Double-figure team of Euros breeze into Windy City for Arlington Million card
Preview: USA, Saturday 12.08am (Sun) live on RUK & ATR
Arlington: Arlington Million XXXVI (Grade 1) 1m2f | turf | 3yo+
European stables, with particular emphasis on Ireland, are fairly well represented on the Arlington Million card, featuring three Grade 1s live on Racing UK and At The Races from Chicago and headed by the 36th edition of one of the longest-standing international races on the globe.
Framed as the world's first $1 million event in 1981, the Million has plainly lost some of its appeal since the legendary John Henry touched off The Bart in a memorable inaugural contest now immortalised in a bronze overlooking the paddock.
Although the feature contest remains one of the most familiar race titles on the global circuit, as prize-money has ballooned around the world, the Million has stayed resolutely that – a $1m event, albeit now supplemented by two further top-level contests to form an 'International Festival of Racing'.
In the shape of four winners in the last decade – Spirit One (2008), Debussy (2010), Cape Blanco (2011) and Mondialiste (2016) – it is a happy hunting ground for transatlantic visitors.
Ryan Moore and William Buick are among those in action in the Windy City, where three European-trained horses led by Deauville – one of four Aidan O'Brien runners on the card – head the Euro triumvirate as they bid to thwart a home team fronted by Oscar Performance, who won the Secretariat Stakes on this card 12 months ago.
Crisford's Chicago dream
Simon Crisford, a regular visitor to the US in his former life as Godolphin's long-serving racing manager, saddles only his second runner in the country as a trainer with Century Dream. Buick, who won the Million on the John Gosden-trained Debussy, takes the ride on the Diomed Stakes winner.
"Ever since he won at Epsom we’ve had this race in the back of our minds and thought it would be an appropriate spot for him," said Crisford, whose previous US runner was Rodaini, who came last behind Arlington rival Oscar Performance at the 2016 Breeders' Cup.
"He’s been a slow developer but he's grown up mentally a lot and physically has strengthened throughout the course of this year," added Crisford.
"He’s trained toward this race very nicely. He had a long journey over, but he travelled well and rehydrated very quickly. His temperature has been good. Obviously we’re hoping for a good performance.
John Egan rides outsider Circus Couture for Jane Chapple-Hyam. "It's a tough race and if we can finish sixth or better I'd be delighted," said the trainer.
Globe-trotting Deauville makes his third visit to Arlington after back-to-back third places in Chicago's signature event.
"He's a good, hardy horse who's done plenty of travelling," said O'Brien. "He's been in good form since running second in the Meld Stakes last month and we're happy with him."
Top American contender Oscar Performance (Brian Lynch/Jose Ortiz) will probably try to make all from the outside post. A three-time Grade 1 winner, he broke the track record at Belmont on his only start this year.
Hamdan Al Maktoum's Almanaar (Chad Brown/Joel Rosario) and Manhattan Stakes winner Spring Quality (Graham Motion/Edgar Prado) and Robert Bruce (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz), a multiple Grade 1 winner in his native Chile, are others to consider.
Arlington: Secretariat Stakes (Grade 1) 1m2f | turf | 3yo (10.48pm, live on RUK & ATR)
No fewer than five of the 13 runners in this $400,000 contest have travelled from Ireland, headed by the Ballydoyle pair Hunting Horn (Ryan Moore) and Lucius Tiberius (Wayne Lordan) – easy Royal Ascot winner and hat-trick seeker respectively – in a race their trainer has won four times.
"Hunting Horn ran a good race when third in the Belmont Derby last time, while Lucius Tiberius has been progressing and won handicaps on his last two starts," said Aidan O'Brien.
"He's going up in class but we're happy with him. All of ours would like nice, fast ground."Ming (Joseph O'Brien/Billy Lee) bids to reverse Gallinule Stakes form with his compatriot Platinum Warrior (Mick Halford/Joel Rosario), who beat subsequent Irish Derby victor Latrobe in that Curragh contest in May.
"The quicker the ground, the more he'll like it," said Ming's trainer O'Brien. "It will be a big step up in class, but we're hoping he might pick up some prize-money."
Halford said of Platinum Warrior: "Ideally, we’d love good ground. He’s a light-moving horse, so the nearer the ground will be to good the better it will suit us."
Dermot Weld, who saddled Winchester to win this in 2008, runs Bandua (Buick), who will stay in America after the race for owners Calumet Farm.
Chad Brown saddles likely favourite Analyze It (Jose Ortiz), beaten only by top-notcher Catholic Boy on his last two starts. He was well ahead of Hunting Horn in the Belmont Derby.
Brown the barrier to success
Arlington: Beverly D Stakes (Grade 1) 1m1½f | turf | 3yo+ f/m (11.25pm, live on RUK & ATR)
America's champion trainer Chad Brown, who made his name largely with turf runners, cannot be overlooked anywhere on this card – but especially in this $600,000 contest, in which he saddles four runners as he bids to complete a four-timer.
The favourite is ex-French Sistercharlie (John Velazquez), never worse than a neck second in four starts in the States. Expect to see her arrive on the scene with a last burst, like last time when she won the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga. She was beaten by stablemate Fourstar Crook (Irad Ortiz) a couple of runs ago, mind you.
Athena (Aidan O'Brien/Moore), a slightly surprising winner of the Belmont Oaks Invitational on her most recent outing, bids for further Stateside success, while Nyaleti takes on her elders back at the venue where stablemate Permian suffered a fatal injury 12 months ago.
Mark Johnston, whose runner will be ridden by John Egan, said: "Everything is good with Nyaleti. She travelled over well and has been fine since arrival.
"She should be suited by the track as she's a strong traveller, although quick ground over there is different to quick ground here."
Chicago-based Sophie Doyle, who has been cutting a rug with 200 winners since moving full-time to the States, gets the big-race leg-up on 100-1 shot Oh So Terrible (Bradley Ross).
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