Road to the Million: Vol. 5
With reigning Horse of the Year Curlin no longer in the mix, South American-bred but North American-based Einstein, hero of Churchill’s Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day May 3, remains ensconced as the long-range favorite for next month’s Grade I Arlington Million. Einstein’s updated status is based on his encouraging runner-up effort in the Grade II Firecracker Handicap last weekend in Louisville.
The Firecracker, run at a flat mile over Churchill’s Matt Winn turf course, was hardly the ideal distance for Einstein – and his connections were well aware of that – but the son of 1985 Kentucky Derby hero Spend a Buck rallied boldly in the late stages to gain the Firecracker place position and can be expected to appreciate the added two furlongs of the Million on Aug. 9.
Ironically, the long-range European-based Arlington Million choice – the Kentucky-bred Archipenko – gets his final Million tune-up this Saturday in Great Britain when he goes to the post in the Group II Summer Mile Stakes at Ascot, a distance that might be a little too short for his best run. Even if Archipenko doesn’t get up for the win this weekend, like Einstein he will have benefited from an ideal precursor for Arlington Million XXVI.
Curlin, who breezed a half-mile over Churchill’s main track Monday in :50.80, is now expected to leave Louisville Thursday for a start in Saturday’s Grade I Man o’ War at Belmont.
However, in Chicago this Saturday Arlington Park hosts its final major local prep for the Million with the 73rd running of the Grade III Arlington Handicap at the Million distance of a mile and a quarter over Arlington’s world-famous turf course.
Flying Zee Stable’s Cosmonaut, winner of the last two Arlington Handicaps, will try to become that Million prep’s first three-time winner, but is expected to be challenged by Team Block and William Farish’s Corrupt, third in Churchill’s $100,000 Opening Verse Handicap May 31 and winner of Fair Grounds’ $75,000 Mardi Gras Stakes last winter.
Also on tap Saturday at Arlington is the Grade III Modesty Handicap for fillies and mares on the grass as a prelude for the Grade I Beverly D. Aug. 9 as the Million’s sister race; as well as the Grade II American Derby, middle leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple for 3-year-olds.
That local sophomore series concludes with the Grade I Secretariat Stakes Aug. 9 as the third Grade I event to make up Arlington’s 2008 International Festival of Racing, but a European invader expected for Saturday’s American Derby is Joseph Allen et al’s Blue Exit, a son of Pulpit who won France’s $86,000 Prix Matchem in his last start June 6 at Maisons-Lafitte. Internationally-recognized French conditioner Jean-Claude Rouget trains Blue Exit.
But as Arlington’s Million Preview Day approaches this weekend, in other parts of the country significant steps to the International Festival took place over the Fourth of July holiday.
Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song, who withstood the late charge of the Million-bound Einstein in the Firecracker, is also an original nomination to this summer’s Chicago centerpiece and remains an Arlington Million possibility.
“The door is still open (to a Million run),” said Thorn Song’s trainer Dale Romans Monday morning while speaking over the phone from Louisville. “We’re thinking about it. I wouldn’t call the (10-furlong Million) distance a problem, but I would call it a concern.”
Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion, front-running winner of Monmouth’s Grade I United Nations Stakes last Saturday and another Arlington Million nominee, appears unlikely for the local showcase at this time.
“I don’t think so,” said Presious Passion’s trainer Mary Hartmann, speaking over the phone from the Jersey Shore Monday morning when asked about the Million. “We’re probably going to head up to Saratoga because it’s closer, and because I think he’d like the (12-furlong) distance of the (Grade I) Sword Dancer (Invitational Handicap Aug. 16) a little better.”
However, Chrysalis Stables’ Silverfoot, two-length winner of last Friday’s Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington, is now being considered for an Arlington Million run.
“The Arlington Million is one of several possibilities now under consideration,” said Silverfoot’s trainer Dallas Stewart, speaking over the phone from Kentucky last weekend.