Arlington Million

Road to the 2014 Million – Vol. 3: Wednesday, June 25, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/25/2014 #
  • Dandino could return for the 2014 American St. Leger (Four Footed Fotos)

In this edition: Arlington Million XXXII:  Juddmonte’s Seek Again Eyes Million; Beverly D.: Regally Bred Romantica May Point to Beverly D.; Secretariat: Belmont Derby Could Play Key Role; American St. Leger: Dandino Back on Track

Juddmonte Farm’s talented Seek Again, who in his initial three American starts has finished first, second and third in Grade I races, could be aimed toward the Grade I Arlington Million this summer according to his connections.  The son of champion sprinter Speightstown out of Grade I winner Light Jig won the Hollywood Derby in 2013 before opening his season with a game second to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Turf Classic on Derby Day and finishing a solid third in the Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

“We’ll be looking at the Million for him,” said conditioner Bill Mott.  “His race last out (in the Manhattan) wasn’t a disgrace. He ran very well.  We’re happy with him.”

The consistent 4-year-old whose only non-top-4 finish was a fifth in a handicap field of 31 last fall at Newmarket has excelled at middle distances during his brief 10-race career, with arguably his best performance coming at the Million’s 10-furlong distance in the Hollywood Derby.  In that race, he bested 2013 Grade I Secretariat Stakes victor Admiral Kitten.  A concrete decision on his next race is pending. 

Seek Again’s trainer and owner have tasted success in the Million.  Mott has had eight starters since 1987, including winner Paradise Creek in 1994, but has only had one starter since 2001.  Juddmonte Farm, on the other hand, has won the race twice – 2000 with Chester House and 2002 with Beat Hollow – and was also a good second in 2006 with Cacique. 

One horse who does not seem to be on his way to Arlington for the Million is Priscilla Vaccarezza’s two-time competitor and one-time winner, Little Mike.  Citing licensing issues that prevented a start in the Manhattan, trainer Carlo Vaccarezza has reportedly decided to back off on the son of Spanish Steps and point him to the Breeders’ Cup Turf – a race he won in 2012 while under the tutelage of trainer Dale Romans.

A charge from across the pond to keep an eye on for the Million is Contributer.  Owned by a American George Bolton and trained by multiple-Breeders’ Cup-winning conditioner Ed Dunlop of Snow Fairy and Ouija Board fame, the son of Breeders’ Cup Turf (at Arlington) winner High Chaparral slipped under the radar on June 20 at Royal Ascot, posting a smart win in the 10-furlong Listed Wolferton Handicap.  The field that day included Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II’s well regarded Bold Sniper and Michael Bell’s multiple International Festival of Racing performer Wigmore Hall.  Though he has never had a Festival starter, some of Bolton’s quality horses include (owned fully or in partnership) Curlin, The Factor and My Miss Aurelia.

Bloodlines in international turf racing do not come any better than those of 2013 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf runner-up Romantica.  A daughter of world champion turf sire Galileo out of Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Banks Hill, Romantica was born to be of serious substance.  A winner of the Group I Prix Jean Romanet in her 4-year-old season last year while with Andre Fabre, the refined bay mare looked like a possible winner on racing’s biggest day in November at Santa Anita, only to fall less than a length short of Beverly D. winner Dank. 

Turned over to American trainer Bill Mott by owner Juddmonte Farm, Romantica had an inauspicious 2014 debut – finishing fourth in the Grade III Bewitch Stakes on April 24.  Since, she has been training well for her new conditioner and may get a crack at revenge on Dank in August. 

“We’re looking to improve with Romantica off the (Bewitch),” said Mott.  “We’re nominated to the Beverly D. and our major goal with a filly like her is to win a Grade I.” 

Like Dank, Romantica is a lover of firm ground and may appreciate the fast going that often occurs at the Chicagoland oval in mid-summer.  Juddmonte has taken the Beverly D. once before – with Banks Hill’s three-quarter sister Heat Haze in 2002. 

A race to watch closely for possible Beverly D. contestants in Europe this weekend is the Group I Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh on Sunday, June 29.  Possible to compete there are Lady Rothschild’s Thistle Bird, as well as Ali Saeed’s 2013 winner Ambivalent.  Both mares are Beverly D.-nominated, with the former under reasonable consideration to make the trans-Atlantic trek.

On the local front, Nancy Vanier’s 6-year-old mare Kepi seems to be in peak shape after easily taking an off-the-turf running of the restricted Lincoln Heritage Stakes over Richard Otto’s improving Chris Block trainee Alette and Hernandez Racing Club’s defending champion La Tia.  In 2013, La Tia used the Lincoln Heritage en route to a credible fifth in the Beverly D. 

While La Tia is now more likely to focus on shorter races – notably the Grade III Ontario Matron on Polytrack next out at Woodbine – Kepi and Alette will be pointed toward the course and distance prep for the Beverly D. – the Grade III Modesty Handicap on July 12 (Million Preview Day).

Next weekend’s Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational on July 5 could play a key role in shaping the field for the 2014 Grade I Secretariat Stakes five weeks later, especially with serious players from both sides of the pond scheduled to compete – and most of them nominated to the Secretariat. 

One who definitely has the Secretariat on his radar is Global View, a Kentucky-bred son of Galileo owned by the Chicago natives of Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor, who keeps a string at Arlington.  The talented $500,000 purchase has been training locally in preparation for his rematch with Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Bobby’s Kitten, who defeated him in the Penn Mile last out at a distance short of his best. 

Bobby’s Kitten, a speedy and talented son of Kitten’s Joy, will receive his first true stamina test in the Belmont Derby and could also be a candidate for the Secretariat if he passes with flying colors.  Trained by 2013 Million-winning conditioner Chad Brown, Bobby’s Kitten has always been well regarded by his connections and went off as the favorite in the 2013 Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf before finishing third to Godolphin’s recent Group I St. James’s Palace Stakes third-place finisher Outstrip. 

European Toast of New York looks to vie for favoritism with the aforementioned locals.  A winner of the Group II UAE Derby in March for owner Michael Buckley, his connections’ goal has been to land a Group or Grade I with him this season.  According to the International Racing Bureau, the Secretariat is also under viable consideration for the Jamie Osborne-trained son of Thewayyouare.

Marco Botti definitely knows how to win the Listed American St. Leger and may be strengthening his forces in 2014 to remain the only conditioner to win the race in its first three editions.  Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock’s Dandino leads the charge once again in 2014.  Fresh off his first race of 2014 and a long freshening in the Group II Hardwicke Stakes, the son of Dansili looked to definitely need the race on June 21, finishing sixth to Highclere Racing’s impressive winner Telescope. 

A large-framed type, the race over the testing 12-furlongs of Ascot will definitely set Dandino up well for a possible return run at Arlington.  As mentioned last week, Botti also has Dr. Marwan Koukash’s talented campaigner Mount Athos – recently a winner of the Listed Aston Park Stakes Newbury at the American St. Leger’s distance – under consideration.