortable” three-length victory last out. In fact, he has won his quintet of races by a combined 13 lengths. His connections are flying in Australia-based jockey Brenton Avdulla to get a feel for the son of Martino Alonso in what will be his first run for German trainer and 2002 Arlington Million-winning conditioner Andreas Wohler.
While Force the Pass and Divisidero make up the class of the field, the remaining Americans are not slouches by any means. Godolphin Racing’s Eoin Harty-trained CRITTENDEN, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Mike Maker-trained GRANNY’S KITTEN, Klaravich Stables’ and William Lawrence’s Chad Brown-trained MONEY MULTIPLIER and WinStar Farm’s Bill Mott-trained CLOSING BELL are all improving at the right time.
On the European front, DISEGNO and CANNDAL are unfortunately now out of consideration, according to the International Racing Bureau. In their absence, the European front is slightly weaker, but still formidable with Coolmore’s Aidan O’Brien trainee HIGHLAND REEL garnering perhaps more respect than any in the field, considering O’Brien’s three victories in the Secretariat. American-bred WAR DISPATCH returns to his homeland for U. S. owner-breeder Joseph Allen and French trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. Second and third, respectively in the Group I French Derby on May 31, Highland Reel and War Dispatch have proven form at the top level and each exit strong preparatory efforts.
Live Oak Plantation’s Grade III American Derby winner WORLD APPROVAL is entered in Friday’s Grade II Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga, but a scratch and rerouting to Arlington would place him at the top of the field here, especially considering the Mark Casse-trained gelding’s aforementioned game effort in the local prep.
Gennadi Dorochenko-owned and –trained DEKABRIST is possible to race, as well, but has shown little to suggest he could make a dent in this field.
AMERICAN ST. LEGER: AS WIDE OPEN AS IT IS LONG
The 4th edition of the Grade III $350,000 American St. Leger is shaping up as a wide-open affair, with top stayers from California, New York, Kentucky and Europe all clashing in the 1 11/16-miles affair.
From California, two under serious consideration are the one-two finishers from the Grade III San Juan Capistrano, Big Chief Racing’s Keith Desormeaux-trained CRUCERO and Haras Phillipson’s Neil Drysdale-trained GOING SOMEWHERE. While the former was an impressive upset winner at 23-1 in that Jun. 28 1 3/4-miles event, the latter was the 3-5 beaten favorite and would take a lot of beating if his connections decide to come to Chicagoland.
The first four finishers in the local prep Grade III Stars and Stripes over 1 1/2 miles are all nominated and expected to enter, but the winner – Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Roger Brueggemann-trained defending American St. Leger champion THE PIZZA MAN – is expected to opt for the Million. Second place finisher ROMAN APPROVAL keeps improving and could provide a strong pace in the marathon event for trainer Mike Maker and owner Three Diamonds Farm.
Tough-luck Argentine-bred CALVADOS will look for a better trip in the American St. Leger after having to alter course in the Stars and Stripes and losing all chance at what looked like a possible victory. Fourth-place finisher, fluid galloper and graded stakes winner XTRA HEAT continues to train forwardly for conditioner Neil Howard and owners Michele and Cliff Love and should appreciate the added distance.
Shipping in from New York is Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s HYPER, a long-winded son of Victory Gallop who is Grade I-placed this year and exits a third in the Grade III Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine. The Chad Brown trainee will be making his fourth start after an 18-month layoff that ended when third in the Grade I Man o’ War Stakes on May 9.
Currently only two Europeans appear likely to ship, but both pack a punch. Team Valor International’s vastly improved handicapper PANAMA HAT comes off a 12-furlong victory in stakes company in Ireland for trainer Andrew Oliver last out and is moving in the right direction for his connections.
Stall Hornoldendorf’s LUCKY SPEED is the horse to beat if he returns to the form that saw him take the Group I German Derby in 2013. The son of Million winner Silvano hails from the yard of Peter Schiergen and exits a fourth-place finish in the nine-furlong Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine at a trip well below his best.
Outsider AZ RIDGE, from the barn of Dan McFarlane and owner Sawyer Cattle Company completes the list of likely runners. Second last out to PUMPKIN RUMBLE – who is also nominated – in the Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury Park, the stamina-heavy son of Toccet was impressive when taking the 1 7/8-miles Hasta La Vista Stakes at Turf Paradise in May by seven lengths over much lesser competition.