Arlington Million (GI)
The Pizza Man returns to defend his Arlington Million title. However, he has a stiff test ahead of him, as he has not proven that he is the same horse this year as he was last year. Though he is the defending champion, perhaps the most imposing domestic horse on current form is last-out United Nations (GI) winner World Approval. He has a win over the Arlington course in the 2014 American Derby, has proven at age four that he can be effective in the Million’s distance category, and gets proven Arlington rider Florent Geroux in the irons.
The Million drew four overseas shippers. Tryster won a pair of grass races during the Dubai carnival, including the Dubai Millennium Stakes (GIII) at the same distance as the Million. On firm ground, he looks the one to beat. Should the rain in Friday’s forecast materialize, the ground may be his undoing. Mondialiste, winner of the Woodbine Mile last year and second behind Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, finished a creditable second in the York Stakes (GII – ENG) at 1 5/16 miles last out, a solid suggestion that he can stay the distance of the Million. Decorated Knight captured his first Group-level victory last out in the Meld Stakes (GIII – IRE) at a mile and an eighth, but did win at the Million distance three back at Goodwood. Along with American runner Dubai Sky, he is one of the lightly-raced four-year-olds aspiring to find a place at the top level here. Deauville, a three-year-old for Aidan O’Brien, comes here instead of facing his own group in the Secretariat. Though he captureda Grade I last out in the Belmont Derby, he remains to prove himself against older. Furthermore, the far-outside post does him no favors.
Interesting here, as well, is the fact that two horses opt for the Million even though they won free berths into the American St. Leger by finishing in the top three in the Stars and Stripes (GIII). First off the $62,500 claim by trainer Mike Maker, Greengrassofyoming got the best of a four-way blanket finish in the Stars and Stripes. Pumpkin Rumble finished just a head back in third. Though Pumpkin Rumble would have been on the also-eligible list had all fifteen Million pre-entrants passed the entry box, the defections of both Big Blue Kitten and Takeover Target from the Million gave Pumpkin Rumble his choice. Pre-entered in both the Million and theSt. Leger, both cut back to a mile and a quarter for the Million – and take the stiffer class test.
From the rail out, the Arlington Million drew thirteen runners: Danish Dynaformer (Patrick Husbands/Roger Attfield), Dubai Sky (Jose Lezcano/Bill Mott), Greengrassofyoming (Shaun Bridgmohan/Mike Maker), Pumpkin Rumble (Mitchell Murrill/Gary Scherer), The Pizza Man (Mike Smith/Roger Brueggemann), Kasaqui (Robby Albarado/Ignacio Correas), Take the Stand (Edgar Prado/Bill Mott), Decorated Knight (Jose Valdivia/Roger Charlton), Mondialiste (Daniel Tudhope/David O’Meara), Wake Forest (Flavien Prat/Chad Brown), World Approval (Florent Geroux/Mark Casse), Tryster (William Buick/Chariie Appleby), and Deauville (Seamie Heffernan/Aidan O’Brien)
Beverly D (GI)
The Beverly D drew a full field of fourteen – but also stands to have the most defined favorite in Chad Brown trainee Sea Calisi. Though she was beaten in the New York Stakes (GII) last out at odds-on, she had trip trouble that day. And, it was no shame to finish second behind stablemate Dacita, who returned to win the Diana (GI) in her next start. Though the far-outside gate (post 13) may not be the best from a ground loss perspective, it could help rider Florent Geroux carve out a clearer trip for Sea Calisi.
In 2014, Euro Charline became the first three-year-old to win the Beverly D. This year’s field contains three vying to become the second. One is Sea Calisi’s stablemate, Elusive Million. On class, this seems a bit above her station. But, Sea Calisi’s running style benefits from having some pace, and Elusive Million – stretching past a mile for the first time – could help that become a reality. Two come as another similarly matched pair, Ballydoyle and Coolmore. The Aiden O’Brien trainees have raced together in their last two starts, with Coolmore likely intended to ensure pace for Ballydoyle should no one else set it. However, last out in the Belmont Oaks (GI), it was Ballydoyle who was dead last as the favourite, and Coolmore who was third at 16/1. Both O’Brien trainees have serious class, but will have to move a step forward here.
In addition to the three-year-old contingent, one older shipper joins the fray. Five-year-old Pretty Girl went three-for-three in Argentina, but only managed one nose win in three tries in France, and not against the class of company she faces here. From a post position perspective, Pretty Girl will face a similar challenge as Sea Calisi; the Argentine-bred mare drew the far outside post of fourteen.
From the rail out, the Beverly D field includes fourteen horses: Ballydoyle (Seamie Heffernan/Aidan O’Brien), Al’s Gal (Corey Lanerie/Mike Maker), Marypop (Flavien Prat/Michael Stidham), No Fault of Mine (William Buick/Chris Block), Tuttipaesi (Christoper DeCarlo/Bill Mott), Coolmore (Colm O’Donoghue/Aidan O’Brien), Lots o’ Lex (Edgar Perez/Gerald Aschinger), Personal Diary (Mike Smith/Victoria Oliver), Zipessa (Joe Bravo/Michael Stidham), Secret Someone (Robby Albarado/Michael Stidham), Elusive Million (Julio Felix/Chad Brown), Faufiler (Jose Valdivia/Graham Motion), Sea Calisi (Florent Geroux/Chad Brown), Pretty Girl (Brice Blanc/Mikel Delzangles)
Compared to most Million Day races, the Secretariat drew lightly on shippers. Long Island Sound has spent most of his short career in Ireland and England, but did ship stateside for the Belmont Derby (GI). He went off the chalk, but finished sixth beaten two and a quarter lengths by stablemate Deauville. However, trainer Aidan O’Brien elects to send Deauville to face older in the Million, leaving Long Island Sound the only Ballydoyle representative in the Secretariat. With only five startsunder him, and coming second off the ship stateside, he has some upside to improve here. O’Brien knows how to win the Secretariat, as well. He has won four editions, including the last two. Adelaide, with whom O’Brien won this race two years ago, was the beaten favorite in the Belmont Derby before winning at Arlington.
Cherry Wine, second in the Preakness Stakes, comes back to the turf here after a disappointing ninth-place finish in the Indiana Derby (GII). Cherry Wine has run on the grass three times early in his career, hitting the board in two of his three turf tries against maiden special weight company. However, he will need some pace to attack, and will need to prove that he has at least as much class on grass as he has on dirt.
Also interesting is the pair from trainer Mike Maker. Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who are not shy to send a rabbit for a good off-pace horse of theirs, own both of Maker’s entries. Oscar Nominated, second in the American Derby (GIII), needs a pace target to be his most effective. Therefore, they entered the speedy Scissors and Tape as well, to create that pace. Given now the field drew, Oscar Nominated will appreciate the presence of his stablemate; though Beach Patrol has shown some speed, he by no means needs to be on the front, and more often rallies from off the pace. Otherwise, Oscar Nominated may not get much tochase other than his rabbit.
From the rail out, the nine Secretariat entrants include: Cherry Wine (Mike Smith/Dale Romans), American Patriot (William Buick/Todd Pletcher), Scissors and Tape (Shaun Bridgmohan/Michael Maker), One Mean Man (Robby Albarado/Bernard Flint), Cordon (Carlos Marquez/Pavel Vashchenko), Oscar Nominated (Corey Lanerie/Michael Maker), Surgical Strike (Flavien Prat/Ben Colebrook), Long Island Sound (Seamie Heffernan/Aidan O’Brien), and Beach Patrol (Florent Geroux/Chad Brown).
American St. Leger (GIII)
The American St Leger (GIII), the longest of the Festival races at a mile and eleven sixteenths, drew eleven contenders for its fifth running. Should all entrants run, that would make it the biggest field in the short history of the American St. Leger. Its biggest field to date came in 2014, when The Pizza Man held off defending champion Dandino to cross the wire first in a field of ten.
The year’s field includes a trio of runners from trainer Mike Maker. The best proven of his three – and the top domestic hope – is Da Big Hoss, who has risen to the top of the American stayer crop since being claimed by Maker and owner Skychai Racing in June of last year. Maker alsohas a pair for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey; just as in the Secretariat, they have a main horse and a rabbit. Generous Kitten, a two-time allowance winner this year, comes in from a fourth-place finish in the Singspiel Stakes (GIII) at Woodbine. But, given his closing style, he would benefit from a pace target – something he will certainly get from frontrunning stablemate Rocket Professor. Maker and the Ramseys claimed Rocket Professor for $25,000. Though Rocket Professor will help his owners’ other horse, his presence also helps Da Big Hoss’s running style as well.
The field drew a trio of international shippers. Moroccan-bred Billabong is Group III placed in France, Group I place in Italy, and actually has a win at Chantilly at this esoteric 1 11/16 mile distance. This trip should suit him still, and he appears to have handled the ship well. Clondaw Warrior won the Ascot Stakes going two and a half miles at Royal Ascot last year, and is Group II placed at two and a half miles. A winner over hurdles on July 28, he cuts back in distance and goes back to the flat here. Even looking at his flat form, this is on the short side for him. Wasir was well beaten last out, but that was in the two and a half mile Gold Cup (GI – ENG) at Royal Ascot, but he will not face the likes of Order of St. George or Mizzou here. In addition to the class drop, he should also get firmer ground here, which should suit him far better.
From the rail out, the eleven entrants in the American St. Leger field are Generous Kitten (Robby Albarado/Michael Maker), Montclair (Mike Smith/Roger Brueggemann), Hart Hills Road (Mitchell Murrill/ Michael Campbell), Tobias (Jesus Bracho/Rafael Fernandez), Da Big Hoss (Florent Geroux/Michael Maker), Wasir (William Buick/Andreas Wohler), Rocket Professor (Shaun Bridgmohan/Michael Maker), Clondaw Warrior (Seamie Heffernan/Willie Mullins), Messi (Jose Valdivia/Graham Motion), Billabong (Cristian Demuro/Pascal Bary), and O’Prado Ole (Corey Lanerie/Dale Romans).