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Saturday, August 12, 2017
Arlington Park (Arlington Million day)
The eyes of the racing world will be on Chicago this Saturday, for one of the country’s most prestigious turf races: the Arlington Million. As usual, the race drew a full field of grass stars from the United States and Europe. There’s plenty of races on the card, with the first of twelve going off at 12:15 PM CDT.
We’re happy to welcome back Nicolle Neulist (@rogueclown) to provide FREE picks & analysis of all the action. Nicolle’s one of racing twitter’s authorities on the racing in Illinois, and we’re thrilled to feature their thoughts on the Million card. Be sure to give Nicolle a follow on twitter for Arlington updates throughout the day.
Take it away, Nicolle!
Chicago’s biggest day of racing is here: the Arlington Million! The twelve-race card features a trio of Grade 1 races, three other stakes races, and competitive action from start to finish. Turf players, particularly, will find Arlington Park to be a paradise today: eight of the twelve races are carded for the lush, sweeping grass course.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the card!
Best Bets: Race 3, Daddy’s Boo (1); Race 4, Savage Battle (5)
Longshot Specials: Race 6, Sark Lady (12); Race 8, Gain Ground (6)
Race 1: Maiden special weight, two-year-olds, five and a half furlongs on the polytrack, post time 12:15pm CDT
Selections: Im the Best I Know (4), Richiesonarampage (8), Our Thomas (1)
Im the Best I Know is the best I know here: squarely the horse to beat. He ran into a buzzsaw in Mind Trappe last out, but still ran on well enough to stay clearly second. With that under his girth and an extra furlong, the Wayne Catalano charge looks a solid candidate for second-start progression. Strong juvenile trainer Larry Rivelli has two in here: the outside horses, Just Blaze and Richiesonarampage. Though Just Blaze has run into a pair of buzzsaws (he ran in the Mind Trappe race, and then hit Captivating Moon), it’s a little hard to say his form compares much to those, since he sent to the front, spit it, and faded to be beaten double-digit lengths both times. The more interesting Rivelli is on the outside, Richiesonarampage. This Stroll colt debuts here, and is half to Richiesdreamgirl — a first-out winner for the same barn last year. He gets top rider Jose Valdivia in the irons, and could get a nice, clear trip from the outside. All the way at the inside is Our Thomas. Yes, the rail draw isn’t optimal for a first-timer, but at the price, there’s enough other upside. The works are long enough to suggest he’s fit. Rider Carlos Marquez knows how to boot home a maiden, and he does good work for trainer Michael Reavis. Our Thomas has a half-sibling (Bayba) who won first out at age two, and another half-sibling Whatawonderflworld graduated second out at two and won a stakes sprinting on a synthetic surface.
Race 2: Allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 twice other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred OR N3L OR $50,000 claiming price, post time 12:48pm CDT
Selections: Reigning Catfish (8), Western Elegance (2), Good Bye Greg (6)
This race drew a massive front-end contingent: Singingintheheat, Cash Bonus, Bordini, Hunka Burning Love, Good Bye Greg, and Rivzinthehouse all love to be up on the lead. It could not set up better for Reigning Catfish. He wheels back a little quickly, as he just raced on August 3. He ran well enough that day, but speed held too well to suit his style. Here, he should get a good old fashioned pace collapse, and he reunites with rider Carlos Marquez. The Catfish should reign, indeed. Western Elegance is as consistent as a horse as there is over the Arlington polytrack: seven tries over the course, seven finishes in the exacta. He comes in third off a lay, and last out he garnered a third-place finish in the Vigil Stakes (G3) at Woodbine going seven furlongs on Tapeta, and cuts back to his best distance here. He also moves back to his best synthetic-track concoction. His running style should suit, as he reliably rates a few lengths off the pace and rallies. Should one of the speedballs hold, Good Bye Greg is the most likely. Going out for the oval’s top connections in trainer Larry Rivelli and rider Jose Valdivia, Jr., he is not only as fast as any of the blazing fast horses here early, but he showed two starts back that he can rate a bit, too. He loves the distance, and he loves the Arlington main. Even though he was (once again) laid off a year before his race on July 8, he defeated a tack-sharp Goneghost there, showing he’s the same old Good Bye Greg once again this year. He’ll be the favourite, but he may just prove the best horse.
Race 3: Allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, non-winners of $9,800 three times other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred OR N4L OR non-winners of a race in 2017 OR $80,000 claiming price, one mile on the turf, post time 1:21pm CDT
Selections: Daddy’s Boo (1), One Liz (6), America Mon Amie (7)
You’ve got two choices in this race: single Daddy’s Boo, or hit the ALL button. Daddy’s Boo has been in fantastic form this year, looks the speed of the speed, and can dispute the issue a little bit at the beginning if necessary. She’s an ace over the course, an ace at the distance, and has the top connections in her corner. She’s the one to beat. If someone does beat her, One Liz looks the likeliest candidate. She is one of two from the barn of Wayne Catalano (the other being her half-sister Stormin Elle), and One Liz is the one in better form — and the one without massive tables to turn on Daddy’s Boo. A polytrack sprint stakes winner earlier this meet, she has proven herself classy and effective at two turns, and on the grass, as well. She stands to be up closest to Daddy’s Boo, and the big grey mare could get first run on…the chalkier grey mare. Trainer Anthony Granitz also has a pair in here, America Mon Amie and Triple Chelsea. Triple Chelsea is a classy turf sprinter who has shown that she can win a mile at Arlington — but she did that last year against a weaker field than this. America Mon Amie appeals just a bit more. She’s on a bad race/good race pattern that looks to be primed for a good race, and her best form has come at a flat mile on the green stuff. She rallied well enough behind a lone leader two back in the Spellman to suggest that she can be effective here, even if no one really manages to take it to Daddy’s Boo, and should at least hit the board.
Race 4: Maiden special weight, three-year-olds and up, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 1:55pm CDT
Selections: Savage Battle (5), Dona Spey (2), One Last Strike (3)
Rarely have I been as fascinated by a horse as I am by Savage Battle here. Not only is he a Kentucky-bred bred by Team Block (they typically breed in IL), but they don’t typically breed to stallions quite at War Front’s price point — then they sold him at OBSAPR last year as a 2yo for $320K — then he shows up back with Team Block and a partner? There has to be a reason they wanted him back. His breeding is all class, his worktab is rife with bullets, and he comes from a barn that knows when to cut the malarkey and debut a horse who needs a route distance at a route distance. Dona Spey is a filly facing the boys from the strong barn of Ignacio Correas. Last out she tried two turns for the first time, and she took a huge step forward. She just missed behind Mo’s M V P — who then acquitted herself well in the Iowa Oaks (G3), and is a live longshot in the Pucker Up (G3) later in this card. Ignacio Correas doesn’t toss fillies in against the boys for fun, and she should make good account of herself here. Ken and Sarah Ramsey often ship a few in with their stakes horses for Million Day, and they have a pair here: One Last Strike (3) and Kitten’s Solution (4). Perhaps it runs in the family for Kitten’s Solution to do well at Arlington — he is full to 2013 Million winner Real Solution — but the Turfway start makes me question his own class, and he was well beaten at Keeneland last out on the return to grass. I like One Last Strike just a bit more. He debuted at Ellis going a flat mile, and should take a step forward both with second-start progression and with the extra half a furlong. The works have been solid since the Ellis try, and he gets strong grass rider Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Race 5: Starter optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, starters for a claiming price of $5,000 or less since May 1, 2015 OR $10,000 claiming price, seven furlongs on the polytrack, post time 2:29pm CDT
Selections: Francois (5), Saturdayatbernies (7), Mean Intentions (4)
This is a step up in company from Francois’s last out, but he has found a home going seven furlongs in his last two starts, and has races earlier this meet that, on speed, would be right in line with what he needs to take this starter-optional. A pace-versatile sort, he should be fine even if Kyzan gets the lone lead that he likely gets on paper — two back, Kyzan dictated terms against Francois — Francois rolled past, as Kyzan just couldn’t close the deal at seven panels. Even at this tougher level, that could happen again. Saturdayatbernies has been strong in straight claimers this summer, and even hit the board last out in a $14K starter-optional, finishing third behind lone leader Unscathed. Though he may have to face a lone leader here, he won’t face one quite that good; Kyzan is unlikely to stay seven furlongs against this set. Saturdayatbernies also reverts back to Carlos Marquez in the irons; Marquez, trainer Dee Poulos’s A rider, booted Saturdayatbernies home to wins two back and three back. Mean Intentions is a sire play, more than anything. He is a Munnings baby making his first start at seven panels; his kids often like the distance as much as Dear Old Dad. Mean Intentions has enough six and a half furlong polytrack success (two wins this meet!) to suggest the extended sprint trip will suit him, and he can rate a few lengths off of speedball stablemate Kyzan and make a rally.
Race 6: Allowance optional claiming, three-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, non-winners of $9,800 once other than maiden, claiming, starter, or state-bred allowance OR N2L OR $18,000 claiming price, one and one sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 3:17pm CDT
Selections: Sark Lady (12), Love On Tides (7), Quinta Verde (10)
There should be an honest pace here, between Dreamofjean E., Something Kinky, and Meadow Mystique. Thus, it makes sense to look at the horses coming from off the pace. Sark Lady gets a class test here, stepping up from beaten $20,000 company to a salty optional claimer — but Steve Manley (a trainer who has been sneaky good on turf this meet) has picked the right time to do it. She closed into a dawdling pace last out — but there was no way she’d catch a leader going 26.3, 52.1 early. She has been in the exacta in her other three turf starts this meet, and her late pace is as good as anyone here. Love On Tides fits this level cozily. She romped against overmatched $30K N2L fillies two back over the same course and distance, and then hit the board in an open allowance going nine panels on the Woodbine synthetic last out. Her running style should make her one of the first to run at the leaders, and that may give her a tactical advantage. Quinta Verde hasn’t run since April, but Brad Cox knows how to get a horse ready off a lay — and knows when to ship a horse. Though last out was an N1X, this is a clear step down; the winner of her last race, Grand Jete, is a legitimate contender for the Beverly D. She was also a little too close to the pace last out; a reversion to the running style she showed earlier in her American career should suit this race.
Race 7: Secretariat Stakes (G1), three-year-olds, one and one quarter miles on the turf, post time 3:50pm CDT
Selections: Gorgeous Kitten (5), Permian (3), Taj Mahal (6)
This race is full of speed — Sonic Boom, Oscar Performance, Taj Mahal, and Permian have plenty of early zip, and even Afandem stands to be relatively forward. Thus, despite the short field, closer Gorgeous Kitten comes in with a shot as the longest shot on the board. Last out he ran well to be second behind Sonic Boom in the American Derby — but, that day Sonic Boom had it his own way on the front. Today, he won’t. The son of Kitten’s Joy should like the mile and a quarter, and they’ll have to hold him off late. Permian, on form, is the one to beat. He will be forward, but he has a tracking gear that could serve him well. And, his class shines: he is a multiple G2 winner in Britain, and missed by a nose in a French Grade 1 last out. Taj Mahal gets a shot based on connections: trainer Aidan O’Brian and rider Ryan Moore. He isn’t quite as well proven as most of the horses the barn has sent over, but O’Brien has had such a stranglehold on the Secretariat in recent times that I’m happy to trust his judgment — especially since his horse won’t be chalk, with Permian and Oscar Performance around.
Race 8: Bruce D. Memorial Stakes, three-year-olds, one mile on the polytrack, post time 4:23pm CDT
Selections: Gain Ground (6), Uncontested (8), Memory Bank (9)
Uncontested is probably the one to beat here — he has the class, the one-turn mile form, and he’s half to a graded stakes winner over the Arlington poly. The question remains whether he will actually be uncontested early. With the presence of Smoke ‘n’ Gloat and Yorkton, that is no quarantee. With that the case, Gain Ground is worth a shot. The lightly-raced three-year-old won at Presque at first asking, and then finished second against older horses in an allowance last out over the Arlington poly. He should be rallying well into the sharp pace in front of him — and there has to be something about the fact that this Gainesway homebred son of Tapit was supplemented into the Bruce D. Illinois-bred Memory Bank scratched out of a salty turf allowance against older last weekend for this spot instead. He ran a troubled second debuting on turf, but put it all together against older last out going two turns on the polytrack. He is another who, like Gain Ground, should benefit from having some pace in front of him. And, he has the services of red-hot local rider Mitchell Murrill.
Race 9: American St. Leger Stakes (G3), three-year-olds and up, one and eleven sixteenth miles on the turf, post time 4:58pm CDT
Selections: Taghleeb (2), Keystoneforvictory (1), Postulation (7)
No surprises here: this is a staying race over grass in the United States without any international contenders, and it goes right through the Mike Maker barn. He sends a pair in here, and they’re both strong contenders. Taghleeb is a little classier, and he has already proven that he can stay even longer than the one and eleven sixteenths mile trip of the American St. Leger. (He won a two-miler back in December.). Toss the last two — the Arlington Handicap was too short for him, and the Belmont Gold Cup had all the too-tough Euros that the American St. Leger doesn’t. He has a chance to go back to his better winter form here, and should he, everyone else runs for second money. Keystoneforvictory is the more “now” horse from the Maker barn. He won the Stars and Stripes (G3) over the Arlington course last out, and keeps rider Julien Leparoux from that race. He has some pace versatility, as well. As long as Keystoneforvictory can stay the trip, he is a contender. He hasn’t tried it before, but Maker has an uncanny eye for picking horses who will go very, very long. Should anyone upset the Mike Maker apple cart, it’s Postulation. He has run into a cavalcade of buzzsaws since coming to America, but finally came out from behind their shadows to win the Cape Henlopen Stakes last out at Delaware. Trainer Edward Graham has taken that route to Festival glory before — that’s the same prep he used for Hardest Core when he won the 2014 Million.
Race 10: Beverly D Stakes (G1), three-year-olds and up, one and three sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 5:35pm CDT
Selections: Rain Goddess (10), Dona Bruja (4), Raina Da Bateria (7)
I liked Queen’s Trust in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last year, and I like Rain Goddess for the same reason — she has been knocking heads with the best of the Euros and falling short, and now she gets a class drop. Even though this three-year-old from the Aidan O’Brien only has one win in seven starts (a first-out maiden score), she has kept the right company. She finished four lengths beaten by Hydrangea earlier this year, a race in which Winter was second. Winter has emerged a monster. She was second behind Nezwaah, an older mare, in the Pretty Polly (G1), and then last out finished second behind Enable in the Irish Oaks (G1). Enable crushed older in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1), and is your likely Arc favourite. The 5/1 morning line seems a pipe dream, but even 7/2 would be appetizing for the class of Rain Goddess. Dona Bruja is the other marquee contender — and we don’t know how good this mare is. She has won both her US starts sensationally, including the easiest of wins in the local prep last out. She looks like a rising star. Dona Bruja will get pace to chase with Hawksmoor, Sarandia, and Zipessa in the field. The biggest drawback is the price; there’s plenty of steam on Dona Bruja, and she should be a defined favourite. Rainha Da Bateria is one of three entrants for trainer Chad Brown — and the likely longest shot among them. She has pace versatility and proven ability at the distance category. Though she has never run at Arlington, she tends to find her best at Woodbine — and form from there transfers well here. She has to turn the tables on Hawksmoor and Dacita here, but Rainha Da Bateria should get the firmer footing she needs to do so.
Race 11: Arlington Million Stakes (G1), three-year-olds and up, one and one quarter miles on the turf, post time 6:19pm CDT
Selections: Kasaqui (1), Deauville (5), Oscar Nominated (2)
Kasaqui finished second in this race last year, and has every chance to do one better. Yes, he lost the local prep — but all that means is you’ll get a better price on him here. After all, the Arlington Handicap was decidedly not the goal for Kasaqui — it was more a workout that would hopefully get him his free entry into the Million. (Achievement unlocked, since he finished third.) He can handle the distance and course, has solid pace versatility, and rider James Graham is excellent going long over the Arlington grass. Finally, he has looked excellent in the mornings, strong and focused. Deauville, the likely favourite, also comes for a return try. He finished third in last year’s Million as just a three-year-old. Deauville is a frontrunning sort, but has a stalking gear, which he may need with the likes of Oak Brook, Beach Patrol, and Mekhtaal in the field. Deauville is ground-dependent, but his form over firmer ground has been consistently good, and Deauville will get that here. For a long shot in the Million, look no further than Oscar Nominated. He’s bred about as well as an American can be bred for a mile and a quarter, and was a good and close fifth in the Secretariat (over the same course and distance) last year. He has run recent races that hold their own with foes he will face here, and he should be able to sit off the speed and make a rally.
Race 12: Pucker Up Stakes (G3), three-year-old fillies, one and one eighth miles on the turf, post time 7:02pm CDT
Selections: Journey Home (4), Lipstick City (3), Mo’s M V P (12)
Journey Home gets a class drop out of the Belmont Oaks last out, the only one in the Pucker Up who drops from there. Even though that was tough, she did make up ground late. That running style should suit with the likes of Royalty Princess, Katinka, and Canny making pace here. Her breeding suggests nine furlongs should suit her well, and a return to her best form can win this. Lipstick City is another who should be able to rally into the pace, with solid late pace for the field. She won first out, cooled off later in her juvenile season and early this year, but has put it back together in her last two starts. Two back she finished a close second in an allowance at Monmouth, and next out she put it all back together to score in the Boiling Springs Stakes. Lipstick City should also be able to get a mile and an eighth; City Zip babies can be any kind, and she has the stamina under. Though the price may be short, because Chad Brown, she is getting good at the right time. Mo’s M V P took a while to figure it out, but she has put it together recently. She graduated two back in her first turf try, beating Dona Spey (who is live in a race against males earlier in this Million Day card). She then went back to the dirt — and straight into Grade 3 company — in the Iowa Oaks (G3). She was fifth, but two noses out of third, and closed well late. Now she returns to what will likely shake out to be her best surface, gets a lot of one-way speed in front of her, and has top Arlington rider Jose Valdivia back in the irons. For a 30/1 shot on the morning line, there’s a lot to like.
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