The festival centers on the 20th running of the Arlington Million at 1 ¼ mile. Fillies and mares contest the $700,000 Beverly D., at 1 3/16 mile. And 3-year-olds compete in the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at 1 ¼ mile. All three races are on Arlington's world-class grass course.
The three races also are early preps for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, which will be run Oct. 26 -- also at Arlington.
Beat Hollow was installed by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia as the 6-5 morning-line favorite in the Million. The 5-year-old son of Sadler's Wells was bred in England but has raced this year in the United States, winning three of his five starts.
The two defeats, however, were at the hands of Sarafan, who will be back Saturday for another try. Sarafan has started seven times this year but won only when facing Beat Hollow. The Kentucky-bred has been close to the winner in all seven tries, however. Starting from the inside gate, Sarafan was posted as the second choice in the morning line at 3-1.
Forbidden Apple, a consistent 7-year-old, is the third pick at 4-1. Forbidden Apple was second in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, then fourth in the Hong Kong Mile. This year, he has a second and a third from two starts.
Most of the field has international credentials.
Cheshire was bred in England and has raced in France. Falcon Flight was bred in France but has been racing in the United States and Canada. Freefourinternet, bred in Kentucky, has raced exclusively in England. Paolini will attempt to become the second straight German-bred to win the Million after earlier starts in Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Singapore. Ulundi, a British invader, has raced both on the flat and over hurdles.
Christophe Clement trains Forbidden Apple and also will send both defending champion England's Legend and Volga to the Beverly D.
"I think (rival trainer) Bill Mott said, 'You can't win if you're not in it,'" Clement said Wednesday at his Saratoga training base. "They are tough races. My horses look good and are training well."
He said England's Legend might be happiest if early-week rains continue to soften the Arlington turf course. "But today is only Wednesday and it could dry out and get hard between now and then. Volga likes it either way," Clement said.
Clement's starters in the Beverly D. will face only four rivals. Chief among them is Astra, who ran abysmally in last year's Beverly D., finishing last of nine. Nonetheless, the 6-year-old daughter of Theatrical arrives from California riding a three-race winning streak and appears in top form.
Golden Apples, an Irish-bred, has been second in her last two outings, and Golden Silica, a British-bred, ships in from England winless in eight starts this year. Tates's Creek has won two straight in New York against somewhat softer competition.
Eight were entered for the Secretariat, with Orchard Park installed as the slight favorite at 2-1. Orchard Park, a son of Hennessy, has won six of his last seven races, including the Virginia Derby in his last start. Posted at 5-2 in the morning line is Chiselling, a Woodman colt who won the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Belmont in his last start.
Three of the seven entered for the Secretariat have at least some international experience.
In addition to its importance for the Breeders' Cup races in just over two months' time, the Million also is the first North American leg of the World Series Racing Championship - a 14-race series that started in Dubai in March and ends in Hong Kong in December.
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