Arlington Park takes its annual place in the sun this weekend with the Arlington Million and two other Grade I races while Saratoga, Del Mar and Woodbine continue their seasons of top racing.
On the international front, Alpha Centauri is back in action Sunday in France, a Godolphin raider challenges the Germans in Berlin, and guess which trainer still had 10 of the 14 2-year-olds left in Sunday's Phoenix Stakes in Ireland, pending final declarations. Right the first time.
Before we plunge into the details: Arlington Park Chairman Richard L. Duchossois doesn't have a runner in any of the big races on Million Day. Nonetheless, Duchossois is in the entries -- Duchossois, a horse, that is. The day's third race, 1 mile on the turf for maidens, features an Animal Kingdom colt named Duchossois. The chestnut is owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, which paid $350,000 for him at the 2016 Keeneland September sale. The first-time starter is 3-1 morning-line favorite but the Arlington crowd is likely to bet him way down from that. Here's hoping he wins for his 96-year-old namesake.
Saturday's Grade I Arlington Million XXXVI appears to be a pretty wide-open affair, with last year's Secretariat Stakes winner, Oscar Performance, the 3-1 morning line favorite among 11. But there's international intrigue with the Aidan O'Brien-trained Deauville in the lineup, a trio of talented Chad Brown charges and the up-and-coming Spring Quality among others.
The race is a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Oscar Performance, a Kitten's Joy colt, has seven wins from 12 starts and exits a victory in the Grade I Poker at Belmont Park, going 1 mile. That was his first start of the year and he adds another quarter mile for Million. His victories include last year's Secretariat Stakes and he would be the fifth to complete the Secretariat-Million "double".
Deauville, a 5-year-old son of Galileo, ran second in each of the last two Millions and exits a second in the ICON Meld Stakes at Leopardstown -- the same race he used as a prep last year. O'Brien said he is pleased with the horse's progress and this year's opposition might be a bit softer than the past two years'.
Brown brings Money Multiplier, a good second in the Grade I United Nations in his last outing, and Almanaar, who was out of action for 16 months after winning the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in 2016 but won his first race back June 8 at Belmont Park. He also has Robert Bruce, a former Chilean champion who won the Grade III Fort Marcy at Belmont in his first U.S. start and finished sixth after a rough trip in the Manhattan.
Spring Quality, a lightly raced 6-year-old, has improved quickly this year for trainer Graham Motion, winning the Grade I Manhattan in his last start. Divisidero won the local prep for the Million and will be running late in the big race.
Among the other foreigners, Century Dream was beaten only 3/4 length in the Grade I Queen Anne at Royal Ascot in June and could play a role with William Buick in for the ride.
Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds at Arlington Park features a rematch of Analyze It and Hunting Horn, the second- and third-place finishers from the Grade I Belmont Derby on July 7. It's a transatlantic rivalry, with Analyze It, a Point of Entry colt, trained by Chad Brown in New York and Hunting Horn, a son of Camelot, trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien. At Belmont, they both chased Catholic Boy home with neither making up much ground in the late going. With Hunting Horn drawn outside in a field of 13, Analyze It is the morning-line favorite.
The Secretariat field also includes the first three finishers from the Grade III American Derby, the local prep, and a few others who have shown promise.
Filly & Mare Turf
Chad Brown will saddle four of the nine starters in Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park, including the 9-5 morning-line favorite, Sistercharlie. Sistercharlie, a 4-year-old daughter of Myboycharlie, finished second in the French Oaks last year. In the United States she has two wins and two seconds from four starts -- all against tough competition. Yet, she finished second to stablemate, and Beverly D. opponent, Fourstar Crook, in her last start, the Grade II New York at Belmont June 7. Inflexibility and Thais round out the Brown quartet.
They run these for a reason, though, and others have a chance in the Beverly D. Trainer Kenny McPeek shipped Daddys Lil Darling from Kentucky to win the Grade III Modesty Handicap over the Arlington course July 7 and returns with a shot. Dona Bruja dead-heated for second in this race last year and trainer Ignacio Correas IV has understandable hopes for another good performance by the Argentine-bred mare. And of the two international competitors, Athena would be a factor if she can repeat her winning ways from the Belmont Oaks Invitational in July for trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Ryan Moore.
The Beverly D. is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
On the Million undercard, Beyond Blame is the 3-1 morning-line favorite among a baker's dozen in the $100,000 Grade III Pucker Up for 3-year-old fillies. The daughter of Blame has three wins and two seconds from six lifetime starts but drew the outside stall for the 9-furlongs test.
At Woodbine, Lotte, Daring Duchess and Creative Thinking are well thought of in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Flaming Page Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/2 miles. All have been running well and look for a bit of a breakthrough.
Silent Sonnet and Niigon's Eclipse are favored among six in for Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Victoriana Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the Woodbine grass.
Seven are entered for Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Fourstardave at Saratoga but one is for main-track-only and another, Divisidero, is cross-entered in the Arlington Million.
All of the other five have a live chance in the 1-mile race. Heart to Heart is the morning-line pick but Yoshida, Made You Look, Voodoo Song and Delta Prince all have credentials. This is a really good race and should have a big bearing on the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Projected is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday's rescheduled $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure Stakes at Saratoga. Torrential rains forced the postponement of the 1 1/16-mile event last weekend.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Skye Diamonds sparkles among six in for Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap at Del Mar. The 5-year-old First Dude mare has been ultra consistent and comes off a second in the Grade II Great Lady M Stakes at Los Alamitos. Moonshine Memories was a superstar at 2 and looks to get back on track after a trip to New York where she was fourth in the Grade I Acorn. Anonymity, a 4-year-old Tapit filly trained by Richard Mandella, is an under-the-radar 3-for-4 in her short career and would shed anonymity with a win here.
Win the War is the even-money morning-line favorite in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Duchess Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over the Woodbine all-weather track. The War Front filly is 2-for-2 at Woodbine and finished third in the Grade Santa Ynez at Santa Anita in her last start, back in January.
Two to watch here: The Grade III Longacres Mile on Sunday at Emerald Downs and the Grade III Groupie Doll for fillies and mares, also Sunday at Ellis Park. These races are highlights of their respective tracks' seasons and usually draw good and competitive fields.
Only five turned out for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Best Pal at Del Mar. Four are recent maiden winners -- one in a maiden claimer. The other is winless in three starts. So ... let's watch and hope we learn something.
Perhaps there's something better in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Saratoga Special. But we'll have to wait to find out as the race had not been drawn at press time.
A competitive field of six is on hand for Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Adirondack at Saratoga. The 6-5 morning-line favorite, Lyrical Lady, led all the way to a 5 3/4-lengths win in her first career start July 20 over the Saratoga strip. Virginia Eloise turned in a similarly impressive win in her first start during the Belmont spring meeting. Ditto Mucho Amour, at Keeneland, and Sue's Fortune, albeit the latter was against fellow New York-breds. Guacamole won on a disqualification at the Spa two weeks ago.
Despite facing an imposing field full of Group 1 winners, Alpha Centauri, decisive victor in three straight Group 1 races, is the even-money antepost favorite to make it four in a row in Sunday's Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques la Marois at Deauville. The 3-year-old Mastercraftsman filly took the Irish 1,000 Guineas in May, the Coronation Stakes in June and the Falmouth Stakes in July.
There are others still in the race, pending final declarations: With You won the Group 1 Prix Rothschild over the course in her last start. Intellogent and Cascadian were first and second in the Group 1 Jean Pratt in June at Deauville. Recoletos won the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp two starts back. Accidental Agent was victorious in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Ascot. Romanized won the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Pending final declarations, 14 remain for Sunday's Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes for 2-year-olds at the Curragh. Ten of them are trained by Aidan O'Brien and undoubtedly will be sorted out. Prominent among them is Sergei Prokofiev, already a two-time winner and third in the Group 2 Coventry stakes in his last start. Advertised, from Martyn Meade's yard, enters with two wins from three starts including a win in a Group 2 at Newmarket in his previous try and will draw support. We note Klute, a Kodiac filly, is out of the Quiet American mare Fonda. Jane Fonda had the title role in the 1971 thriller "Klute" but none of the Fonda clan is credited in either version of "The Quiet American".
Godolphin sends Best Solution to join six locals in Sunday's Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Berling at Hoppegarten. Best Solution, a 4-year-old Kodiac colt, was fifth in the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup night and returned to win a Group 2 race at Newmarket July 12. The local brigade is topped by last year's winner Dschingis Secret, a 5-year-old son of Soldier Hollow who rounded back into winning form last time out in a Group 2 at Hamburg. Windstoss finished third in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom in June but was fourth behind Dschingis Secret in the Hamburg race.
News and notes:
Poet's Word improved his rating from 125 to 129 with victory in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, boosting him into a tie for second with the long-retired Gun Runner in the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings released Thursday. Only Winx is rated higher, at 130. Crystal Ocean, second in the King George, added eight points to his rating and moved into fourth. Battaash and Cracksman are tied for fifth.
The only active older American horse in the top 10 is West Coast, rated 124. He has not raced since finishing second in the Dubai World Cup in March and, while he is back in training at Los Alamitos, owner Gary West told The Blood-Horse this week he may or may not be ready for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Diversify is rated 120 after winning the Whitney.
The Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings include any horse which has raced during 2018.