Arlington Park opens each year on the first Friday in May and remains open through the end of September. While each race day showcases many-a-beautiful thoroughbred, mid-August invites horse racing royalty to the jewel of their racing season, what is arguably the premier turf race in the world, the Arlington Million (G1).
The Arlington Million is run on a card filled with international flair, which could be why it’s also known as the Arlington International Festival of Racing. The day unfailingly attracts high-class equines and their connections from around the globe to contest any of the five graded stakes races run that day – The American St. Leger (G3); the Pucker Up Stakes (G3); the Secretariat Stakes (G1); the Beverly D. (G1) and the Arlington Million (G1) – the Beverly D. and Arlington Million are also “Win And You’re In” races for the Breeders Cup World Championships!
The Arlington Million celebrates its 35th running this Saturday and for that, this year there is a brand new, redesigned trophy for the winner. Made by Tiffany & Co. in their Rhode Island workshop, this new trophy stands about two-and-a-half feet tall, weighs 33 pounds and the base is engraved with the previous winners of the race – fancy! So now, let’s meet the twelve thoroughbred athletes vying for the opportunity to have their own name etched at the base of the shiny symbol of Arlington history and to join 2006 Arlington Million winner The Tin Man as the only other horse to win the race on August 12!
Ascend…♥I love grey horses♥! Ascend begins his journey for his second G1 win this season from not-so-great post 12. His surprising win in the G1 Manhattan Stakes was his first graded stakes race and his first graded stakes win! Two weeks ago he came in fourth in the Bowling Green and according to his trainer, “Ascend has always been a laid-back, easygoing horse”, so entering him off the two week layoff “seems like something he could handle”-nice! If the pace is slow, Ascend should stick with the same race he ran then-sit back and wait, stay close to but not on the lead, then make your steady move at the top of the stretch and voila! Some things to remember – try not to make to early of a move, try not to get too far hung wide, try not to let the field get too far ahead of you and do not forget to switch leads-you should then be home free! Fun facts…Ascends’ pedigree includes two Triple Crown (TC) winners – 1937 TC War Admiral and 1943 TC Count Fleet and 22 Horse of the Year (HOY) winners! Ascend shares his May 7 birthday with fellow entrant Divisidero! Good luck Ascend!
BEACH PATROL (KY)
Beach Patrol…Beach Patrol won the 2016 Secretariat Stakes and has not won a race since then! A win on Saturday would be his first in 2017! Beach Patrol will start from post 10-not to bad but would be better if he were closer to the middle of the gate. In his last start, the United Nations Handicap at Monmouth, Beach Patrol was sent off as the favorite and went head-to-head with Itsinthepost for most of the race before slipping slightly to come in third. That would not be a plan of action to follow, I mean look at that outcome, right? The race is the same distance as his Secretariat win last year, but he’s going up against some fairly seasoned runners-decisions will have to made be about where and when to place him in the race-look for him to be forwardly-placed early and hopefully his class and speed will get him under the wire first! Fun facts…Beach Patrols’ family includes four TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1977 TC Seattle Slew and 28 HOY winners! His paternal great-great grandmother is 1987 and 1988 Champion Female Turf Horse Miesque (whom he shares with Divisidero) and his maternal great-great-great-great grandmother is Shenanigans, dam of Hall of Fame (HOF) filly Ruffian! Good luck Beach Patrol!
Deauville…Deauville is one of four international equines to contest the Million this year. He is one of three horses making a return trip to the race, starts from post five and has been installed as the morning line favorite. Deauville finished third last year and is back to see if he can jump up a spot-or-really-two for Arlington Million glory! He has kept himself busy overseas since then with six races and one Group 3 win back in the Huxley Stakes in May. He makes his return to America, he arrived last Saturday, and is looking for his second G1 win after winning the Belmont Derby last year! He is consistent at this level of racing and is all class. I’m going to disregard the fact that he has only won once in the last two years…pffft…he may just change that figure in about two minutes! Fun facts…Deauville is the son of Galileo (IRE), the leading sire in England in 2010-2011-2012-2013-2014-2015-2016-WOW! Deauville has three TC winners, 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 22 HOY winners in his family tree! Good luck Deauville!
Divisidero…Divisidero begins his oval journey from post 11 on Saturday and looks to return to top form after a sixth-place finish in the G1 Manhattan Stakes earlier this year. Divisidero likes to come from behind and should the early pace be slow, which is what often happens on the Arlington turf, the race could set up nicely for him. While not an out-and-out closer, his strong late kick will work for him if the field backs up as they turn for home. His owner has said that Divisidero, “has an extremely pace-dependent running style,” “The faster the pace, the more effective his kick”-well with your up-and-down career, let’s hope that on Saturday it’s all up! Fun facts… Divisideros’ ancestors include four TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1977 TC Seattle Slew and 26 HOY winners! His great-great maternal grandmother is 1987 and 1988 Champion Female Turf Horse Miesque (whom he shares with Beach Patrol). Divisideros’ great-great-great paternal grandmother is 1970 Canadian HOY Fanfruleche (whom he shares with Oscar Nominated). She is most notably known for being kidnapped in 1977 while in foal to Secretariat. She was safely returned several months later and in the spring of 1978, gave birth to her foal, a colt later named Sain Et Sauf – French for Safe and Sound – love it! Divisidero shares his May 7 birthday with fellow entrant Ascend! Good luck Divisidero!
Enterprising…Enterprising starts the race as one a several longshots but there is no need to worry, longshots have won this before – Mill Native at 40-1 in 1988 comes to mind. Enterprising did rack up back-to-back wins earlier this year, but that was at the Fair Grounds and both wins were at a shorter distance. How fitting then that after his Fair Grounds Handicap win in February, his trainer said that he is, “a very attractive horse and was another turf horse who looked like he would appreciate more ground”. Well look around (or should I say in front of you), you have more ground! He is taking a slight step up to G1company, but when he looks around the paddock, he will just think it’s the same old crew since he has raced against about half of this field before and they haven’t scared him off yet! He starts from post three and if he can get to the rail quickly, which he should as he’s starting so close to it, he might have a chance. Not a front-runner, depending on how the race sets up in front of him, if he tucks inside, he can ride it throughout the race. Enterprising has won nine turf races in his career-here’s hoping he hits the double digit win column for his fans! Fun facts…Enterprises’ bloodline includes 24 HOY winners and four TC winners with 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet; 1973 TC Secretariat and 1977 TC Seattle Slew! Good luck Enterprising!
FANCIFUL ANGEL (IRE)
Fanciful Angel…♥Is breá liom capaill liath♥ According to his owners, Fanciful Angel has been pointed towards this race “since before his most recent start, believing the speed of Fanciful Angel will serve him well against the fast-paced running style of American horses” . Fanciful Angel started out at shorter distances, but soon let everyone know he could handle more ground. He was successful at a mile and then was pointed to even more ground. His only stakes win has been on polytrack, but that still has not stopped his connections from racing him on grass. His form is somewhat of a question mark as he has been lazy at the gate and doesn’t seem to like soft ground…lucky for him there is no rain in sight in Chicago on Saturday! Fanciful Angel will start from post six and his owners know he this is a big step up for him-he’s in great shape and will get Lasix for the first time on Saturday. Fun facts…Going back nine generations on his paternal side, you will find Brokers Tip, whose sole win was the 1933 Kentucky Derby! Fanciful Angel can claim 21 HOY winners and 3 TC winners-1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet as his ancestors! Fanciful Angel arrived in the US last Saturday and seems to have had a great week at Arlington-and there’s only one thing that would make it better! Good luck Fanciful Angel!
GHOST HUNTER (KY)
Ghost Hunter…Ghost Hunter must be exhausted because when he takes his first steps on the Arlington Turf, he will be making his 47th lifetime start – no that is not a typo! Ghost Hunter is the only horse in the field coming off a win – that win just happened to be his first graded stakes win! Did I mention that race was the Arlington Handicap in July, the race that is considered the prep for the Million? Nice! Ghost Hunter started out as a dirt horse, then switched to polytrack and then turf. In the Arlington Handicap, a slow pace and drifting horses enabled him to push through holes that appeared as if a genie was open-sesame-ing the race! His trainer has said that, “He always finds trouble, this horse” – gah! Depending how the race sets up, look for Ghost Hunter to sit off the pace but near the lead. If the pace is slow, the closers will be goners and Ghost Hunter may be able to grab his first G1 victory! Ghost Hunter is seven and according to his trainer, “He seems to be getting better, and I can’t really explain why” – that’s ok, no need for an explanation. Just sit back and watch him run! Fun facts…Ghost Hunter is the son 2004 HOY and 2004 Longines World’s Best Thoroughbred Ghostzapper! His genes also include 3 TC winners-1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 26 HOY winners! Good luck Ghost Hunter!
Kasaqui…♥Amo caballos grises♥! Welcome the second horse making a repeat appearance in the Arlington Million. A runner-up last year, Kasaqui will start from post eight and is hoping to get up by just one spot this year – just one, no big deal! Kasaqui won the Arlington Handicap last year (so he and Ghost Hunter are we-won-the-same-race buddies!), and even with that win it was still surprising when he came in second in the 2016 Million. Since then he has raced at Keeneland, Tampa Bay, Fair Grounds, Churchill and defended his Arlington Handicap title last month (he came in a game third!) so this is one well-US-traveled horse. In his June win, the Wise Dan (G2), Kasaqui settled inside early and made a four-wide move on the far turn. His jockey that day, who has the mount in the Million, said of that win, “He broke sharp, settled back and came absolutely sprinting home at the end. I wish all of my races were this simple” – nice to have read that and nice that he said that! He is up against a strong field, but his connections think he is back to winning form! Fun facts…Kasaqui is descended from 4 TC winners-1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1973 TC Secretariat and 23 HOY winners. If he wins, Kasaqui will be the first Argentine-bred to capture the Million! Good luck Kasaqui!
Mekhtaal…Mekhtaal will be making just his tenth lifetime start, which makes him the least experienced in the field-ha!-and will be breaking from way out in post 13-yikes! Mekhtaal is based in France and came in sixth in his last outing-the Prince of Wales Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot in June. Don’t let that fool you as this is a top-class horse and that race lacked early speed. So that being said, he may just be the pace of the race – if his sole G1 win, the Prix d’Ispahan (Gr1) at Chantilly in May is any indication, he will take the lead and not look back. That would be perfect for his trainer who said after that win that, “He has matured since last year, when he never settled properly” – so if he settles in on the lead and never looks back, viva la France! Fun facts…If Mekhtaal wins, he will be the sixth Great Britain-bred winner behind Powerscourt in 2005; Beat Hollow in 2002; Steinlen in 1989; Teleprompter in 1985 and Perrault in 1982! Mekhtaals’ lineage includes 3 TC winners with 1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 20 HOY winners! Mekhtaal is the son 2009 European HOY and 2009 Longines World’s Best Thoroughbred Sea The Stars – which, btw, very cool name! Good luck Mekhtaal!
OAK BROOK (IL)
Oak Brook…Oak Brook did not have to travel far at all to make his start on Saturday seeing as how he lives at Arlington racetrack! When Oak Brook won the Black Tie Affair Handicap (named for 1991 HOY Black Tie Affair, whose grave you can go visit at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm in Georgetown, KY) in June and when Oak Brook finished second in the Arlington Handicap earlier this summer, he punched his ticket to this years’ running of the Arlington Million! He will more than likely start the race as one of several longshots, but look for him to be up front and set the pace. He has tactical speed, the same jockey and does seem to like the Arlington oval. Coming off a second place finish in the Arlington Handicap (won by fellow entrant Ghost Hunter), Oak Brook will be starting from post one. Normally no one wants the rail, but Oak Brook seems to like it there. I mean, it is the quickest way around the track, no? Fun facts…Oak Brooks’ pedigree consists of 4 TC winners-1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1973 TC Secretariat and 20 HOY winners! He is one of two hometown horses (with The Pizza Man) and if you live in Oak Brook (the town in Illinois he was named after when his owners were driving through it on their way to Arlington racetrack!) and/or like shopping at the Oak Brook Mall (which is awesome!), that’s as good of a reason as any to get behind this guy! Good luck Oak Brook!
OSCAR NOMINATED (KY)
Oscar Nominated…Oscar Nominated came in 17th in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. If nothing else, he can look around and let the boys know that he ran in a Kentucky Derby-WOW! Ok so back to the Million. Oscar Nominated starts from post two and since the Derby has raced exclusively on the turf. While he finished seventh in his last race, he did hit the board on his previous five races! Oscar Nominated will be placed off the pace to settle in and see how the pace sets up. He has the speed, but he will more than likely be on cruise control until being asked to move. Arlington racetrack probably looks familiar to him. He was here last year for the Secretariat Stakes and came in a disappointing sixth. His last visit to the winners’ circle was the Dueling Grounds Derby and Kentucky Downs. After that win, his trainer said, “He’s been facing the best in his class”, so his connections are hoping that on Saturday he is the best of his class! Fun facts…Oscar Nominated has the most TC winners of this bunch in his family tree with five-1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral; 1941 TC Whirlaway; 1943 TC Count Fleet and 1977 TC Seattle Slew-phew! He also has 27 HOY winners in his family and his great-great-great paternal grandmother is 1970 Canadian HOY Fanfruleche (whom he shares with Divisidero). She is most notably known for being kidnapped in 1977 while in foal to Secretariat. She was safely returned several months later and in the spring of 1978, gave birth to her foal, a colt later named Sain Et Sauf – French for Safe and Sound – love it again! Good luck Oscar Nominated!
THE PIZZA MAN (IL)
The Pizza Man…When The Pizza Man won this race in 2015, he became the first Illinois-bred to capture the Million. He returned last year and came in 6th and is likely the sentimental favorite this Saturday when he takes a third shot at Million victory! He is the third horse in the race who ran in last years’ edition and should he win this year, he will become the second horse ever to win two Arlington Million titles after John Henry in 1981 and 1984! The Pizza Man starts from post seven-the winningest post for the Million and the same post he started from when he won in 2015! He is coming off a second place finish in the Stars and Stripes (G3) at Arlington and his last win was last September in the Northern Dancer Turf at Woodbine. At this point The Pizza Man has nothing to prove, and as long as he stays focused throughout the race, let’s just let him run! Fun facts… The Pizza Mans’ bloodlines include three TC winners-1930 TC Gallant Fox; 1937 TC War Admiral and 1943 TC Count Fleet, as well as 20 HOY winners! The Pizza Man visited the winners circle in 2014 when he won the American St. Leger (G3)! He loves the Arlington Turf course as ten of his 17 wins have come on the Arlington grass! Not only is The Pizza Man the richest horse in the field with a little over $2 million in earnings to date, he is also the oldest horse in the field at 8-years-old! The Pizza Man got his name because the blaze on his forehead looks like a slice of pizza! Good luck The Pizza Man!
I have no more words except for the next 36! Every horse is special. Any horse can have a good day and any horse can have a bad day. Here’s hoping all of them come home safely. Have fun!
Safe trip to all and good luck!