Chicago positively rocks with racing this weekend when Arlington Park hosts Million weekend for the 33rd time, if you excuse the two years they didn’t run it, and the year it was held at Woodbine. Anyway, this remains a midsummer highlight in the States, even if the year-younger Breeders’ Cup has stolen some of its glory in recent years. Arlington has fought back though, and there are now four international contests on Saturday’s card which have tempted plenty of horses from Europe.
The Million itself is far from a vintage affair. 13 have been declared, including five Euros. Both the David Marnane-trained Elleval and George Baker’s Belgian Bill are seasoned travellers, but both are yet to score in Pattern company, meaning that a foreign winner is more likely to come from elsewhere. Plus, Belgian Bill has been allocated the widest stall of all in 13, with Elleval not faring much better in 12.
John Gosden and William Buick won this race with Debussy in 2010 and they team up this time with Godolphin’s Maverick Wave. He hasn’t been seen since winning the Huxley Stakes at Chester and it is interesting that connections have decided to pitch him in here. If he’s allowed to lead, he could be dangerous. I think the big prize is more likely to stay at home, however, and Big Blue Kitten looks the one to beat having led home his re-opposing stablemate Slumber in the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth last time.
The main supporting race is the Beverly D, for fillies, and Marco Botti’s Euro Charline has a real shot at making history and becoming the first horse to win it twice. She hasn’t won since landing this race last year, but has put up some solid efforts in defeat, notably behind Solow and Amazing Maria, and she looks in prime form for the repeat. The biggest danger might come from Stephanie’s Kitten, who chased her home last year, or Aidan O'Brien’s improving three-year-old, Wedding Vow.
O’Brien has a fine record in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, the three-year-old feature, and can win it again with Highland Reel. The Gordon Stakes winner was emphatically ruled out of the St Leger in favour of this, and the step down in trip will hopefully not be an issue in a race where they should go a good gallop.
The American St Leger, rather like the Irish one, is all-aged which means 2014 winner The Pizza Man would have a good chance of scoring again if connections opt for this over the Million, for which he is also entered. If they go for the big one, I like the chances of Lucky Speed, last year’s German Derby winner, who wasn’t disgraced on his North American debut at Woodbine last time out.