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Arlington Park takes center stage in weekend horse racing

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Arlington Park takes center stage in weekend horse racing
Domestic Spending (red and white silks), shown winning the 2020 Hollywood Derby, is likely favorite for Saturday's $600,000 Mr. D. Stakes, the former Arlington Million. Benoit photo, courtesy of Santa Anita

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Arlington Park's big day takes the star turn -- presumably its last -- in weekend racing with vestiges of past glory remaining in the three Grade I races.

There are Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events at Saratoga and in Deauville on the French coast. And the 2-year-old events start to take on significance with the Breeders' Cup races now just three months away.

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Not wasting any time, we fire things up with:

Turf

Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Mr. D. Stakes at Arlington Park likely is the final gasp of the Arlington Million -- a race that launched seven-figure Thoroughbred purses with its first running in 1981 and earned the track a special Eclipse Award for staging the "Miracle Million" just weeks after fire destroyed the grandstand in 1985.

Arlington's current owner, Churchill Downs Inc., has put the property up for sale for redevelopment and the iconic grandstand that replaced the rubble left by the fire almost certainly faces the bulldozer.

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But before it goes, the track's signature race will flash a reminder of its glory days, albeit reduced in purse and renamed to honor the long-time owner of Arlington, Richard L. Duchossois.

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Domestic Spending heads the local crew and looms as the heavy favorite. Trained by Chad Brown, who has had a lock on Arlington's big races for years now, Domestic Spending has won six of his seven starts and boasts a four-race win streak.

He's tested at this 1 1/4-miles distance and Flavien Prat is due in to ride, minimizing chances the confirmed closer might be compromised by traffic in the field of 10.

Ireland's Coolmore operation ensures the final "Million" will have a credible international flavor, sending Armory and jockey Ryan Moore. Armory was second in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate in Australia last year and third in the Group I Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot this year.

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The Mr. D. field also includes the first three finishers from the local prep race, the Grade III Arlington Stakes as well as the fifth finisher from that, Zulu Alpha, who could be the upsetter in his second start of the year.

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Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Bruce D. Stakes for 3-year-olds at Arlington Park, formerly the Secretariat Stakes, drew a mixed bag of nine including the winners of the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park, King of Miami, and the local American Derby, Tango Tango Tango.

Things spiral downward from there to New Year Surprise, who remains winless after six starts. It's a far cry from the event won in the past by the likes of Highland Reel, Kitten's Joy, Treasure Beach, Paddy O'Prado and Awad.

Filly & Mare Turf

While Armory looks to have his hands full with Domestic Spending in the Mr. D. Stakes, Irish stablemate Santa Barbara looks tough against six rivals in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park.

The 3-year-old Camelot filly long has been a favorite of trainer O'Brien's and seemed to finally reach her potential with a victory in the $700,000 Grade III Belmont Oaks Invitational in her most recent start.

The top local threat is Mean Mary, a 5-year-old Scat Daddy mare trained by Graham Motion who has seven wins from 11 starts.

Always being mindful of the Chad Brown factor, the Beverly D. field also has a 4-year-old from his string, Lemista. The Raven's Pass filly will have to step it up after disappointing in the Grade I Diana at Saratoga on July 17. Others include the 1-2-3 from the local prep race, the Modesty Stakes.

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Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington Park has a field of eight 3-year-old fillies and Brown has another candidate in Shantisara.

The Irish-bred filly ran reasonably well in France and finished second in her U.S. debut in the Boiling Springs Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 26. Several return from the local Hatoof Stakes on Million Preview Day and Sheza Mystery was last seen finishing second in the Grade II Iowa Oaks.

Turf Mile

Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, a "Win and You're In" for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile, drew a well-qualified field of eight.

Again, Chad Brown is formidable with Raging Bull starting in the No. 1 slot and Blowout on the outside. Both have been ultra-consistent graded stakes performers, but both also are short on wins.

Casa Creed, on the other hand, won the Grade I Jaipur at Belmont Park in his last start, Set Piece was last seen annexing the Grade II Wise Dan at Churchill Downs, Field Pass comes out of a victory in the Grade III BWI Turf Cup at Pimlico and Got Stormy has three wins from her last six starts.

Did we mention this is a well-qualified field?

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Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II King Edward at Woodbine has a powerful lineup including the first two finishers from the Grade II Connaught Cup July 18 -- Avie's Flatter and Olympic Runner.

Jolie Olimpica won her first start at Woodbine, the Grade II Nassau Stakes, after arriving from California. Valid Point returns from a layoff after a handoff from Chad Brown to Graham Motion.

Turf Sprint

Saturday's $100,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park has nine takers. Among them, Miss Auramet, Running Memories and What a Trick stand out although others look perfectly capable of taking a small step forward to spring a surprise.

Sunday's $120,000 Galway for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga has a field of 10 plus two alternates. Wesley Ward will saddle two -- Wink and Illegal Smile.

Wink was second in a Group 2 event in France last year, but disappointed in her latest. Illegal Smile is short on wins but usually in the mix. Goin' Good comes off a win in the Coronation Cup at Saratoga. Bye Bye was a Grade III winner at Belmont Park.

Classic

Sunday's $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby doesn't have the strongest field, but, if nothing else, the six runners should offer some wagering opportunities.

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The news in this division: Mandaloun eventually could be declared the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, but he won't be participating in the key races during the rest of the year that will decide year-end honors.

The colt, second in the Run for the Roses and set to be awarded the victory if Medina Spirit's drug positive is upheld, is sidelined from training due to a sore on a heel and will miss the major races in the fall, according to Garrett O'Rourke, general manager of Juddmonte's American operation.

O'Rourke said Monday the Into Mischief colt will be walked for eight weeks, which rules out a start in any Breeders' Cup race. "The Saudi Cup is the plan now," O'Rourke said.

Turf Sprint

Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Greenwood for 3-year-olds on the Woodbine all-weather drew seven with Gretzky the Great looking to get back on course.

The Nyquist colt was last seen finishing fifth in the Grade III Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park March 27. He won the Grade I Summer Stakes here last September. County Final, Dyn O Mite and Artie's Storm promise to contend in the 7 grassy furlongs.

Already in the books: Arrest Me Red stalked the pace in Wednesday's $120,000 Mahoney Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, hooked up with Into the Sunrise in a stretch battle, won that struggle and then held off a late bid by Fauci to win by a neck. Into the Sunrise, the favorite, finished third.

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Arrest Me Red, a Pioneerof the Nile colt trained by Wesley Ward, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.59 with John Velazquez aboard.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Magic Quest might have enough wand power to subdue six rivals in Sunday's $100,000 Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park. The Nyquist filly has won two straight, at Churchill Downs and Ellis, and seems headed in the right direction. Caribbean Caper enters undefeated after three starts, all the wins by big margins. The others have something to prove.

Sprint

Sunday's $100,000 Jersey Shore for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park has a field of seven, most of them major players in mostly minor stakes events up and down the East Coast. It's a well-matched field with lots of possibilities.

Dirt Mile

Last year's winner, Lady Kate, returns for Sunday's $125,000 RUNHAPPY Groupie Doll for fillies and mares at Ellis Park. She, however, seeks a reversal of fortune after ending 2020 with a couple thumping defeats and another in her 2021 opener.

The rest of the field in a mixed bag with the first three from the Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows facing off again. Dreamalildreamofu was a close third in the Grade III Chicago Stakes at Arlington in her last outing.

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Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs has a big field with only one Southern California invader. That's the Peter Miller-trained Anyportinastorm, who finished second in this race last year.

Papa's Golden Boy has won three in a row over the Seattle-area oval including the Budweiser Stakes and Governor's Stakes. The unfortunately named Forest Fire makes his first Emerald Stakes after moving cross-country from Parx. Background makes his second local start after shipping in from Arlington Park.

Juvenile

Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Saratoga Special has a big field packed with all kinds of potential. Double Thunder is undefeated after two starts and won the Grade III Bashford Manner at Churchill Downs in his last outing.

Glacial returns from a third in that heat. Dance Code, Ottoman Empire and Kavod were third, fourth and fifth in the Grade III Sanford early in the Spa meeting. Several others come off impressive maiden wins.

A field of seven is set for Sunday's $125,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Juvenile with the likely contenders all coming off similar recent maiden-breaking wins. Roger McQueen was a $530,000 item at the Ocala sales in March and won impressively in his second start. Trainer Larry Rivelli and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. don't hurt the cause.

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Saturday's $100,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile at Prairie Meadows has a field of 11 hopefuls and nothing resembling a favorite. Watch and learn.

Juvenile Fillies

Sunday's $125,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Debutante has a field of seven. The limited data indicate Verylittlecents is worth a flutter after a nice maiden win over the track. Joyrunner, a Gun Runner filly, won her debut over a sloppy Indiana Grand track and looks ready to move forward. Chopin Drive was second in the same Indiana heat and worth a look.

Like its male counterpart, Saturday's $100,000 Prairie Gold Lassie at Prairie Meadows has a field of 11 and little to separate them. Stab the program with that trusty hatpin and hope to get lucky.

Around the world, around the clock:

Sunday's Group 1 Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at Deauville is a "Win and You're In" for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile and the Breeders' Cup would be thrilled to land any of this bunch.

The 1-mile race down the straight course features Palace Pier, undefeated in three starts this season for John and Thady Gosden and owner Sheik Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. The last two wins were the Group 1 Lockinge and the Group 1 Queen Anne.

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Palace Pier won the Group 1 St James's Palace at Royal Ascot and finished second in the Group 1 Sussex. Then there's Coolmore's Mother Earth, who finished second in the 2020 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and most recently won the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at the same 1 mile over the Deauville course.

Order of Australia won last year's Breeders' Cup Mile and could earn a spot in the Del Mar renewal but did not look sharp in the Sussex last time out. Alpine Star, a 4-year-old Sea the Moon filly, could make some noise. Ditto Midtown, a lightly raced Godolphin 3-year-old by Dubawi.

News and Notes:

Kentucky Downs has announced an 8% purse increase in its non-stakes races for the meeting that doesn't even start until Sept. 5. Maiden special-weight races will now offer a purse of $135,000; first-level allowance races, $145,800 and second-level allowance races, $156,600.

Those totals are for horses sired by a Kentucky stallion and foaled in the Commonwealth, which for obvious reasons make up most of the track's fields. Others race for just the association money.

Overall purses offered at the meet now are scheduled to total $15,259,400, which includes $10 million spread among 16 stakes races. Overnight races are scheduled to average $876,000 a day.

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"But there's more to the owners' experience than purses," said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs' vice president for racing.

"We've got some surprises in store this meet for the owners who put on our show. We want Kentucky Downs to be a track that, win or lose, owners can't wait to return to run their horses."

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