Arlington Million

Road to the Million – Vol. 5: Wednesday, July 10, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/10/2013 #
  • The Apache winning in Dubai

In This Edition: Arlington Million XXXI:  Little Mike on Track for Million, Italian Vedelago Joins Fray; Beverly D.:  Gifted Girl and Ladys First Bring Rivalry Across the Pond; Secretariat:  American Derby Tops Three Major Preps this Weekend; American St. Leger:  Forte dei Marmi Impressive in Singspiel; Stars & Stripes Key Prep

Priscilla Vaccarezza’s defending Arlington Million champion Little Mike made his 2013 stateside debut in the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 6, but unfortunately the layoff and trip back from Dubai may have taken their collective toll on the front-running fan favorite.  After setting a solid pace with Calumet Farm’s fellow Million possible Skyring, the Dale Romans trainee faded to finish fourth behind yet another capable kitten from the Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey litter, Big Blue Kitten.  Trained by Chad Brown, Big Blue Kitten is now under consideration for both the Arlington Million and the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga on the same day. 

Lael Stable and All In Stable’s Arlington-based Willcox Inn, in his first attempt beyond 10 furlongs for trainer Mike Stidham, went slightly wide on the tight Monmouth second turn and lost valuable momentum leading into the short stretch of the Jersey Shore facility.  An Arlington graded stakes winner and past participant in the Million, Willcox Inn may still be under consideration for the event, despite his fifth-place finish. 

Also in action last weekend was Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum’s 2012 Arlington Million runner-up Asfare, who ran a bang-up second to the highly regarded Mandour (a Smart Strike son of 2006 Champion European sophomore filly Mandesha) in the Gala Stakes over 10 furlongs at Sandown Park.  This solid second run of 2013, in an event with many Group I performers, should set up the Luca Camani-trainee well for a second assault on the Million.

An exciting new addition to possible European invaders for the Million is G.T.A.’s Italian Group I-winning Vedelago, a flashy blaze-faced son of 2007 European champion sprinter Red Clubs who annexed the Group I Premio Presidente della Repubblica on May 12 at 10 furlongs at Rome’s Ippodromo Capannelle – a Festival Free Pass race.  Stefano Botti, elder brother of inaugural American St. Leger-winning trainer Marco Botti, conditions the talented charge. 

South Africa’s The Apache, a multiple Group I winner in his native country and twice Group I-placed in Dubai, is being aimed toward the Million by trainer Mike De Kock for owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum.  A tough customer on firm ground and at 10 furlongs, The Apache would be De Kock’s second attempt on the Million after a runner-up finish with favored Archipenko in 2008. 

This weekend two big stateside preps will greatly affect the look of the Million.  The local course and distance prep, the Grade III $200,000 Arlington Handicap, features a match-up of Donegal Racing’s likely favored Dullahan with Robert E. Courtney, Jr.’s defending Arlington Handicap winner and 2012 Million third Rahystrada.  Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey also hold a huge chance at victory with locally based Coalport, who makes his first attempt at 10 furlongs for leading trainer Wayne Catalano. 

At Belmont Park on July 13, the Grade I Man o’ War Stakes features a slew of Million possibles, including Phipps Stable’s 2012 beaten Million favorite Boisterous, Donegal Racing’s improving Finnegan’s Wake and Calumet Farm’s ever-dangerous Optimizer.  The most intriguing entrant is Moyglare Stud’s recent European import Speaking of Which for trainer Christophe Clement – a trainer whose contestants have never finished off the Million board in four starts.

The Listed Pipalong Stakes produced two possible starters for the Beverly D. Stakes on July 9 when favorites Gifted Girl and Ladys First displayed a quality battle as the betting favorites.  Both Gifted Girl, owned by A.D. Spence, and Ladys First, owned by Mrs. H. Steel, were using the event as a prep for the much richer Beverly D.

Another whose hat has been tossed into the Beverly D. ring is Moment in Time, a daughter of German champion Tiger Hill owned by Mrs. Julia Annable and trained by last year’s Beverly D. winner, David Simcock.  In June, Moment in Time defeated subsequent Group I Pretty Polly winner Ambivalent in the Group III Pinnacle Stakes on good-to-firm ground over 12 furlongs at Haydock Park.  She will be cutting back sharply in distance, but has previously won at eight and 10 furlongs.

On this side of the Atlantic, Woodbine Racetrack’s Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes produced a eye-catching runner-up performance from Beverly D.-nominated Julie’s Love, from the barn of Graham Motion.  Owned by Bobby Flay, Irving Cowan and Barry Weisbord, the 5-year-old mare has won five of 23 starts and multiple listed stakes throughout her career, which started in Europe.  The same can be said for three-time Beverly D.-winning owner Martin Schwartz’s Samitar, who manhandled the 1 1/16-mile Fairy Garden Stakes at Belmont Park to earn her first victory of 2013.  In 2012, Samitar was a classic winner in Ireland at a mile and winner of the nine-furlong Grade I Garden City Stakes at Belmont.

This weekend, all eyes will be on three big prep races throughout the country.  First, at Arlington, the course and distance prep for the Beverly D. – the Grade III $200,000 Modesty Handicap – will feature a class test for Hernandez Racing Club’s rising local star La Tia against the likes of Skara Glen Stable’s Grade III-winning Colonial Flag shipping in for trainer Michael Matz.  Out west, Glen Hill Farm’s Marketing Mix is possible to take on the boys in the 12-furlong Grade III Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park.  Second last year in the Beverly D., and recent winner of the Grade I Gamely Stakes, Marketing Mix once again looks formidable.    

Three big prep races for the Secretariat take place this weekend.  Locally, the Grade III $200,000 American Derby features a super field of 11 colts and geldings, including a rematch of the first three to cross the finish in the Grade III Arlington Classic on May 25 – WinStar Farm’s General Election, Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Admiral Kitten and Terry Hamilton’s locally based Dorsett.  Also formidable will be Glen Hill Farm’s Procurement, who was a fast-finishing fifth in the Arlington Classic, while going off as the second betting choice. 

At Colonial Downs is the Grade II Virginia Derby, which features division leader and Secretariat probable Rydilluc, recent winner of the inaugural $500,000 Penn Mile.  The Team Stallion Racing Stable-owned colt will put his undefeated turf record on the line against a field that includes Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s impressive recent stakes winner Redwood Kitten and their Penn Mile runner-up Charming Kitten – both sons of their Kitten’s Joy and bred impeccably well for the increase in real estate.

At Belmont, the Listed Solar Splendor Stakes drew a great field that includes no less than four graded stakes winners.  Dell Ridge Farm’s Noble Tune and Klaravich Stable’s Balance the Books, both from the Chad Brown stable, will likely vie for favoritism in a field that also includes Wade Wacker’s Grade I-winning Joha and Repole Stable’s Grade III-winning Notacatbutallama. 

On July 7 at Woodbine Racetrack, Stella Perdomo’s Forte dei Marmi returned to the winner’s circle impressively in the Grade III 12-furlong Singspiel Stakes.  Trained by the legendary Canadian conditioner Roger Attfield, the son of Selkirk relished the softer ground and addition of distance.  The 6¼-length victory indicated a return to form for the distance specialist who finished a good third last year in the Grade I Canadian International. 

All signs point to trainer David Simcock bringing his No Heretic over from Europe when he brings his filly Moment in Time in August.  A loser by about three lengths in the Queen Alexandra Stakes last out at Royal Ascot – a massive marathon of nearly 22 furlongs – Mrs. Fitri Hay’s No Heretic is a lightly raced stayer by Galileo who may appreciate the cut back in distance.

This weekend, Arlington will host a key local prep – the Grade III $150,000 Stars and Stripes over 12 furlongs.  Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s star turf marathoner Dark Cove will look to land his third straight 12-furlong graded turf stakes, but will have to go through Team Block’s duo of defending Stars and Stripes champion Ioya Bigtime and last year’s third-place Suntracer.  Also in with a big shot is Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man, a 4-year-old son of Breeders’ Cup Turf champion English Channel making his marathon distance debut.