ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Aug. 14 (UPI) -- When Arlington Park created the first million-dollar race in Thoroughbred racing history in 1981 and put it on the grass, the intention was to draw the best horses from Europe to compete against the best in North America.
Saturday's renewal of the Arlington Million achieved that goal - in spades.
Eight European runners, including highly regarded Sulamani, will line up against five North American contenders in Saturday's Arlington Million, the centerpiece of this year's International Festival of Racing. Also on the card are the Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds and the Beverly D., for fillies and mares. All are on the grass and all are Grade I races.
Sulamani, owned by the powerful Godolphin Racing Inc., is a 4-year-old son of Hernando. The Irish-bred colt won four of six starts last year, including a second-place finish in the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. This year, he won the Dubai Sheema Classic, tossed in a poor effort in a French race and then finished second in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last month.
Sulamani suffered a bruised foot, which prevented him from going to the track Thursday morning. But Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford, speaking by phone from England, said Godolphin still hopes to get the colt to the Million starting gate.
"Sulamani has suffered a slight stone bruise, which is the reason he did not go to the track this morning," Crisford said. "He has not missed any work, and we are currently monitoring the situation. We hope to resume training tomorrow."
If he is healthy, Sulamani is running in good enough form that some European analysts were surprised so many other continental horses shipped to Arlington to challenge him.
Those rivals are Kaieteur, third in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes last month; Olden Times, fourth in the same race last time out; Paolini, sixth in last year's Million after running into traffic in the stretch; Vangelis, winner of the Grand Prix de Vichy in his last start; Tripat, winner of a Group 3 race in France in June; Touch of Land, fourth in the French Derby; and Beauchamp Pilot, second in a Group 3 event at the recent Royal Ascot meeting.
The North American contingent is led by Storming Home, who raced in England and Japan last year before relocating to Southern California under the care of trainer Neil Drysdale. Storming Home won both of his starts in California this year, the Jim Murray Handicap and the Whittingham Handicap, the latter a Grade I event.
A fan bonus will be Storming Home's rider, Gary Stevens. Stevens, in addition to being a member of the Racing Hall of Fame, played George Woolf in the movie "Seabiscuit," winning favorable reviews for his acting ability.
Other North American runners in the Million are Canadian-based Perfect Soul. Perfect Soul won the King Edward Breeders' Cup at Woodbine in June.
Million contestants based in the United States are Perfect Drift, winner of the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington July 19; Honor in War, who won the Arlington Handicap July 26, and The Tin Man, second in the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth July 5.
The Beverly D., named for the late wife of Arlington Chairman Richard L. Duchossois, originally drew eight fillies and mares, including two from the impressive stable of trainer Bobby Frankel. Frankel, however, later scratched Tates Creek, citing transportation problems, leaving Heat Haze as the likely favorite for the 1 3/16-mile event, worth $700,000.
Another likely to draw support in the Beverly D. is Dublino, trained by Laura de Seroux, who also handles reigning Horse of the Year Azeri. Dublino ran 10th in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf last October at Arlington. But De Seroux said after a workout Wednesday that the daughter of Lear Fan likes the course better now than she did last fall.
By contrast with the international flavor of the Million, the Beverly D. has only one foreign-based participant -- who has raced in Italy and England.
Eleven will start in the $400,000 Secretariat, which also is the third race in Arlington's "Mid-America Triple." The field includes the winners of both the previous "Triple" events -- Evolving Tactics, an Irish-based runner who won the American Derby, and Lismore Knight, winner of the Arlington Classic.