|Arlington Park Road To The Million
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SEVEN EUROPEANS HERE FOR FESTIVAL; A 'MYSTERY' NOW IN MILLION
David Heath's Ulundi, an accomplished horse over hurdles who has also enjoyed success on the flat, became the first European candidate for Saturday's 20th running of the Grade I Arlington Million to canter locally when he toured Arlington Park's training track after clearing quarantine Monday morning.
Joining Ulundi for light exercise were Aldridge Racing Ltd.'s Golden Silca, who arrived to contest Saturday's Grade I Beverly D., sister race to the Arlington Million; and Michael Doyle's Love Regardless, who has designs on Arlington's Grade I Secretariat run later that afternoon.
Together, the Arlington Million, the $700,000 Beverly D. and the $400,000 Secretariat make up Arlington Park's International Festival of Racing, Saturday's traditional centerpiece of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season.
All seven European-based campaigners with designs on Saturday's International Festival of Racing were on the grounds at Arlington by training hours Monday morning but not all had cleared quarantine. The other European arrivals included Frau Carde Ostermann-Richter's Paolini, Roldvale Ltd.'s Freefourinternet and Peter Willmott's Cheshire for the Million as well as Moyglare Stud's Jazz Beat for the Secretariat.
Paolini, generally regarded as best of the European-based Million candidates, had arrived Sunday with his groom/exercise rider Bianca Sieling, but was still confined to the Quarantine Barn with a first exercise planned for Tuesday morning.
Seiling accompanied Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof's Silvano, the 2001 Arlington Million champion, to Chicago last summer. Another German-bred like Silvano, Paolini also shares trainer Andreas Wohler and Austrian jockey Andreas Suborics with last year's Million winner.
Should Paolini win Saturday's showcase event, Wohler and Suborics would become the first trainer and the first jockey to win the Arlington Million in back-to-back renewals. It would also improve the German-bred's point total to keep him within striking distance behind Godolphin's Grandera, presently the leader in 2002 World Series Racing Championship.
The Arlington Million is the fifth leg in the World Series Racing Championship (WSRC), a 14-race series contested on four continents. This year, the series will return to Arlington Park October 26 for the Grade I John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf and the Grade I Breeders' Cup Classic as part of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. It will be the first time in history that any single racecourse will host three legs of the WSRC in the same year.
Paolini finished second behind Grandera in the third leg of the WSRC, the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup run at the Singapore Turf Club May 11, to earn his first six points in the series. The winner of the Arlington Million earns 12 points in the WSRC.
However, in an ironic juxtaposition, as combatants on the world stage of equine international competition converged on Chicago for the Arlington Million, an Illinois-bred -- a local hero campaigned by a local family -- was confirmed as a starter for Saturday's mile and a quarter showcase event over Arlington's world-famous turf course.
Team Block's Mystery Giver, who won the $90,450 Cardinal Handicap here on Prairie State Festival Day, June 22, had his status for Saturday's Arlington Million upgraded from possible to probable.
"My family and I don't get any horses like this too often," said trainer Chris Block, who was honored with Arlington's "Rising Star" Award five years ago. "I said that I wouldn't consider starting Mystery Giver in the Arlington Million unless he ran huge in the Arlington Handicap. Well, I know he didn't run huge -- in fact you might say he didn't run at all -- but in my opinion he should have won it."
The Grade III Arlington Handicap, final local prep for the Arlington Million, was contested July 27 as part of Million Preview Day three weeks prior to Saturday's signature race. In the Arlington Handicap Mystery Giver finished fifth, beaten just over a length for all the money despite an unfortunate trip.
Kent Desormeaux, who won back-to-back renewals of the Kentucky Derby with Mike Pegram's Real Quiet in 1999 and Fusao Sekiguchi's Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, was confirmed as the jockey for Mystery Giver Sunday morning.
To date, two Illinois-breds have competed in the Arlington Million. Richard L. Duchossois' Explosive Darling finished fourth in 1987 and Herbert & Precious Luster's Manilaman ran ninth in 1995.
Nine horses were pre-entered for the Arlington Million by midnight last Friday. Under the rules of pre-entry for the Million, no additional horses will be considered, although post position draws for the showcase event will not take place until Wednesday.
North American-based horses in the projected Arlington Million field are headed by Juddmonte Farms Inc.'s Beat Hollow, generally considered to be the top turf horse in training in the United States at the present time. Although a British-bred, the 5-year-old son of Sadler's Wells has campaigned entirely in the United States this year. Out of a Dancing Brave mare, the homebred earned his reputation by winning the Grade I Woodford Reserve on Kentucky Derby Day, May 4, at Churchill Downs and underlined that score with another impressive tally in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, June 8, at Belmont Park.
Beat Hollow is conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey. The Juddmonte-Frankel-Bailey troika teamed up to capture the 2000 Arlington Million with Chester House.
Gary A. Tanaka's Sarafan, who has defeated Beat Hollow twice this year, is also a projected Arlington Million starter and should meet that foe a third time in one of the better rivalries in Thoroughbred racing at the present time. In their last meeting July 28 in Del Mar's Grade I Eddie Read Handicap, Sarafan bested Beat Hollow by a length and a quarter, when that rival was trapped along the rail. Last March 2 in New Orleans in the Fair Grounds' Grade II Explosive Bid Handicap, Sarafan was up to collar Beat Hollow by a neck with a bold late rush.
Sarafan is trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Neil Drysdale, who has saddled five Arlington Million starters but has yet to reach the winner's circle. Sarafan, an altered son of Lear Fan out of a Caro mare, will be ridden by Corey Nakatani in the Million.
Arthur I. Appleton's Forbidden Apple, a Florida-bred son of Pleasant Colony out of a Northfields mare, is another Arlington Million projected starter among the American representatives. The homebred 7-year-old was most recently third, beaten only a neck for all of it in the Grade II Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga on July 26. Before that Forbidden Apple was second, beaten two lengths by Beat Hollow in the Manhattan Handicap. French-born but American-based Christophe Clement is the trainer and Chilean-born but American-based Jose Santos is the rider.
Gary A. Tanaka's Falcon Flight, pre-entered Friday in the Arlington Million, remains somewhat questionable as a starter pending a final decision by trainer Don Burke II mid-week. The French-bred Falcon Flight won the Arlington Handicap July 27, and captured the Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf last year. No Arlington Handicap winner or Stars and Stripes winner has captured the Arlington Million to date. Should Falcon Flight go postward in Saturday's Arlington Million, Arlington's leading rider and defending jockey champion Rene Douglas is scheduled to handle the reins.
Mystery Giver completes the five American-based projected Arlington Million starters.
In addition to the aforementioned Paolini and Ulundi, who has Richard Hughes slated for the irons; the Europeans include Cheshire, the last to arrive on the local grounds around midnight Sunday. Although owner Peter Willmott is a Chicagoan, Cheshire is a British-bred who has campaigned exclusively in France. He won the Group III Grand Prix de Vichy in his last trip to the post July 24. British-born John Hammond, who saddled Henri Chaloub's Dear Doctor to win the 1992 Arlington Million, is the trainer of Cheshire, and Japanese jockey Yutaka Take will be at Arlington to ride.
Freefourinternet, who finished fifth behind Grandera last time in the Group I Prince of Wales June 19 during the Royal Ascot meeting, completes the European-based Million lineup. In the Prince of Wales, Freefourinternet suffered traffic problems a quarter of a mile from the wire. Previously, the Kentucky-bred son of Tabasco Cat had won the listed Huxley Stakes at Chester. Brian Meehan is the trainer and Pat Eddery has been named to handle the reins.
In Saturday's 13th running of the Beverly D., joining the British-bred Golden Silca, trained by Mick Channon with Richard Hughes as the jockey, are to be at least five American-based fillies and mares.
Highlighting those is the defending champion England's Legend, owned by Edouard de Rothschild, trained by Christophe Clement and to be ridden by Corey Nakatani. England's Legend won the Grade III Modesty Handicap in her last trip to the post on Million Preview Day.
Others include Allen E. Paulson Living Trust's Astra, to be saddled by Laura de Seroux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux; Gary A. Tanaka's Golden Apples, trained by Ben Cecil with Pat Valenzuela as the jockey; Juddmonte Farms Inc.'s Tates Creek, trained by Bobby Frankel and ridden by Jerry Bailey; and Joseph Allen's Volga, also conditioned by Christophe Clement with Jose Santos slated for the irons.
Three-year-olds probable for the 26th running of the Secretariat at this time include Horizon Stables' Mananan McLir, conditioned by Wally Dollase with Rene Douglas aboard; Juddmonte Farms Inc.'s Chiselling, Frankel-trained with Desormeaux riding; Three Kings Stables' Extra Check, Michael Stidham-trained with Frank Lovato Jr. named; James M. Messineo's Major Rhythm from the barn of Jeffrey Lynn with Hall of Famer Earlie Fires up; and Peter Vegso's Orchard Park, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott with Bailey astride.
Joining Love Regardless among the European Secretariat candidates is Arlington-familiar Jazz Beat, owned by Moyglare Stud, who finished second to Mananan McLir in the Grade II American Derby on Million Preview Day. Jazz Beat is trained by Ireland's all-time leading conditioner Dermot Weld and will be ridden by Pat Smullen; and Love Regardless, trained by Mark Johnston, who has Nakatani slated for the tack.
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