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Road to the 2011 Arlington Million - Vol. 2

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/18/2012 #

The upcoming International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park on Aug. 13 – always the centerpiece of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season – will come more clearly into focus by the end of the day this Saturday when Chicago’s northwest suburban oval presents its Million Preview Day, featuring a troika of tune-up tests for Arlington’s three Grade I races to be contested on that second Saturday in August.

Saturday’s 76th running of the Grade III Arlington Handicap serves as a preview for Arlington Million XXIX five weeks later on the calendar, Saturday’s Grade III Modesty Handicap has been designed for that same capacity in advance of the Grade I Beverly D. for fillies and mares, and Saturday’s Grade II American Derby for 3-year-olds is the middle leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, which concludes with the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day.

The Arlington Million, $750,000 Beverly D. and $400,000 Secretariat Stakes, all run over Arlington’s world famous turf course, are the only three Grade I races contested in Illinois.

However, in New York Saturday, Belmont Park features its Grade I Man o’War Stakes, always a significant stepping stone to the Arlington Million; Delaware Park hosts the Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial, for turf-favoring females in advance of the Beverly D.; and in Great Britain, Newmarket conducts its three-day July Festival from Thursday through Saturday.

For the first time in history, Arlington has attracted a winner of Argentina’s Group I Carlos Pellegrini, South America’s premier Thoroughbred event held at Hipodromo San Isidro in Buenos Aires.  Argentine-bred Interaction, owned by Jose Cerrillo and Fernando Fantini, took down winning honors by three lengths in that classic in December of 2009, and has been named to contest Saturday’s Arlington Handicap.  The Pascal Bary trainee has been away from competition since finishing seventh in the Group II Dubai City Gold Stakes at Meydan March 3.

Other prominent entries for Saturday’s Arlington Handicap are Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, a Dan Peitz trainee who was third in last summer’s Arlington Handicap and sixth in the 2010 Arlington Million; as well as G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s El Crespo, a Rusty Arnold-trained charge that was most recently a good fourth in Churchill’s Grade III Louisville Handicap May 28 despite a troubled trip.

Highlighting New York’s Man o’War Stakes is 2009 Arlington Million winner and 2010 runner-up Gio Ponti, owned by Castleton Lyons, who will be shooting for an unprecedented third straight victory in the Man o’War.  Challenging Gio Ponti once again will be Naipaul Chatterpaul’s Mission Approved, who defeated third-place finisher Gio Ponti in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 11 and was second by a neck to that rival in the 2010 Man o’War.

Irish-bred Cape Blanco, owned by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor and an original nomination to the upcoming Arlington Million, is also slated to go to the post in Saturday’s Man o’War.

Saturday’s Modesty Handicap, which previews the Beverly D. as the Arlington Million’s sister race, has attracted Bart Evans’ Wasted Tears, heroine of the last three Grade III Ouija Board Stakes at Lone Star Park.  She arrived in Chicago last Saturday and breezed three-eighths in 38 flat over the local lawn Wednesday morning.  Last year, Wasted Tears followed up her 2010 Ouija Board win with one in Del Mar’s Grade II John Mabee Stakes. Also worthy of note for Saturday’s Modesty ‘Cap is Augustin Stable’s British-bred Fantasia, runner-up in New York’s Grade I Just a Game Stakes on June 11.

In Delaware Saturday, Robert Scarborough’s British-bred Cheetah and Augustin Stable’s British-bred Dyna Waltz will match strides in the Robert G. Dick Memorial as the first and second choices respectively in the morning line.  Both fillies are original nominations to the upcoming Beverly D.  Cheetah finished third at last asking in the Grade II Sheepshead Bay Stakes at Belmont Park May 28 and Dyna Waltz was runner-up in Colonial’s Grade III All Along Stakes in her last start June 18.

In Saturday’s Grade II American Derby, the oldest stakes race on the Arlington Park schedule and one which will be having its 97th running this weekend, All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, winner of the 76th renewal of the Arlington Classic May 28 as the first leg of the Mid-America Triple, will head the field in an attempt to become the first horse to sweep the Triple since 1997.

Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Irish-bred Cannon Hill, who arrived from the Emerald Isle earlier this week to contest the American Derby, is conditioned by Ireland’s all-time leading conditioner Dermot Weld.  Weld has won the American Derby three times previously.

Finally, at Newmarket this week, a plethora of original nominations to Arlington’s International Festival will begin the weeding process in the July Festival at the British course.