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Arlington Million Preview: 35th Running a Wide-Open Affair

Arlington Million Preview: 35th Running a Wide-Open Affair

A field of 13 passed the entry box in advance of anticipated starts in Saturday’s 35th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Arlington Million at Arlington International Racecourse. The Million, run at 10 furlongs on the turf course, will be contested as a “Win and You’re In” race for the Grade 1, $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf to be held at Del Mar on November 4.

Leading the competitive field is the European invader Deauville, who missed glory in last year’s Million by just a 1/2-length when testing his elders as a 3-year-old. Landing multiple Group 1 placings in the year since, the now-4-year-old son of Galileo will look to earn his first Grade 1 win since taking down last year’s Belmont Derby Invitational for trainer Aidan O’ Brien. Ryan Moore, aboard for all but one of Deauville’s starts this year, will return to the saddle from post five.

The American contingent is headed by Divisidero and Beach Patrol. The former, a 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy trained by William Bradley, has captured the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in consecutive years at Churchill Downs and will look to return to top form after a sixth-place finish in this year’s Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park. Julien Leparoux will return to the saddle from post 11. The latter, a winner of last year’s Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes for trainer Chad Brown, has gone winless since his local triumph last August but has remained consistent, landing three Grade 1 placings since. Most recently third as the favorite in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth, the 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid will be piloted by Joel Rosario from post 10.

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Godolphin Racing will send out Group 3 winner Scottish off of a fifth-place finish in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot behind Highland Reel. The 5-year-old son of Teofilo is a four-time winner but has yet to find the wire first against Grade 1 company. Trainer Charles Appleby will have the gelding ready to perform in just his second start of 2017 when he breaks from post nine under William Buick.

Finishing just a 1/4-length behind Scottish at Royal Ascot was Al Shaqab Racing’s Mekhtaal. A Group 1 winner in the Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly in May, the Jean-Claude Rouget trainee will be in search of his third career win at the Million distance after breaking his maiden and capturing the Group 2 Prix Hocquart early in his career. Frankie Dettori will ride the son of Sea The Stars for the first time from the outside post 13.

Top Choice

#5 Deauville – This European horse with United States experience is the complete class of the field. He ran third in this race last year as a 3-year-old after winning the Belmont Derby! He seems to have gotten better this year and should be more suited to win a race like this at age 4. Two races back, he was entered in what may have been the toughest race of the Royal Ascot meeting and got third, only beaten by 1 1/2 lenghts. As long as he brings his “A Game,” he’ll be very tough to beat here.

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#13 Mekhtaal – This very accomplished overseas runner enters what should be a good spot for him. He struggled a bit at Royal Ascot last time out, finishing sixth in a very tough race, but before that, he was a winner and a runner-up in two stakes races. He has three wins and three seconds in nine lifetime starts, a record that suggests his class. Like all European runners, it will come down to how he handles the American racing environment, but it will help that he has Frankie Dettori riding him.

Exotic Plays

#11 Divisidero – This has always been a very hard horse for me to predict. Overall, he might be a small cut below the top flight horses in this division, but his speed figures are always ultra-consistent. Expect him to run his race once again here, but he just can’t get there in terms of actually winning the race.

#8 Kasaqui – He disappointed in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap last time out to finish third, but he had an excuse: he stumbled at the start of the race. He nearly won this race last year, finishing second by only a neck. Two races back, he destroyed a decent field in the Grade 2 Wise Dan at Churchill Downs, so his recent form is solid enough. I’m not sure that he can win this one, but underneath, he will be a player.

#10 Beach Patrol – I pick him to win every single time, so there’s no doubt that he’ll burn me now that I have him as an exotic play. Here, he returns to the site of his last win, as he has not picked up a victory since the Secretariat last year. He’s had six straight solid races since that win but has come up short in every one of them. This spot is tough, so it doesn’t make sense that this would be the race that he finally wins.

#7 The Pizza Man – This former Arlington Million winner is just one for his last nine coming into this one. That Arlington Million win was two years ago, and last year, he was sixth in the race. He’s made just two starts in 2017, both of which were losses in races that were much easier than this one. However, he did finish second last time out in a Grade 3, so maybe he has just enough left to be a contender for third or fourth place in here.

Party Crashers

#6 Fanciful Angel – He definitely qualifies as the “other” European entry, which is sometimes deadly in these types of races. You never really know how the European runners will handle the very different and new surroundings of American racing. Some of them improve greatly from their European form and surprise at a big price. This horse could fit that bill, and if you can get double-digit odds, he wouldn’t be a bad play.

Throw Outs

#12 Ascend – He was all the rage two races back when winning the Manhattan at long odds, but he disappointed in a big way last time out in the Grade 2 Bowling Green at Saratoga when he finished fourth. It’s surprising that he’s entered here and running back so quickly.

#4 Ghost Hunter – He won the local prep race for this one, but the waters get much deeper here. This horse is developing well, but it’s really hard to see him making an impact in a race of this caliber.

#1 Oak Brook – A solid second-place effort in the local prep race for this one, but again, this field is loaded. He doesn’t seem to match up on paper with the quality of horses that are entered in this year’s Million.

#2 Oscar Nominated – He shows up to run in many of the big turf races around the country but fails to win any of them. This is an okay candidate if you want to play a long shot underneath, as he always seems to hang around at the end, but to me, he is way overmatched here.

#3 Enterprising – A tough spot for a horse with some quality but looks to be overmatched against this strong group. He’ll really have to improve to have a chance.

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