Racing & Wagering

Road to the 2011 Arlington Million - Vol. 5: Wednesday, July 27

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/27/2011 #
  • River Jetez heads a strong overseas contingent for the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes


Irish-bred and European-based Cape Blanco, owned by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor – and trained by Europe’s ubiquitous Aidan O’Brien – is still the projected long range favorite for the upcoming Arlington Million XXIX on Aug. 13, but Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti, who won the Million two years ago and could become only the second horse in history to win the Million twice, remains the one to beat.

Although Cape Blanco returned to his native Emerald Isle following his 2 1/4-length victory over Gio Ponti in Belmont’s Grade I Man o’War Stakes July 9, the 4-year-old colt is slated for a return to the United States for a trip to Chicago and the Grade I Arlington Million on the second Saturday in August.

Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Gio Ponti’s connections appear anxious for the rematch.  The 6-year-old entire son of Tale of the Cat breezed five furlongs in 59.22 over Saratoga’s Oklahoma turf course July 25 in his first move since his loss to Cape Blanco in the Man o’War.

“He looked very well,” Gio Ponti’s French-born trainer Christophe Clement said to the NYRA publicity staff after Monday’s move.  “He came back in good order and will work next Wednesday and we’ll go for the (Arlington) Million.”

Gio Ponti, who was beaten a half-length in last summer’s Million, is still in a position to join Dotsam Stable’s legendary John Henry as only the second horse to be credited with two Arlington Million wins.  Mrs. John Magnier’s Powerscourt, who won the 2005 Arlington Million, was also the first horse under the wire in the 2004 renewal, but was subsequently disqualified and placed fourth.

Other European invaders expected to join Cape Blanco for an assault on the Arlington Million are the Irish-bred Wigmore Hall, owned by Mark Hawtin, trained by Michael Bell and runner-up in last summer’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes here, and the French-bred Zack Hall, owned by Mathieu Offenstadt, trained by Mikel Delzangles and a competitive fourth in France’s Group I Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud at last asking on June 26.

H. R. Mould’s Ransom Note and Shadwell Stable’s Tazeez, second and seventh respectively in Great Britain’s Group II Sky Bet York Stakes July 23, are still considered as possibilities to join the European invaders.

Rahystrada, who won the Grade III Arlington Handicap in 2010 as the Million’s designed local prep and then was fourth in the Million, is owned by Robert Courtney Jr., trained by Scooter Hughes, and remains a strong threat among this summer’s American-based Million probable starters.  The 7-year-old altered son of Rahy worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:02.80 over muddy going at The Thoroughbred Center in central Kentucky July 23.

Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, trained by Dan Peitz and sixth in last year’s Million but winner of the Grade III Arlington Handicap on Million Preview Day this year, is also on the list of the other stateside Million probable starters.  Tajaaweed breezed a half over Arlington’s Polytrack in 49.20 on July 23.

However, the upcoming Arlington Million is only one of three Grade I races – and the only three top-tiered events contested in Illinois – that will make up Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing Aug. 13.  Also slated for that day are the Grade I Beverly D., for some of the world’s best grass-favoring fillies and mares and known as the Million’s sister race, as well as the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds of international turf caliber.

Heading the list of European members of the distaff set expected for the Beverly D. is the South African-bred River Jetez, owned by Barbara and Cedrick Amm and Marsh Shirtliff, and trained by Michael de Kock.

River Jetez was runner-up – beaten a half-length when facing male rivals – in the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup on May 22, and returned from that layoff to run fifth in Newmarket’s Group I Falmouth Stakes July 8.  That race was at one mile, a distance considered too short for her best run.  Prior to her outing in Singapore, the 8-year old bay mare finish sixth, beaten less than three lengths for the win, in Hong Kong’s Group I Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup May 1 against males and was second, beaten three-quarters of a length when facing members of the opposite sex, in the Group I Dubai Duty Free at Meydan March 26 on Dubai World Cup Day.

German-bred Royal Mary, owned by Gestut Ittlingen, trained by Peter Schiergen and most recently fifth in France’s Prix de la Pepiniere at Maisons-Lafitte July 24, is another probable European-based Beverly D. starter at this time, as is Godolphin’s Irish-bred Aspectoflove, most recently seventh in the Group II Emirates NBD Balanchine Stakes at Meydan on Feb. 18.

Irish-bred Barefoot Lady, owned by Helen Steel and trained by Richard Fahey and most recently third in the Group I Coronation Stakes June 17 during the Royal Ascot meeting, remains a possibility among European Beverly D. runners, as does the Irish-bred Field Day, owned by Ballymacoll Stud and fifth in the Group II Windsor Forest Stakes June 15 during Royal Ascot.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Irish-bred sophomore filly duo of Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Magnier’s Gemstone and Mrs. John Magnier’s Look At Me are also under consideration for the Beverly D.  Gemstone was sixth in the Group I Irish Oaks at The Curragh July 17 and Look At Me was fourth in the Group III Kilboy Estates the same day.

British-bred Dubawi Heights, owned by Neville Callaghan, Clodagh McStay, M.V. Magnier and Annabell Wyatt and trained by Simon Callaghan, began her career in Europe but has been based in southern California since last fall and could be called the long range choice in the Beverly D. among the American-based fillies and mares.

Although idle since her victory in Hollywood’s Grade I Gamely Stakes May 30, Dubawi Heights has been working weekly of late, most recently getting five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Del Mar July 24.

Michael Deegan’s Pachattack, sixth in last summer’s Beverly D. after dwelling at the start and most recently the winner of the Grade III Arlington Matron over the local Polytrack May 20, is another somewhat hybrid European-American expected for the Beverly D.  She went a bullet three-eighths in 35.80 over Arlington’s Polytrack July 27.

Augustin Stable’s British-bred Fantasia, heroine of the Grade III Modesty Handicap on July 9 as the designed local prep for the Beverly D. and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard is also likely for the Beverly D. as is last year’s German-bred Beverly D. champion Éclair de Lune, owned by Richard Duchossois and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally.

British-bred Cheetah, owned by Robert Scarborough, won Delaware Park’s Grade III Robert Dick Memorial July 9 and remains on track for a start in the Beverly D.  She is trained by Christophe Clement, a three-time winner of the Beverly D.

The Graham Motion-trained pair of Sagamore Farm’s Shared Account, winner of last fall’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs, and Lael Stable’s Check the Label, second in the Grade III Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland this spring, are also possibilities for the Beverly D.

The Chris Block-trained duo of Team Block and Richard Ege’s Askbut I Won’ttell, a traffic-troubled fourth in the Modesty, and that same ownership group’s Never Retreat, winner of Woodbine’s Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes July 10, are also still both under consideration for the Beverly D.

Also under consideration for the Beverly D. is the Mike Stidham-trained Upperline, owned by Stone Farm, John Adger, Oakcrest Farm and Stidham.  She was the winner of the Grade III Arlington Oaks last year and recently Woodbine’s $100,000 Trillium Stakes June 25.

The main story concerning this summer’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes remains All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, another trained by Mike Stidham, who would become only the fourth horse in history to sweep Arlington’s Mid-America Triple with a tally in the Secretariat.  Earlier this summer, Willcox Inn took down the prestigious Arlington Classic May 28 and came back to score in Arlington’s Grade II American Derby July 9.

Should he win the Secretariat Stakes, Willcox Inn would join Powhatan’s Tom Rolfe in 1965, Ogden Phipps’ Buckpasser in 1966, and Robert Schaedle III’s Honor Glide in 1997 as the only horses to sweep the Mid-America Triple.

Likely among Europeans slated to invade for the Secretariat are the Irish-bred Ziyarid, owned by His Highness the Aga Khan’s Studs Ltd., trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre and winner of France’s Group III Prix Daphnis at Longchamp July 2, as well as the German-bred Saltas, owned by Gestut Ittlingen, trained by Peter Schiergen and most recently third in the Group I German Derby at Hamburg on July 3.

Possible among European invaders for the Secretariat are the Aidan O’Brien-trained duo of the British-bred Treasure Beach, owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor and winner of the Group I Irish Derby at The Curragh June 26, as well as the Irish-bred Roderic O’Connor, hero of the Group I Irish Two Thousand Guineas May 21.