The Arlington Million, on the turf at Arlington Park in Chicago, turns 35 on Saturday, and times have changed since its inception in 1981. It’s still worth a million dollars, but now it sits alongside two other Grade Is, the Beverly D, for the fillies and mares, and the Secretariat, for the three-year- olds.
Enough of the history, though, it’s time to try and find the winners. In the Million itself, there’s a strong European contingent bidding to follow up on the win by David O’Meara’s Mondialiste 12 months ago. Deauville, beaten just a short margin when third last year, returns in an endeavour to win Aidan O'Brien a third win in this race. The four-year- old has versatility on his side, plus the assistance of Ryan Moore, and looks the one to beat.
“He’s one of the most unlucky horses in training,” says Alex Cole, racing manager to Deauville’s owner Fitri Hay. “But the ground here – he likes it as fast as possible - will suit him so we have to be hopeful.”
If anyone can get the better of Moore, however, it might well be Frankie Dettori, who rides Mekhtaal. The four-year- old won the Group I Prix D’Ispahan two starts ago, and has excuses for his Prince of Wales’s Stakes defeat at Ascot last time. In relaxed and seemingly fine fettle this week, he has a real claim for another big Group I success here. The Secretariat Stakes, for three-year- olds, has attracted just six runners, but is nonetheless an intriguing race. Permian, winner of the Group 2 Dante Stakes at York, before winning the King Edward Stakes at Royal Ascot. After that, he was denied by a nose in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris at Saint-Cloud. It’s a hard campaign, but Mark Johnston’s charge looks fresh and has a massive opportunity to grab a first Grade I win here.
The main challenge to Permian comes from a home hope; Oscar Performance, who beat a strong field when landing the Grade I Belmont Derby last time out, when he beat several European performers. The Brian Lynch trainee has won his last two, plus boasts a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf win on his CV. That is as good a level of form as we have here, and he is the tentative pick.
The Grade I Beverly D Stakes, for the fillies and mares, looks an open renewal, without a standout pick. The ex-UK- trained Hawksmoor and the Juddmonte-owned Grand Jete both enter off the back of wins and have solid chances, while Ballydoyle’s Rain Goddess was last seen chasing home Enable in the Irish Oaks. They are all well capable of winning, but the value in the race has to come from the German-trained Sarandia.
Trained by Peter Schiergen who is no stranger to international success, the four-year- old also comes here off the back of two wins and has Andrasch Starke on board – fresh from his big win in the German Oaks last weekend. Unexposed and in the right hands, she is worth serious consideration in a tricky race.