Arlington Million

Road to the Million: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/22/2009 #

Pay attention, Einstein! You have a need for additional focus. Look around, Gio Ponti! Something may be gaining on you. You both need to prepare a defense for a suddenly stronger European invasion in advance of the upcoming Arlington Million XXVII on Aug. 8.

The equine invaders are now to be led by two European-based generals – decorated veterans of campaigns all over the world – and their names are Gloria de Campeao and Gladiatorus.

Gloria de Campeao, owned by Stefan Friborg, captured the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup in his last start May 17 at Kranji Racecourse. Prior to that impressive tally, the Brazilian-bred was the runner-up in the Grade I Dubai World Cup March 28 at Nad Al Sheba. Trained by Pascal Bary, familiar to American racing fans after saddling numerous Breeders’ Cup winners over the last two decades, Gloria de Campeao began his career in his native South America but will be coming to North America for the first time in his life.

Gladiatorus, a Godolphin standout trained by Saeed bin Suroor, won the Grade I Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba on Dubai World Cup Day March 28 but most recently disappointed as the choice of the fans at Royal Ascot when sixth in Group I Queen Anne Stake June 16. Prior to that inexplicable outing, Gladiatorus was included at the top rung of European-based runners.

Just days after their arrival, Gloria de Campeao and Gladiatorus will challenge the top two American-based turf horses currently in training – Midnight Cry Stables’ Einstein and Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti. That’s the updated headline scenario for the centerpiece event of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season a little more than two weeks away.

Also added to the list of European invaders under consideration for the Grade I Arlington Million is the British-bred Stotsfold, owned by Peter Harris, trained by former jockey Walter Swinburn and winner of France’s Group III La Coupe Stakes at Longchamp in his last start June 18.

Stotsfold and Tazeez (mentioned previously as a possibility for the Arlington Million) – are set to match strides in Great Britain’s Group II York Stakes at York Racecourse July 25 to further determine their status for the Arlington Million.

Should those two both run well this weekend, they would join such other strong North American-based Million candidates as Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well, winner of the Grade III Arlington Handicap July 11; Patricia Generazio’s Presious Passion, hero of Monmouth’s Grade I United Nations Stakes July 4; Circle E Racing’s Mr. Sidney, winner of Churchill’s Grade II Firecracker Handicap July 4; and David and Jilll Heerensperger’s Artiste Royal, runner-up in Hollywood’s Grade II American Handicap, also on July 4.

Teruya Yoshida’s Cima de Triomphe remains a European-based Million possibility but is also still being considered for Great Britain’s Group I King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes this Saturday at Ascot. However, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum’s Imbongi is now extremely unlikely for the Million – due in large measure to the late additions of Gloria de Campeao and Gladiatorus.

The 27th running of the Arlington Million, which annually attracts some of the world’s best turf horses, will go to the post late in the afternoon on the second Saturday in August, preceded by the 20th anniversary edition of the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes for the world’s best grass-favoring fillies and mares and the 33rd running of the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, restricted to 3-year-olds of international turf caliber.

Together, the only three Grade I races contested in Illinois on an annual basis make up Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing, and this summer’s Arlington Million gets added international prestige because the winner will receive an automatic invitation to the Group I Japan Cup when it is run in Tokyo later in the year.

A French-bred 3-year-old filly now being mentioned as under consideration for the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes as the Arlington Million’s sister race is Claude Lambert’s Providanza, trained by Mikel Delzangles – the conditioner who brought Toque de Queda to Chicago last summer to finish third in the 2008 Beverly D.

Bred by her owner, Providanza most recently finished fourth, beaten only a length for the win, in Chantilly’s Group III Prix Chloe July 5, but won the listed Prix des Lilas at Saint-Cloud before that on June 8. The daughter of Okawango was seventh, beaten six lengths in the Group I French 1000 Guineas at Longchamp May 10.

Remaining under consideration for the Beverly D. from Europe is Moyglare Stud Farm’s Mad About You, an Irish-bred daughter of Indian Ridge conditioned by Ireland’s all-time leading trainer Dermot Weld. At last asking July 11 the 4-year-old finished third beaten two lengths in the Group III Keeneland Minstrel Stakes at Ireland’s The Curragh, and before that was fourth in the Group III Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown May 10.

Other Irish-based sophomore fillies under consideration for the Million’s feminine counterpart are Mrs. John Magnier and Tom Magnier’s Roman Empress, and Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Mrs. Elizabeth Moran’s Heart Shaped, both conditioned by Aidan O’Brien.

Roman Empress finished sixth in the Group I Darley Irish Oaks July 12 while Heart Shaped was sixth in the Group I Coronation Stakes June 19 during the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting.

Should any or all of those European-based fillies come to Chicago for the Beverly D. they are expected to have to face Doubledown Stables’ Black Mamba, winner of the last two renewals of Hollywood Park’s Grade II Beverly Hills Handicap. The 6-year-old mare, bred in New Zealand, remains on course for a Beverly D. run and is projected as the long range Beverly D. favorite.

Trained by California-based John Sadler, Black Mamba stayed on the West Coast last summer to win Del Mar’s Grade I John C. Mabee Handicap following her 2008 Beverly Hills win but is more probable for the Beverly D. this year.

Also on the Beverly D.’s probable list is Lewis Lakin’s Pure Clan, two and a half lengths the best in Arlington’s Grade III Modesty Handicap as a Beverly D. prep July 11. Among Pure Clan’s other graded stakes victories are tallies in Hollywood’s Grade I American Oaks Invitational last year, Churchill’s Grade II Golden Rod Stakes in 2007, as well as Grade III wins in the 2008 Regret Stakes and 2007 Pocahontas Stakes at the Twin Spires oval.

Remaining as a possible starter in the Beverly D. is Live Oak Plantation’s Points of Grace, who won the Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes July 11 at Canada’s Woodbine Race Course, and is being considered as a late nomination to Arlington’s main grass test for fillies and mares.

Concerning the upcoming Grade I Secretariat Stakes as the final leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, one European-based probable starter is Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Black Bear Island, slated for a one-way ticket to America before being sold to a California-based partnership that includes R. D. Hubbard. The Irish-bred sophomore most recently finished seventh in France’s Group I Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris July 14. Aidan O’Brien would remain the trainer of record for the Secretariat.

Another Irish-bred O’Brien trainee, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor’s Drumbeat, well beaten in the Group I Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby June 28, is also mentioned as a Secretariat possible starter.

Also worthy of mention from the O’Brien yard as possible Secretariat candidates are the British-bred Freemantle, owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor in that order of preference, as well as the Irish-bred Westphalia, owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier while listed in that order.

Interestingly, both those sophomores are original nominations to the Arlington Million but not the Mid-America Triple. However, late nominations to the Secretariat for both those 3-year-olds could be made on July 29.

Those Europeans would be likely to face Ashbrook Farm’s Reb, hero of the Grade II American Derby as the Triple’s middle leg, and Virginia Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, winner of the 75th anniversary edition of the Arlington Classic as the first leg of the sophomore series.

Remaining at Arlington for the Secretariat is the California-based Oil Man, owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds and winner of Hollywood’s Grade III Cinema Handicap June 21 and third under the wire in the American Derby before being disqualified and placed fifth.

British-bred Battle of Hastings, owned by Mike House and trained by Jeff Mullins, is now being considered as a late nomination to the Secretariat after winning last weekend’s Grade II Virginia Derby and the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup before that on June 20.

Unfortunately, Lael Stables Nicanor – the late beloved Barbaro’s turf-favoring little brother – was scratched out of the Virginia Derby on the day before the race due to a leg injury and would appear to be unlikely for the Secretariat.