Arlington Million

Worlds Collide As Europeans Invade Saturday's Arlington Million

Churchill Downs Communications | 08/06/2008 #
  • Archipenko gallops on Arlington's training track shortly after clearing quarantine Sunday morning, Aug. 3.

Globetrotting Archipenko, with graded stakes victories on three continents this year, will try to add North America to that list when he faces seven rivals in Saturday’s 25th renewal of Grade I Arlington Million at Chicago’s showcase oval.

Named in honor of a Ukrainian sculptor who exemplified the Cubist movement of the early 1900s, Archipenko is cut like a statue – small in size but perfectly balanced – while carrying the large heart of a champion within his diminutive frame.

However, a second European-based invader – the first Grade I Coral-Eclipse winner to grace Arlington ’s world famous grass course for Chicago ’s centerpiece race – is the British-bred, Irish-based Mount Nelson . Owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, and trained by Ireland ’s Aidan O’Brien, Mount Nelson ’s Coral-Eclipse tally came in his most recent start July 5 at Sandown Park .

O’Brien, who has an unprecedented 17 Group I victories at this stage of the 2008 season already notched on his résumé, also trained Mount Nelson to win France ’s Group I Criterium International at Saint-Cloud two years ago. Irish jockey Johnny Murtagh journeys across the Atlantic to ride for O’Brien.

Archipenko, owned by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Maktoum and Dr. A. H. Parker, is enjoying a season highlighted by a victory in Hong Kong’s Group I Queen Elizabeth II Cup last April 27, most recently won Great Britain’s Group I Summer Mile Stakes July 12, and also posted a tally in Dubai’s Grade II Al Fahidi Fort Stakes Feb. 21.

South African-born but internationally renowned conditioner Michael de Kock, who brought South African-bred Irridescence to Arlington last summer to finish second in the 2007 Grade I Beverly D., is the trainer of Archipenko. South African jockey Kevin Shea is in Chicago to ride Archipenko.

The Million, along with the $750,000 Beverly D. and the $400,000 Secretariat, is one of three Grade I races to make up Arlington ’s one-day International Festival of Racing Saturday. Together, they are the only three Grade I races contested in Illinois on an annual basis.

Leading America ’s hopes for a victory in Arlington Million XXVI is South American-bred but North American-based Einstein, whose 2008 season currently boasts a victory in Churchill Downs’ Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day May 3 and a win in South Florida ’s Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Feb. 23.

Trained by Helen Pitts and owned by Midnight Cry Stable, the Brazilian-bred Einstein finished as a fast-closing second in Churchill’s Grade II Firecracker Handicap at one mile over the Louisville lawn July 4. Jockey Robby Albarado returns in the irons for the Arlington Million, run at a mile and a quarter.

A third European invader, the French-bred, French-based Spirit One, is known for leading European superstar Duke of Marmalade in all but the late stages of Longchamp’s Group I Prix Ganay April 27, but the colt was also second by a half-length behind eventual Group I Champion Stakes hero Literato in Deauville ’s Group II Prix Guillaume d’Ornano in August of 2007.

Spirit One is owned by Kamel Chehboub, trained by Philippe Demercastel, and will be ridden by jockey Ioritz Mendizabal. Another strong American-based threat in the Arlington Million is Fab Oak Stable, Bobby Hurley and John Goldthorpe’s Stream Cat, a winner by 3 3/4-lengths in the Grade III Arlington Handicap as the July 12 final major local prep for the Million.

Stream Cat is conditioned by Rusty Arnold, enjoying the best Arlington Park season of his career, and will be ridden by French-born jockey Julien Leparoux.

Completing the Arlington Million field is Gary Tanaka’s Sudan, fourth in Belmont’s Grade I Man o’ War July 12 and an Irish-bred conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel with John Velazquez up; S J Stables’ Cloudy’s Knight, winner of Woodbine’s Grade I Canadian International last fall and trained by Frank Kirby with Ramsey Zimmerman named; and Chrysalis Stable’s Silverfoot, the hero of Arlington’s Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap July 4 who is trained by Dallas Stewart with Arlington jockey champion Rene Douglas aboard.