Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Road to the 2014 Million – Vol. 8: Wednesday, July 30, 2014

                                Contact: Michael Adolphson
(847) 385-7558
  • Arlington Million XXXII:  Smoking Sun and Real Solution Await Challengers
  • Beverly D.:  Euro Charline to Tackle Elders
  • Secretariat:  Will Mr. Speaker Take the Stage?
  • American St. Leger:  Eye of the Storm Focuses on America

        With August 16 approaching quickly, the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million is taking shape at a rapid pace.  The closer the big day, the more one can now focus the main players – instead of simply hoping for those who have been promenading the precarious line of 'possible'. 
        As mentioned in previous editions, the main players from each side of the Atlantic – as far as Million-committed contenders – look to be Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey's defending champion Real Solution and the Niarchos Family's continental crusader Smoking Sun.  The latter hopes to score in what will be his third Group I try on as many consecutive continents after a fourth in the Prix Ganay in France and a runner-up performance in the Singapore Airlines International Cup in its namesake country. 
        Added to the fray is Yvonne Jacques' Grandeur, the morning line favorite in last year's Million, who was originally thought to have the Listed $400,000 American St. Leger on his plate.  After three consecutive losses in America – all three solid efforts with varying excuses – the attractive 5-year-old gray gelding cannot be overlooked if he does point toward the Million.  Two things are certain – the price will be better in 2014 and Jeremy Noseda will only enter if he feels he has a significant chance of taking home a large chunk of the purse. 
        An intriguing possible to keep an eye on is Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum's Farraaj.  Classy enough to place in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf as a 2-year-old, the son of Dubai Destination has done a commendable job finding a niche in 10-furlong events on turf and synthetic.  His last race – though only in a Handicap race at York Racecourse – was very impressive as he won by a clear length and a half while carrying the second-highweight of 137 pounds.  In his wake that day was the well regarded Bold Sniper from the Sir Michael Stoute barn and ownership of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. 
        Trained by Roger Varian, Farraaj would be making his third trip to the United States and first since a disastrous performance in last year's Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar, in which he finished 11th of 12.  It is worth noting, though, that he is in fine form (with two consecutive victories) and his performance at York came on a left-handed, good-to-firm10.5-furlong course that has played well into the preparation of those looking to transfer form to the Arlington grass course.
        Speaking of, the York Stakes at the same trip last week saw a surprise winner in Mohammed Jaber's Sheikhzayedroad.  The son of stellar stallion Dubawi out-gamed Group I-level mare Secret Gesture and Godolphin's up-and-coming Windhoek, who went off as favorite in the Group II event.  While Secret Gesture is currently listed as a possible for the Grade I $750,000 Beverly D. against her own sex, Sheikhzayedroad now thrusts himself squarely into the picture for a possible trip to Chicago.  It also does not hurt that trainer David Simcock landed the Beverly D. two years ago with I'm a Dreamer.  Million nominees Zabucca and Danadana both ran poorly in the York, with the latter's well beaten sixth a much more significant surprise as the 4-1 second choice.  
        The other noteworthy prep of the weekend came in the Group I Grosser Dallmayr-Preis at Munich, which saw a solid runner-up performance from Juddmonte Farm's Million candidate Noble Mission.  Frankel's little brother showed good pace throughout – something he will need if he comes Stateside – and weathered a wide trip from his outside post on Munich's oval course, which is very similar to an American turf course.  The son of Galileo fought on well under James Doyle for trainer Lady Jane Cecil and lost in good battle to upstart and German classic winner Lucky Lion.  Though nothing Noble Mission does will ever stack up to his brother, the talented horse has proven he can run on any ground over multiple distances and could present himself as an excellent stallion prospect for the American branch of Juddmonte Farm if he comes to Chicago and proves victorious. 

Team Valor International confirmed that its talented Euro Charline will be shipping from England to take on her elders in the Grade I $750,000 Beverly D. – an exciting development in what is already shaping up as a superbly competitive event.  Trained by Marco Botti, the daughter of Myboycharlie won the Listed Valiant Stakes at Ascot on July 25 in fine style – one race after a 'valiant' but troubled third in the Group I Coronation Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting.  Though she has never raced over a mile, her last two races were over the aformentioned onerous Ascot course that includes a stiff uphill finish. 
Qatar Racing and the Sangster Family's Just the Judge is confirmed as on her way to the Beverly D. and could very well vie for favoritism based on her class lines – including a third in the Group I Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh last out and a classic victory last year in the Group I Irish 1000 Guineas.  A tricky 4-year-old who has taken some time to come to form, she may appreciate the quicker pace of American races with her grinding style and long stride. 
Three fillies to keep an eye on this weekend – if they indeed do race – are Palace, L'Amour de Ma Vie and Mango Diva.  All three are under serious consideration for the Beverly D. if they pass on their respective appointments on Saturday.  L'Amour de Ma Vie is in the Group I Prix Rothschild over a mile on Deauville's flat and often very quick course.  Palace and Mango Diva, on the other hand, are expected in the Group I Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood at just under 10-furlongs.  While Mango Diva is nearly a surety to compete, such cannot be said for Coolmore's Palace, whose connections also have the well regarded Venus de Milo entered. 

        All eyes for the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes are fixed on the barn of Shug McGaughey and owner Phipps Stable, as they have yet to commit their talented colt Mr. Speaker to the event.  The son of Pulpit last out landed the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational in excellent style, showcasing an eye-catching acceleration of European proportions.
        Also on the fence at this point are one-two finishers in the Grade III American Derby, Let's Go Stable's Divine Oath and Rabbah Bloodstock's Our Channel.  Neither have committed, but both are considered probable to make the trip back to Chicago.  Another probable yet but commitment-challenged charge is Glen Hill Farm's Global View, whose connections vividly expressed a need for a dry and firm course for their multiple graded stakes-winning son of Galileo to be a part of the field. 
The Ballydoyle yard of Aidan O'Brien may add another colt to the already expected Irish invasion of Belmont Derby runner-up Adalaide.  That may come in the form of the Belisarius, a developing son of Montjeu coming off a runner-up performance in the Listed Lenebane Stakes at Roscommon Racecourse in Ireland. 
An exciting domestic prospect for the Secretariat is the long-committed General Jack – son of Giant's Causeway out of multiple graded stakes winner J'ray who walloped the Centaur Stakes on July 2 at Indiana Grand and soon after was pointed toward a date with Arlington on Aug. 16.  Training very well in Kentucky at trainer and co-owner Mike Maker's base, the chestnut colt worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:01 on July 26.  This multiple stakes winner is developing at the right time for his connections and should revel in the 1¼ miles of the Secretariat, thus adding an interesting ingredient to the already diverse set of sophomores taking aim on the half-million dollar prize. 

        Perhaps one of the most intriguing stories of Million Day 2014 could be that of Listed $400,000 American St. Leger probable Eye of the Storm.  The talented son of Galileo was born with only one eye and has done quite well for himself despite that impairment.  A long-distance specialist trained by Aidan O'Brien for the powerful Coolmore conglomerate, Eye of the Storm has raced at the American St. Leger's 1 11/16-miles distance or farther in four of his last five starts, including a win last September in the Listed Loughbrown Stakes over two miles at The Curragh.
Defending champion Dandino has committed to a return trip to the American St. Leger if all goes well with preparation and shipment, according to his connections.  The son of Dansili requires firm ground and swam in the soft going last out at Newmarket in what was only his second race of 2014.  A return to his excellent form of last year, which also included a solid fifth in the world's premier stayer's race – the Group I Melbourne Cup – makes the nearly black charge the horse to beat here on Aug. 16. 
Two possible European who has thrown his hats into the ring are Havana Beat and Brown Panther.  The former, a son of Teofilo who recently landed the Listed Esher Stakes at Sandown over two miles one race – and only 16 days – after finishing eighth in the Group I Ascot Gold Cup.  Trained by Andrew Balding, who brought Pearl Bloodstock's Side Glance to finish third in last year's Million, the 4-year-old seems to do his best running on good-to-firm ground and could offer Dandino a challenge. 
Brown Panther, a 6-year-old world-traveling stayer son of Grade I Breeders' Cup Turf winner Shirocco, was recently second in the Group II Prix Maurice de Nieuil at Longchamp over 1¾ miles.  Trained by Tom Dascombe, the bay horse was a notable fourth in the Ascot Gold Cup and could vie for favoritism with Dandino and The Pizza Man if he decides to make the trip and not defend his title this week in the Group II Goodwood Cup at Glorious Goodwood over two miles.
On the American side of things, we still have the dynamic locally based duo of Midwest Thoroughbreds' The Pizza Man and Team Block's Suntracer on track for the race.  Also possible is Grade II San Juan Capistrano winner Big Kick from the barn of Mike Machowsky in California and recent Grade III Cougar II Handicap (over the Del Mar Polytrack) winner Irish Surf – a regally bred son of Giant's Causeway out of champion Surfside from the barn of Dan Hendricks.  While the California duo have not committed, they would both add pace and intrigue to an already complex event. 
David ZennerSenior Manager of Communications
Arlington International Racecourse
2200 W. Euclid Ave. Arlington Heights IL 60006-0007
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