Arlington Million

Road to the 2014 Arlington Million – Vol. 1: Wednesday, June 11

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/11/2014 #
  • Real Solution (outside)

  • Dank

  • Dandino

In this Edition: Arlington Million XXXII: Real Solution Ready for Repeat; Beverly D.: Dank on Course for U.S. Return; Secretariat: Bobby’s Kitten and Global View Lead Home Team Possibles; American St. Leger: Dandino, Suntracer and Temeraine Look Tough

In this first edition of Road to the Million, we will delve into the main players – the big shooters, if you will – who look to possibly take aim on Arlington International Racecourse’s premier event, as well as its three supporting events.  Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Real Solution, the adjudged winner of the 2013 Million, looks even better in 2014 as a 5-year-old, as evidenced by his stellar Belmont undercard victory in the Grade I Manhattan Stakes.  After a fourth in the Grade III Mervyn Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds and a second in the Grade I Man o’ War at Belmont to begin the year, the son of Secretariat Stakes winner Kitten’s Joy showed his true form when running down the well regarded Mark Casse-trained Kaigun and beating a field flush with graded stakes winners. 

A true 10-furlong horse with a tactically challenging acceleration, Real Solution looks to be coming around at the right time.  Like last year, it would be surprising if he had a race between the Manhattan and the Million – but if so it could come in the Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park or possibly even the Grade III Arlington Handicap over the Million’s course and distance. 

Supporting the American team this year looks to possibly include Phipps Stable’s Imagining, who tenaciously denied Real Solution in the Man o’ War in May in wire-to-wire fashion, before having a horrid trip in the Manhattan.  While it goes without saying a Phipps charge is well bred, it is worth noting that Imagining being a son of the sturdy turf-heavy stamina-laden Giant’s Causeway male line on top of Daydreaming – a full sister to Godolphin’s blazing sprinter Girolamo.  So many winners in past Millions have won on similar combined strengths of speed and grit (e.g. Spirit One, The Tin Man, Marlin, Estrapade, Little Mike, Tight Spot, etc.).

The proverbial up-and-comers on the possible home team could be Augustin Stable’s Utley and Moyglare Stud’s Speaking of Which.  Both charges come from powerhouse international ownerships, are ex-Europeans and have just found their best Stateside stride with breakout victories in Mid-Atlantic Grade II events - Utley in the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico and Speaking of Which in this past Sunday’s Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The international invasion could include Group I Hong Kong Cup victor Akeed Mofeed, who exits a tough trip in the Group I Dubai World Cup, and Coolmore’s duo of Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician and 2013 Group I Investec Derby champion Ruler of the World.  While Akeed Mofeed will miss his chance to prep at Royal Ascot in the Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes, the Irish duo will possibly both enter the marquee 10-furlong event of the Royal Ascot meet.

Another Million nominee on target for the Prince of Wales’s is Shadwell’s Mukhadram, a William Haggas trainee who recently ran an excellent pace-setting second in the Dubai World Cup.  Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell has never been shy about sending the right horse to the Million, especially with the natural speed this son of Shamardal naturally possesses. 

Mukadram’s conqueror in the Dubai World Cup, Godolphin’s African Story, is also nominated to the Million and looks to be a perfect fit for the event, given his excellent form at 10-furlongs on left-handed courses.  Last year, Godolphin brought over Hunter’s Light (once again nominated) to the Million and the gelding had terrible traffic – clipping heals at one point – while moving like a winning horse on the far turn.  Redemption could be in order for the ‘boys in blue.’

Speaking of redemption, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum and trainer Mike De Kock could return with their improving charge Vercingetorix a year after crossing the wire first in the Million with The Apache and then disqualified to second for interference with Real Solution.  By 2001 Million winner Silvano, Vercingetorix is an improving colt who won the Group I Jebel Hatta in March in Dubai before finishing second in the Group I Dubai Duty Free and third in April’s Group I Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong.

Two improving horses worth watching as they aim toward the Million are Team Valor International’s Triple Threat and the Niarchos Family’s Smoking Sun.   Triple Threat, from the barn of Andre Fabre, is a 10-furlong specialist, but is exiting a disappointing seventh behind Cirrus Des Aigles in April’s Group I Prix Ganay.  Before that, the son of Monsun was a good third behind Smoking Sun in the Group II Prix d’Harcourt.  Both events were at Longchamp.  Since his victory in the Prix d’Harcourt, Smoking Sun continues to improve, including a very good second in the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup, after which his connections mentioned a strong likelihood for the Million.

James Wigan’s Dank is the hands-down standout in the possibles for the Grade I $750,000 Beverly D.  Currently preparing to take on the best 10-furlong turf males in the world in the Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Dank is on target for a campaign which hopes to emulate 2013, with victories in the Beverly D. and Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. 

Her chief American competition could come from fillies she defeated in the Breeders’ Cup, including Juddmonte Farm’s Bill Mott-trained duo of runner-up Romantica and fourth-place finisher Emollient.  While Romantica has yet to return to her 2013 form, Emollient was recently a very good second in the Grade I Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita.  Breeders’ Cup third-place finisher Alterite, from the ownership of multiple-Beverly D. trophy owner Martin Schwartz, is also nominated and has put in two good works since her return to training at Saratoga for Chad Brown. 

Anselmo Cavalieri’s Gamely winner Miss Serendipity, from the barn of International Festival of Racing legend Ron McAnally, has the credentials to make some noise in the Beverly D., as does Hernandez Racing Club’s locally based mare La Tia, an ultra-impressive runaway winner of the Grade III Arlington Matron on May 24 and pace-setting fifth in last year’s Beverly D.  Trainer Armando De La Cerda has not ruled out another attempt for the speedy mare, especially since her 2014 campaign has shown marked improvement.

Lady Rothschild’s European mare Thistle Bird ran to a visually impressive victory in the Group III Princess Diana Stakes at Epsom on June 6 and is nominated for trainer Roger Charlton.  A 6-year-old daughter of Selkirk who seems to be coming into her own, she bested nine others in the left-turned 1 1/16-miles event over good ground.  Last year, the same race produced Beverly D. runner-up Alan Spence’s Gifted Girl.

This may be the year that the Americans have a visible upper hand in the Secretariat Stakes, with dynamite performances by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Bobby’s Kitten and Glen Hill Farm’s Global View making them appear to be competitive with any turf sophomore the Europeans might throw this way.  Bobby’s Kitten, from the same ownership to annex last year’s Secretariat with Admiral Kitten, recently out-accelerated Global View in the $500,000 Penn Mile at Penn National.  Global View, a son of Galileo, looks to be a horse who will relish the 10 furlongs of the Secretariat and displays a closing punch seen often by the best of his sire’s line.

Major players worth watching are Spendthrift Farm’s Medal Count, Phipps Stable’s Mr. Speaker, Let’s Go Stable’s Divine Oath, Michael Tabor’s Gala Award, Santa Rosa Racing Stable’s Storming Inti, Team Block’s Afortable and the Ramseys’ We Miss Arti.  All have displayed the class needed to win the Secretariat and could easily jump up and join the aforementioned top two with impressive performances.  Two upcoming races to watch will be the Grade III American Derby on July 12 and the July 5 Grade I Belmont Derby.

Defending champion Dandino could be among the horses to beat this year after his easy win in 2013, despite a traffic-laden trip.  Trained by Marco Botti for Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, the 7-year-old is may utilize the same prep at Royal Ascot, the Group II Hardwicke Stakes over a testing 12 furlongs.  Also a strong possible for that race and a St. Leger nominee is Ed Dunlop trainee Joshua Tree.  A race to watch, the Hardwicke has produced both winners of the American St. Leger.

Two Americans who seem to stand out are Team Block’s Suntracer, who looks to be in the best form of his career, as evidenced by a photo-finish second to War Dancer in the Grade III Louisville Handicap last out at Churchill Downs.  The 6-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy is preparing, once again, in the Grade III Stars and Stripes on July 12 in which he may face fellow locally based St. Leger nominee Temeraine.  Last year a good fifth in the Million, the Tom Proctor-trained son of Arch has found a home in longer marathons for owner Niall Racing.  Needless to say, once again the Stars and Stripes will also have a great deal to say about the St. Leger.