Road To The Million V: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Globetrotting Archipenko, runner-up in last year's Grade I Arlington Million and the projected European-based Million favorite this year, was a late withdrawal from last weekend's Group I Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown due to a swollen fetlock, forcing an end to an upcoming second attempt for victory in the Arlington Million Aug. 8.
"I haven't got absolute confirmation, but it seems quite possible that Archipenko is facing retirement," said Alastair Donald, director of the International Racing Bureau, speaking over the phone from IRB's Newmarket headquarters in England. "At any rate he'll have quite a long layoff so it looks as if the Million is out of the question."
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and Dr. A. H. Parker's Archipenko was the runner-up in last summer's Arlington Million after suffering traffic problems that may have cost him the win in that renewal of Chicago's showcase Thoroughbred attraction. The Kentucky-bred son of Kingmambo took down winning honors in Hong Kong's Group I Audemars Piquet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse earlier last year.
Despite Archipenko's forced withdrawal from Arlington Million XXVII on the second Saturday in August, North American Million updates are of a more positive nature.
Castleton Lyons' Gio Ponti, winner of the Grade I Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day June 6, breezed a half-mile over the Long Island lawn in :51.04 Sunday and will be entered in Belmont's Grade I Man o' War Stakes this Saturday on his projected path to the Million.
"He's a very good horse, very consistent," said French-born trainer Christophe Clement of Gio Ponti. "The sequence of the Manhattan, the Man o' War and the Arlington Million fits nicely."
The 27th running of the Arlington Million, which annually attracts some of the world's best turf horses, will go to the post late in the afternoon, preceded by the 20th anniversary edition of the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes for the world's best grass-favoring fillies and mares and the 33rd running of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds of international turf caliber.
Together, the only three Grade I races contested in Illinois on an annual basis make up Arlington's one-day International Festival of Racing, and this summer's Arlington Million gets added international prestige because the winner will receive an automatic invitation to the Group I Japan Cup when it is run in Tokyo later in the year.
This Saturday in Chicago, Arlington Park hosts its "Million Preview Day," featuring the Grade III Arlington Handicap as the local preview of the Arlington Million, the Grade III Modesty Handicap as a designed tune-up for the $750,000 Beverly D., and the Grade II American Derby as the final local prep for the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes.
Among those slated for Saturday's $200,000 Arlington Handicap is Chrysalis Stables' Silverfoot, most recently winner of Arlington's $54,100 The Tin Man Stakes June 6, winner of last year's Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap locally and fourth in last year's Million.
Fab Oak Stable, Bobby Hurley and John Goldthorpe's Stream Cat, winner of the 2008 Arlington Handicap and sixth in last year's Million is also a projected Arlington Handicap starter, as is Flying Zee Stable's Cosmonaut, second behind Stream Cat in last year's Arlington Handicap but the winner of its two previous renewals.
In positive European-based Beverly D. developments, the latest Irish-bred member of the distaff set under strong consideration for the Beverly D. Stakes is Moyglare Stud's Mad About You, trained by Ireland's all-time leading trainer Dermot Weld. The 4-year-old daughter of Indian Ridge out of a Danehill mare was most recently fourth in Leopardtown's Group III Amethyst Stakes May 10 but was runner-up in a Group III at The Curragh six days earlier. She is also a possibility for another stakes this weekend at The Curragh.
Those projected for Saturday's $200,000 Modesty Handicap on "Million Preview Day" are headed by Lewis Lakin's Pure Clan, beaten a neck when runner-up behind Beverly D. prospect Acoma, owned by Helen Alexander, in Churchill's Grade III Mint Julep Handicap June 6.
Among Pure Clan's graded stakes victories are tallies in Hollywood's Grade I American Oaks Invitational last year, Churchill's Grade II Golden Rod in 2007, as well as Grade III wins in the 2008 Regret Stakes and 2007 Pocahontas Stakes at the Twin Spires oval.
Heading the field for Saturday's $300,000 American Derby as the middle leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple is Virginia Tarra Trust's Giant Oak, who won the 75th running of the $150,000 Arlington Classic as the Triple's first leg May 23. The Chris Block trainee is seeking to become the first horse in 12 years to sweep the Triple that concludes with the Secretariat Stakes.
The sophomore son of Giant's Causeway breezed five furlongs in 1:02.60 at Arlington Park Monday, getting early splits of :13.60, :25.80; :38 and :50.60 before galloping out three-quarters in 1:15.80.
Most prominent among those who will face Giant Oak Saturday is Tommy Town Thoroughbreds and Michael Tala's Oil Man, who captured Hollywood's Grade III Cinema Handicap at last asking June 21.
Oil Man, trained by California-based John Sadler, is an Irish-bred son of Pyrus out of a Batshoof mare. The 3-year-old colt worked six furlongs handily in 1:13.60 over Hollywood Park's synthetic surface July 4 before shipping to Chicago.
On the European front for Saturday's American Derby, the Irish-bred Mr Topaz, owned by Dr. Michael Smurfit, trained by Dermot Weld and previously projected for Saturday's middle leg of the Mid-America Triple, has been withdrawn and will continue his career in Hong Kong once the details of a transfer of ownership are completed.
In addition to Saturday's trio of preps for the International Festival of Racing, three other stakes races will be offered, including the $200,000 Arlington Sprint for 3-year-olds and up to be contested at 5 1/2-furlongs on the turf. The Arlington Sprint is slated as a "Win and You're In" prep for the $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint later this year at Santa Anita.
The other two stakes this Saturday on "Million Preview Day" are the $50,000-added Pink Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares at five furlongs on the turf and the $50,000-added Diamond Ring Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16-miles on the turf.
Serious Thoroughbred handicappers should note that Horsplayerpro.com, featuring Arlington handicappers Joe Kristufek and Brian Spencer, will conduct a live "Million Preview Day" chat Friday from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to field questions and provide analysis on all six of Saturday's stakes races.