Horses enter the first turn during 29th running of the Arlington Million Stakes.
Arlington Million day is a truly great day on the racing calendar and, by far, the biggest racing day in our nation’s third largest city. One thing that sets this event apart is the global participation which, in U.S. racing, is topped only by the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. This year is no different. So let’s get down to the always-challenging task of picking winners in the three Grade 1 stakes at Arlington Park on Saturday.
Race 8, $400,000 Secretariat Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 ¼ miles, turf, post time: 4:48 p.m. EDT
The field in post-position order:
1. Handsome Mike, morning-line odds: 15-1, big question mark at the distance
2. Summer Front, 5-2, 5-for-5 on turf, never been beyond a mile on grass
3. Cozzetti, 10-1, one of three Dale Romans trainees in here, gutty win in last
4. Finnegans Wake, 6-1, Finished close behind Silver Max in last for Romans
5. All Stormy, 20-1, well beaten by Silver Max in lone meeting
6. Daddy Long Legs, 6-1, Euro shipper will be forced to chase Silver Max
7. Bayrir, 6-1, 3-for-4 in France including a win at the Secretariat distance
8. Silver Max, 9-5, looks for his 7th win in a row for Romans.
1. Silver Max
3. Finnegans Wake
Silver Max has been a front-running grass machine for Romans this year and fits this race beautifully. Let’s see … a win at Arlington? Check. A win at this distance? Check. A win on yielding ground in case the course at Arlington is softened by rain? Check. What’s more, I don’t see anyone in here who will want to duke it out early with Silver Max, which gives Max a tactical advantage. Bayrir took a Group 2 race in his native France last time out at Saturday’s 1 ¼-mile distance for his third win in four lifetime starts. It is interesting to note that trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre and top jockey Christophe Lemaire do NOT have horses in the other big stakes at Arlington—so they are making a big commitment to come all the way here, where they know full well that Silver Max is waiting for them. Very dangerous. Finnegans Wake ran very respectably in the Virginia Derby at 1 ¼ miles, finishing just a length and a half behind Silver Max on a soaked turf course. If you like Silver Max, you are almost honor bound to accord respect to Finnegans Wake. Summer Front has big-time talent as his perfect grass record suggests. He has overcome difficult trips to win his last pair, but he has never been beyond a mile on turf and thus is a shaky proposition to bet on at low odds.
Race 10, $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes, 3-year-olds and older, fillies and mares, 1 3/16 miles, turf, post time: 6:02 p.m. EDT
The field in post-position order:
1. Kapitale, morning-line odds: 12-1, has been facing weaker in Germany and Italy
2. I’m a Dreamer, 8-1, Euro ran a good 2nd at Woodbine last year in E.P. Taylor
3. Romacaca, 15-1, speed merchant has never been in Grade 1 company
4. Upperline, 20-1, fifth in this race last year, these waters may again prove deep
5. Mystical Star, 6-1, solid win in Grade 2 in N.Y. last time, big excuse in prior effort
6. Up, 8-1, 0-for-7 on grass though often finishes close up in good races
7. Aruna, 7-2, solid if unspectacular, a length behind Mystical Star last time
8. Marketing Mix, 3-1, favorite taking on better horses than she’s ever faced
9. Stars to Shine, 15-1, unlikely to succeed against this caliber
10. Joviality, 9-2, inconsistent Euro can contend if she fires a good one
1. Mystical Star
3. I’m a Dreamer
Mystical Star has seemingly overcome soundness issues that plagued her last year. She scored a nice front-running win over Aruna last time, but she was even more impressive in her prior effort, the Sheepshead Bay, which was won by Aruna. Mystical Star broke through the gate just before the starter pushed the button, got off in a bad tangle, and finished very strongly to be beaten less than two lengths—only to be disqualified for technically having had a head start. She picks up seven pounds for this race, and that is a concern. But she is a lot of filly. Aruna isn’t as flashy as Mystical Star, but give her a halfway decent early pace to run at and she will run her race every time. And, she figures to have a more-than-honest early pace in front of her. I’m a Dreamer ran third last time out in the (four-horse) Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes in Ireland on July 1. She deserves additional respect based on her second-place finish in last October’s E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, where she finished in front of Dream Peace, who ran well in last month’s Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga.
Race 11, $1,000,000 Arlington Million Stakes, 3-year-olds and older, 1 ¼ miles, turf, post time: 6:44 p.m. EDT
The field in post-position order:
1. Rahystrada, morning line odds 8-1, fifth in this race last year, 4th in 2010.
2. Boisterous, 4-1, steady U.S. grass runner would benefit from soft conditions
3. Afsare, 6-1, hard-knocking European from barn of top trainer Luca Cumano
4. Little Mike, 6-1, Woodford Reserve winner tries to stretch his speed 10 furlongs
5. Colombian, 8-1, Irish-bred shipper could contend if he reverts to his best form
6. Treasure Beach, 6-1, last year’s Secretariat winner has struggled since
7. Willcox Inn, 12-1, makes his second start as a 4yo after nice 3yo year
8. Wigmore Hall, 12-1, fourth in this race last year, winless from 6 starts in 2012
9. Crackerjack King, 5-1, 7-for-7 in Italy, 0-for-2 and not close when not in Italy
10. Cherokee Lord, 30-1, faces much tougher foes today
11. Vertiformer, 20-1, cross entered in another Arlington race, he’d be better off there
1. Willcox Inn
2. Little Mike
I find this to be one of the weaker renewals of the Arlington Million and, as a result, I am happy to swing for the fences in here. A three-horse exacta box will be the foundation of my wagering strategy in this event. Willcox Inn ran arguably the best race of his life at this course and distance in last year’s Secretariat despite finishing only 4th. After an easy win in the Hawthorne Derby and a bad trip in the Hollywood Derby, he was put away for the year. In his 2012 debut, he flew home into a slow pace to win a mile race that was probably shorter than he’d like. He is the one horse in here with significant upside and he is live at a price. Little Mike is another live longshot. Based on current form, he is the fastest horse in the race and he figures to have an unchallenged early lead. He has never been as far as 1 ¼ miles, but he easily won the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at 1 1/8 miles on Kentucky Derby day with an unchallenged lead. And, it’s not like he has failed previously at 1 ¼ miles—he has never tried it before. Softness in the ground should be no problem for him either. Given the lack of a U.S. star in this field, any of the Europeans are eligible to win this wide-open event. Of the foreigners, I prefer Afsare, who has been solid in all four of his 2012 starts and was second, beaten a neck, in the Group 2 York Stakes in England last time out as the favorite. Wigmore Hall, 4th in the Arlington Million last year, was among those finishing behind Afsare in the July 28 York Stakes.