Arlington Million

Coral-Eclipse Hero Mount Nelson Joins Arlington Million Mix

Churchill Downs Communications | 07/21/2008 #

British-bred Mount Nelson, who ascended to the summit of Great Britain’s prestigious Group I Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park July 5, has now become the latest European-based superstar to join the list of probable starters for the upcoming Grade I Arlington Million Aug. 9.

The Coral-Eclipse, first run in the United Kingdom in 1886, is traditionally recognized as the initial race of the British Thoroughbred season in which Europe’s best sophomores encounter their older rivals.  Legendary European champions that boast a Coral-Eclipse win on their résumés include such cracks as Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadler’s Wells, Pebbles and Giant’s Causeway, but none of those ever crossed the ocean to grace an Arlington Million field.

The addition of Mount Nelson to a European-based Arlington Million group that already includes the globetrotting Archipenko – winner of Hong Kong’s Group I Audemars Piquet Queen Elizabeth II Cup last April and Ascot’s Group II Summer Mile Stakes July 12 – promises to make the 25th renewal of Chicago’s showcase race one of its most contentious.

Mount Nelson, trained by the legendary Irish conditioner Aidan O’Brien, is owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier.  Archipenko is trained by the South African-born but internationally known Michael de Kock and owned by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum.

Another European invader being considered for the Arlington Million at this time is Hearthstead Homes Ltd.’s Irish-bred Hearthstead Maison, a Group III winner in Ireland last year.  That son of Peintre Celebre returned from a 10-month layoff to run a good third in Newbury’s listed Steventon Stakes July 19 while giving 11 pounds to the winner who boasted a Group I winner as a juvenile.  According to trainer Mark Johnston, Hearthstead Maison may have one more European prep race this weekend.

Also still expected from Europe at this time for the Million is Dr. Michael O’Brien’s Lord Admiral, runner-up in Ireland’s Group III Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown May 11 in his last start; and the Irish-bred but Italian-campaigned Sopran Promo, owned by Azienda Agricola San Uberto, who has won his last two starts in Rome and Milan respectively.

Still heading the North American-based contingent of Arlington Million probable starters at this time is Midnight Cry Stable’s Einstein, a proven grass specialist who captured Churchill’s Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day May 3 and was most recently a fast-closing second in the Grade II Firecracker Handicap over the Louisville lawn at one mile.

Still on the bubble as the “x-factor” of Arlington Million XXVI is Horse of the Year Curlin, whose Stonestreet Stables ownership has yet to commit to the results of a public poll that indicates more than half of Curlin’s fans want him to continue his semi-successful grass campaign.

Other American-based Arlington Million candidates include Grade III Arlington Handicap winner Stream Cat, owned by Fab Oak Stable, Bobby Hurley and John Goldthorpe; Arlington Handicap runner-up Cosmonaut, owned by Flying Zee Stable; and Arlington Park’s Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap hero Silverfoot, owned by Chrysalis Stables.

Scott Anastasi and Jay and Gretchen Manoogian’s Monzante, who charged from last to first to win Del Mar’s Grade I Eddie Read Handicap last Sunday, is expected to continue a California campaign.

Joining the Arlington Million as the other two Grade I events that make up Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing Aug. 9 are the $750,000 Beverly D. and the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes.         

American-based runners for the Grade I Beverly D. as the Arlington Million’s sister race are headed by Frank Calabrese’s Dreaming of Anna, winner of Churchill’s Grade III Mint Julep Handicap at last asking June 14; Robert Scarborough’s Mauralakana, victress in Belmont’s Grade II New York and Sheepshead Bay handicaps in her last two starts June 21 and May 24 respectively; and Double Down Stable’s Black Mamba, heroine of Hollywood Park’s Grade II Beverly Hills Handicap June 29.

Two European-based fillies are considered likely Beverly D. invaders.  French-bred Cicerole, owned by the Rothschild Family, was most recently second by a half-length in Great Britain’s Group III Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom Downs June 7; and Erik Penser’s Baharah was fifth in that same test, beaten only a neck by Cicerole.

Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu, two and a quarter lengths the best in Arlington’s Grade II American Derby July 12 and Churchill’s Grade II Jefferson Cup June 14, is slated to return to Chicago for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes as the final leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple for grass-favoring sophomores.

That front-running star may be opposed by other North American-based 3-year-olds that include Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti, winner of Colonial Downs’ Grade II Virginia Derby July 19 and Belmont’s Grade III Hill Prince Stakes June 6; IEAH Stables and WinStar Farm’s Court Vision, nose runner-up in the Virginia Derby; Team Valor International’s Sailor’s Cap, third in that same test but winner of the Grade III Colonial Cup June 21; Sand and Cee Stables’ Secret Getaway, winner of Woodbine’s $150,000 Toronto Cup July 12 and the $150,000 Victoria Park Stakes previously on June 8; and Barry Golden and Peter Callahan’s Sr. Henry, runner up in the American Derby.

Currently expected to be coming from Europe for the Secretariat are Michael Tabor’s Plan, an Aidan O’Brien trainee who captured Ireland’s Group III Keeneland International Stakes at The Curragh July 12; Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s Collection, an Irish-bred who won Great Britain’s listed Hampton Court Stakes during the Royal Ascot meeting June 19; the Sangster Family and A. K. Collins’ Irish-bred City Leader, sixth in Royal Ascot’s Group II King Edward VII  Stakes June 20; and Bertram Firestone’s Winchester, seventh in the Group I Irish Derby June 29 in his last trip to the post.