Saturday August 12th sees the thirty-fifth renewal of the Arlington Million. Like other races of name and fame, it only needs two words to describe it: the Million.
The $1,000,000 Arlington Million became an instant classic when John Henry beat The Bart by an inch in the first running in 1981 before a packed grandstand at Arlington Park.
The Million's ten furlong turf trip makes it a convergent race for the mile category and the longer distance-inclined turf runners. Twelve horses from several continents will be contesting this truly international race in 2017.
Here is a runner-by-runner guide to the race which viewers in the UK can watch live on Racing UK on Saturday evening.
Deauville is well known to American racing fans thanks to his victory in the Belmont Derby Invitational in his start prior to the Arlington Million last year in which he finished a close up third.
Aidan O’Brien’s four-year-old son of Galileo was testing his elders in this race last year at the age of three when only going down by a mere half-length so you would expect a much stronger horse to show up this time around.
Multiple placed finishes have come Deauville’s way over the last year and he is understandably heading the betting. Ryan Moore, aboard for all but one of Deauville's starts this year, returns to the saddle.
French Group One winner Mekhtaal certainly adds some “joie de vivre” to the race and holds a solid chance.
Beaten 3 ½ lengths in sixth by Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last time out, the top-class colt is trained in France by Jean-Claude Rouget and Frankie Dettori will be taking up the ride on the four-year-old son of Sea the Stars. However, Mekhtaal must overcome a far outside gate position if he is to be successful.
Winner of the Secretariat Stakes last year on the Million undercard and has been on the premises all year, without managing to get his head in front. He has run well without reaching the winner's circle in his last six races now.
Joel Rosario takes the ride but whether he can fend off the European challengers in the home straight remains to be seen.
After three defeats at the start of the year, Divisidero won the Turf Classic again, giving him a remarkable three-from-three record in Derby Day Stakes. Divisidero then finished sixth behind Ascend in the Manhattan at Belmont on June 10th.
All his graded stakes wins however have come at Churchill Downs, and he has yet to find success at ten furlongs in three attempts.
Kasaqui will aim to become the first Argentine-bred horse to win the Million. After winning his first graded-stakes victory last year in the Arlington Handicap, the seven-year-old finished second by a neck to last year’s winner Mondialiste.
After capturing the Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 17th, Kasaqui managed third place in the 2017 Arlington Handicap which secured his entry to the Million.
The Pizza Man
Winner of the 2015 Million and was a fast-closing sixth last year, but the eight-year-old has not been performing like his old self in recent starts, clocking up his losing streak to four in the Stars and Stripes (Group Three) most recently.
Expect to see The Pizza Man late on in the race rallying from the back.
Ascend runs in the Arlington Million two weeks after finishing fourth as the favourite in the Bowling Green Stakes, but trainer Graham Motion is not at all concerned.
During the last five years, Motion has started 45 horses within two weeks of their previous race, and 21 of them have finished third or better. Of those horses, three ran back in graded stakes.
Ascend will have to overcome being drawn twelve however.
The good-looking son of Dark Angel is now the winner of five races to date, including a win in the Mina Rashid Turf Handicap at Meydan Racecourse earlier this year.
Fanciful Angel will be the eighth runner for Botti at Arlington, who is still seeking success in Arlington’s most prestigious race. Botti found victory in the Beverly D back in 2014 Euro Charline and cannot be underestimated with his international raiders.
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Grade Three Spiral Stakes winner Oscar Nominated looks to have it all to do on Saturday.
His last win came in the Dueling Grounds Derby almost a year ago, but he has been running against quality opposition ever since.
Oscar Nominated has managed to win more than $800,000 in his career but has never won a graded stakes on the turf.
Winner of the Grade Two Muniz Memorial Handicap back in April and has been victorious in nine turf races in his lifetime.
The six-year-old gelding put back-to-back graded stakes wins together earlier this year but then went off the boil in May and June.
A break may have perked him up however but he does look up against it in this field.
Ghost Hunter sprung a 12-1 upset in the $100,000 Arlington Handicap last month to book his “Ride to the Million” card on Saturday.
Reaching a new career high at the age of seven, the Jamie Ness trained runner outran 45-1 outsider Oak Brook, with defending champion and even-money favourite Kasaqui third under top weight.
By finishing first in the Black Tie Affair, and then second in the Arlington Handicap, Oak Brook has now earned a career high rating of 117 and could add the pace to the race.
He looks like a horse to place in your exotics at a big price to help boost those dividends.
European runners look all set to dominate proceedings this weekend at Arlington and Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville can scoop the massive first prize in the Million.
A year wiser and a year stronger the Galileo colt can show his pedigree and class here.