The Arlington Million, the capstone of one of my favorite days of racing, was designed to test the best U.S. turf horses against Europe’s lords and ladies of the lawn.
It’s done that time and time again in the years since the great John Henry captured the inaugural running in 1981 by a nose over long shot The Bart. The best the five Europeans who made the crossing that year could muster was a third by 3-year-old English filly Madam Gay.
The Europeans, who don’t always send their top horses for the race, have nonetheless gained a measure of revenge, winning 11 renewals of the 1¼-mile race for 3-year-olds and up, including three of the past six.
The 13-horse field assembled for this year’s race, scheduled to go to post about 3:20 p.m. PT on Saturday, boasts its usual intriguing mix of accomplished U.S. turf runners, up-and-comers trying to step into the big leagues as well as four Europeans who figure to attract a good portion of the money.
The Irish-bred Deauville, third in the Million last year, is the 7-2 morning line favorite. Nicely drawn in post 5, the Aidan O’Brien-trained 4-year-old son of Galileo had the lead in last year’s race only to be run down late. This is a tough race to win as a 3-year-old, and a more seasoned Deauville figures to be hard to deny.
Of the other European runners — Fanciful Angel, Scottish, and Mekhtaal — Scottish seems in the best spot to make Deauville work for his paycheck. The 5-year-old Godolphin runner had a decent comeback when fifth in the Prince of Wales Stakes (G1) at Ascot in June and has won his second start off the bench in each of the past two years.
I would have given Mekhtaal a strong shot, but then he drew the 13 post, making a wide trip around the first turn too likely for my taste.
Team USA appears to be up against it. Ascend, winner of the Manhattan (G1) and the most consistent American-based horse in the field, is marooned in the 12 post. The sharp and consistent Chad Brown-trained Beach Patrol probably will give another good account, but he hasn’t won in almost a year.
Ghost Hunter or Kasaqui, both improbably improving as 7-year-olds, also might sneak in for a piece of the action. They finished 1-3 in the Arlington Handicap (G3) when the latter ran into considerable trouble,.
#RJhorseracing featured race
It’s wonderful when the racing spotlight falls on a good betting affair, and that’s the case this week. So good is the Arlington Million card that we’re doubling down and applying the collective wisdom of our #RJhorseracing crowd handicappers to both marquee races: The $600,000 Beverly D Stakes (G1), a 1 3/16-mile turf contest for fillies and mares 3 and up, and the Arlington Million.
Both races appear daunting at first glance, but our crowd ‘cappers expect them to be formful.
In the Beverly D, they favor 7-2 favorite Dona Bruja by a wide margin, with Grand Jete (6-1) and Hawksmoor (9-2) running second and third, respectively.
“Already proven at Arlington and at the distance. Won 10 out of 12 lifetime – that’s a real race horse,” writes handicapper Mark Wayman of the top pick.
In the Million, our crowd ‘cappers are all about Deauville, with Beach Patrol and Ascend far back in the rear-view mirror.
As you probably guessed from the above, I think Deauville looks ultra tough and think he’s a win bet if he stays anywhere near 7-2, which I doubt he will. I think the Beverly D is more wide open, and will use the trio above along with Dacita and Rainha Da Bateria in doubles keyed to Deauville.
You can join in the fun next week. Simply email me to receive notification when past performances for the feature race are posted each week, then submit your picks via email or Twitter (using the hashtag #RJhorseracing) by 5 p.m. Thursday. If I use a comment you post in the column, you’ll receive a pack of Review-Journal breath mints (and earn my eternal gratitude).
Contact Mike Brunker at email@example.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.
Ellis Starr’s selections
Mekhtaal (GB) — Group 1 stakes winner wasn’t disgraced in the Prince of Wales Stakes and attracts champion jockey Frankie Dettori.
Deauville (IRE) — Shipped to the U.S. last summer and won the Belmont Derby Invitational against 3-year-olds, then was beaten just two necks in last year’s Arlington Million after making the lead with one-eighth of a mile to go.
Kasaqui (ARG) — Missed by a neck in last year’s Million behind Mondialiste, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Mile the previous fall.
Ghost Hunter/Oak Brook (for exotic wagers).
Ellis Starr is the national racing analyst for Equibase. Visit the Equibase website for more on the race or to purchase handicapping products.