Treasure Beach: heading Stateside again in bid to recapture best formPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Strong raiding party seeking Million prize
Preview: USA, Saturday 11.44pm BST
Arlington Park: Arlington Million (Grade 1) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+
BRITAIN and Ireland account for nearly half the field in an open-looking race for Saturday's Arlington Million, where the visitors are looking to complete a hat-trick after victories in 2010 and 2011 for Debussy and Cape Blanco.
The winning teams responsible for those triumphs are both represented by legitimate contenders on this occasion, with the colours of Cape Blanco's owners Jim and Fitri Hay now carried by Treasure Beach (Aidan O'Brien/Jamie Spencer), while Colombian (John Gosden/William Buick) does the honours for Debussy's owner Princess Haya.
On his best form, last year's Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach would start favourite for this famous contest, at one time the richest race in the world when it was inaugurated in 1981 with a $1 million purse. Still the highlight of Arlington's International Festival of Racing, the Million has undeniably lost some of its lustre - and the prize fund is pegged at $1m.
Although he won the Secretariat Stakes on this card 12 months ago, Treasure Beach had to fight harder than expected that day and has rarely looked the same animal this season, notably when a bitter odds-on disappointment behind Point Of Entry in the Man o'War on his last visit to the US.
He hasn't won for 12 months now, being well beaten last time at the Curragh in the Ballyroan Stakes.
Colombian has faced a pair of stiffish tasks on faster ground since landing the Gordon Richards Stakes in April. Although there is a little rain forecast in Chicago, the ground may not be as soft as he'd like either.
On the other hand, Afsare (Luca Cumani/Kieren Fallon) has been in good form this term, winning a Listed race at Sandown before a fair second on faster ground in his prep race for this, the Sky Bet York Stakes, where he went down by a neck to Sri Putra.
Both his trainer and jockey have also tasted success here, Luca Cumani having really made his name on the international stage way back in 1983 with Tolomeo's triumph. Kieren Fallon rode Powerscourt for Ballydoyle in 2005.
With Jamie Spencer claimed for Treasure Beach, Hayley Turner returns to Chicago to ride globe-trotter Wigmore Hall (Michael Bell), aboard whom she was fourth 12 months ago after meeting trouble in running.
The British team is completed by last year's Italian Derby winner Crackerjack King (Marco Botti/Colm O'Donoghue), who beat Afsare in a Group 1 in Italy before finishing fifth to Nathaniel when quietly fancied for the Coral-Eclipse. Trainer Marco Botti has ambitious plans for the four-year-old, including a tilt at the Cox Plate.
Crackerjack King and stablemate Jakkalberry, who runs in the American St Leger on the same card, delighted connections in a spin at Arlington earlier this week. "Our horses are ready to go," said Lucie Botti, the trainer's wife.
While an overseas victory looks a more than likely prospect, favourite on Arlington's indicative morning line is late-running Boisterous (Shug McGaughey/Jose Lezcano), a five-year-old seeking his first Grade 1 success.
He suffered a wide trip last month when beaten a neck by Saturday's rival Rahystrada (Byron Hughes/Julien Leparoux) in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, having previously come third in the Grade 1 Manhattan.
"He seems to be coming into the race good - he'll be a factor," said Boisterous's trainer Shug McGaughey.
"A little bit of give would help. It was hard in the Manhattan, and he finished fast but he doesn't have quite the same kick when it's hard. It doesn't have to be soft, but we want a little bit of give."
Eight-year-old Rahystrada loves the Arlington turf circuit and has finished fourth and fifth in the last two runnings. He could be compromised here by the inside draw, however.
Willcox Inn (Mike Stidham/James Graham) has won three out of four here at lesser grade while noted front-runner Little Mike (Dale Romans/Ramon Dominguez) hit the mark in Grade 1 company when taking the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby day. It may be a struggle for him to stretch out his stamina here, though.