Road to the 2010 Arlington Million - Vol. 7: Wednesday, July 21
Fans of Thoroughbred racing who keep one eye trained on what's going on in Europe in advance of Arlington's International Festival of Racing Aug. 21 should check the results of Ireland's Group III Meld Stakes on Thursday as well as Great Britain's Group II Sky Bet York Stakes on Saturday.
Khalid Abdullah's Famous Name, a British-bred 5-year-old conditioned by Ireland's all-time leader trainer Dermot Weld, is expected to go to the post in Thursday's Meld Stakes at Leopardstown, and assuming he runs well, it is believed Weld would like to bring him to Chicago for the Grade I Arlington Million on the third Saturday in August.
Famous Name, undefeated this year, is expected to face some stiff competition in the Meld, including the Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier-owned duo of Steinbeck and Lord High Admiral, a pair of highly regarded 3-year-olds trained by Aidan O'Brien. Those two colts will be in receipt of 14 pounds from Famous Name, who must shoulder the top impost of 138 pounds. Considering the disparity in the weights, it is believed that Famous Name would not necessarily have to win the Meld to remain on track for the Million.
This Saturday, Peter Harris's Stotsfold, third beaten 1 1/4-lengths in last summer's Arlington Million, is slated to go to the post at York in the Sky Bet York Stakes at a 10 furlongs (and 88 yards). The Sky Bet York is an event introduced in 2006 as a replacement for the discontinued Group II Scottish Derby at Ayr.
Also expected in the Sky Bet York is the Irish-bred Debussy, owned by H. R. H. Princess Haya of Jordan. Dubussy was the two-length winner of Cheltenham's Group III Betfair Huxley Stakes May 6 and was then beaten just over four lengths in the Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes June 16 during the Royal Ascot meeting.
Stotsfold, trained by Walter Swinburn, and Debussy, conditioned by John Gosden, are both being considered for an Atlantic crossing for the Arlington Million assuming they run well at York, and the Gosden-trained Tazeez, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is also being considered as a possibility for the Million.
However, the Irish-bred Stimulation, owned by Michael Kerr-Dineen, ran a distant eighth in Great Britain's listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury last Saturday and has been taken out of consideration for a trip to the Arlington Million.
On this side of the Atlantic, Castleton Lyons' Gio Ponti, defending champion in the Arlington Million, remains the long range favorite to repeat this summer should his connections choose to return to Chicago, but California's Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar Aug. 28 also remains a possibility for Gio Ponti's next start.
Nevertheless, in Chicago last Saturday on Million Preview Day, several contestants in the Grade III Arlington Handicap, the Grade III Modesty Handicap and the Grade II American Derby ran well enough in advance of the Arlington Million, $750,000 Beverly D. and $400,000 Secretariat Stakes to be considered for a return in the one-day International Festival of Racing on the third Saturday in August. Together, the Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat are the only three Grade I races offered in Illinois on an annual basis.
Robert Courtney's Rahystrada, Jonathan Sheppard's Just as Well and Shadwell Stable's Tajaaweed, the first three finishers in the Arlington Handicap respectively, all remain on track for a return run in Arlington Million XXVIII.
Tom McCarthy's General Quarters, the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic winner who was briefly taken out of Million consideration following a sixth-place effort in the Arlington ‘Cap, is now back on board as a possibility after a tender left front ankle was no longer a source of discomfort 24 hours after the race.
"He's doing pretty good right now," said McCarthy Wednesday speaking from Louisville, Kentucky. "The Million is not necessarily out of consideration, now. He was pulling me around the barn so much this morning I had to put a lip chain on him. We'll take him back to the track tomorrow (Thursday) and see how he does. If that goes well, and you get a lot of rain up there in Chicago to soften up that turf course, we might think about coming back."
The first four finishers in last Saturday's Modesty Handicap appear on track for a return in the Beverly D. as the Arlington Million's sister race next month. Respectively, they were William Deburgh's Tuscan Evening, Richard Duchossois' Éclair de Lune, Nelson McMakin's Hot Cha Cha and Augustin Stable's Rainbow View, and that top quartet was separated by less than two lengths at the wire.
Estrorace LLC's Workin for Hops, a 2 1/4-length winner of Saturday's Grade II American Derby after winning the 75th renewal of the Arlington Classic May 22, becomes the first since 1997 in a position to sweep Arlington's Mid-America Triple should he win the Secretariat, but he is expected to face a strong challenge from Donegal Racing's Paddy O'Prado, a dominant winner of Colonial Downs' Grade II Virginia Derby last weekend.