Arlington Million

Road To The Million VIII: Monday, July 28, 2008

Churchill Downs Communications | 07/28/2008 #

French-bred Spirit One, a late-blossoming 4-year-old colt who gave European superstar Duke of Marmalade a super scare in France’s Group I Prix Ganay April 27, is being added to what is already the strongest group of European-based Arlington Million candidates in recent memory.

The Grade I Arlington Million, observing its 25th renewal Aug. 9, will be contested at a mile and a quarter over Arlington’s world-famous turf course.

Owned by Bouzid Chehboub and trained by Philippe Demercastle, Spirit One joins Hong Kong’s Group I Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Archipenko and Great Britain’s Group I Coral-Eclipse hero Mount Nelson to make up Europe’s invading top-tiered troika in the showcase race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season less than two weeks away.

In the Prix Ganay, run at the historic Longchamp course on the outskirts of Paris, Spirit One was sent to a clear lead, could not withstand Duke of Marmalade in the final quarter-mile but continued willingly late to finish fourth beaten two and a half lengths for all of it.

In his first start this season at Saint-Cloud March 15, Spirit One defeated the Irish-bred Balius by three lengths.  That 5-year-old went on to miss by less than two when runner-up behind Archipenko in Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup, and third behind international star Jay Peg in Singapore’s Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup May 18.

As a sophomore last season, Spirit One was second by a half behind the French-bred Literato in Deauville’s Group II Prix Guillaume d’Ornano in August, and Literato went on to capture Newmarket’s Group I Champion Stakes in October.

In his most recent trip to the post June 14, Spirit One finished second beaten three-quarters of a length in Longchamp’s Group III La Coupe Stakes and will be coming off a brief freshening in time for the upcoming Arlington Million.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings on this side of the Atlantic Ocean for Arlington Million XXVI is the Brazilian-bred Einstein, arguably the most consistent American-based turf star now in training.  Einstein, winner of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day May 3, most recently finished a fast-closing second in the Twin Spires oval’s Grade II Firecracker Handicap at one mile July 4.

Trained by Helen Pitts and owned by Midnight Cry Stable, Einstein breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 on July 27 at Churchill Downs.

Because of the superior nature of the top three Europeans with designs on the Million – as well as the added threatening presence of Einstein and July 12’s Grade III Arlington Handicap winner Stream Cat, owned by Fab Oak Stable, Bobby Hurley and John Goldthorpe – prospective European Million invaders Hearthstead Maison, Lord Admiral and Sopran Promo have now been eliminated from consideration and will not make an Atlantic crossing.

However, as the European flavor of the Arlington Million is enhanced this summer, there is a Chicago hope headlining the Grade I Beverly D. as the Arlington Million’s sister race Aug. 9

Chicagoan Frank Calabrese’s Dreaming of Anna, winner of the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies two years ago on her way to an Eclipse Award in that division, returned from a brief freshening since winning Churchill’s Grade III Mint Julep Handicap June 14 and breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 on July 27 at Arlington Park.

“We got just what we wanted,” said trainer Wayne Catalano shortly after Dreaming of Anna’s Sunday move.  “She hadn’t worked since July 5 because we wanted to give her a little time off, but she’s fresh now and everything is going really well.”

The daughter of Rahy, a Calabrese homebred, won Arlington’s Grade III Pucker Up Handicap over the local lawn last September.

Strongest among the Europeans still likely for the Beverly D. is the Rothschild Family’s Cicerole, bred by the late Baron Guy de Rothschild.  The 4-year-old filly, first or second in her last six starts, was second by a half in Great Britain’s Group III Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epson Downs in her last start June 7, but won France’s listed Prix de Montretout at Longchamp May 5.

British-bred Toque de Queda is owned by the Marquessa de Moratalla, a distinguished long-time owner of European runners over the jumps and the flat, finished third behind Cicerole in France’s listed Prix Coronation last September and is expected to face that rival again in the Beverly D.

In addition to Dreaming of Anna, others of the more prominent American-based Beverly D. prospects include Double Down Stable’s Black Mamba, winner of Hollywood’s Grade II Beverly Hills Handicap June 29; Martin Schwartz’s Lady of Venice, third in last year’s Beverly D. and third in Hollywood’s Grade II CashCall Mile July 5; Robert Scarborough’s Mauralakana, a winner of her last three straight including Belmont’s Grade II New York and Sheepshead Bay handicaps earlier this summer; and Lael Stable’s Precious Kitten, heroine of Hollywood Park’s Grade I Gamely Handicap May 26.

In the upcoming Grade I Secretariat Stakes as the third premier event during Arlington’s International Festival of Racing Aug. 9, two European-based 3-year-old invaders – both Kentucky-bred – are expected to participate, and both are trained by internationally-known Irish conditioners.

Michael Tabor’s Plan, trained by Aidan O’Brien, won Ireland’s Group III International Stakes at The Curragh in his last start July 12; and Bertram Firestone’s Winchester, conditioned by Ireland’s all-time leading trainer Dermot Weld, last went to the post in the Group I Irish Derby June 29 but won The Curragh’s listed Silver Stakes earlier that month.

Those expected to await that duo on this side of the Atlantic for the final leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple are headed by Michael Cooper and Pamela Ziebarth’s Tizdejavu, winner of Arlington’s Grade II American Derby as the middle leg of the Triple on July 12.      

Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti, winner of the Grade II Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs July 19, is also an expected Secretariat Stakes participant, while Virginia Derby runner-up Court Vision, owned by IEAH Stables and WinStar Farm, remains a possibility.

Arlington-based trainer Mike Stidham is expected to start two sophomore’s in the Secretariat.  They are Sand and Cee Stable’s Secret Getaway, winner of Woodbine’s $152,000 Toronto Cup July 12 and the $150,000 Victoria Park Stakes June 8; as well as the late developing Sr. Henry, owned by Barry Golden and Peter Callahan, who was a fast closing runner-up behind Tizdejavu in the American Derby.

In past seasons, the Secretariat Stakes, restricted to grass-favoring 3-year-olds of international caliber, has often served as an excellent barometer for Arlington Million candidates of subsequent seasons.