Gio Ponti giveth and Gio Ponti taketh away – especially
when it comes down to the field now likely for the 28th running of the Grade I
Arlington Million a little over one week away on Saturday, Aug. 21.
The suddenly likely presence of Gio Ponti, the Arlington
Million’s defending champion owned by Castleton Lyons, has significantly
changed the landscape of those likely to challenge last year’s Eclipse
Award-winning Male Turf Horse in the showcase race of the Chicago Thoroughbred
racing season on the third Saturday in August.
Trainer Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti’s French-born but
American-based conditioner, announced last week the Million was the next likely
start for his champion after keeping the racing world in suspense since July 10
when his 5-year-old star won Belmont’s
Grade I Man o’ War Stakes with a dramatic late rush.
So Arlington Million XXVIII gets its star attraction –
along with the tease that should Gio Ponti win the upcoming running he would
become the first horse in history to win back-to-back renewals of the mile and
a quarter-turf test.
To date, the only horse to win Arlington Million twice was
Dotsam Stable’s legendary John Henry, who took the inaugural running in 1981
and came back three years later to win the 1984 edition.
Mrs. John Magnier’s Powerscourt was the first horse under
the wire in the 2004 Arlington Million but was disqualified and placed fourth.
The following summer, Powerscourt was the first horse under the wire again and
that result was not challenged.
However, the news that Gio Ponti is expected has also
caused some collateral damage to the prospective overflow makeup of this
month’s Million field. For instance, the previously-announced likelihood
of a half-dozen European invaders has been cut in half.
Still likely to make an Atlantic crossing next week:
Shadwell Stable’s Tazeez, who finished third beaten just over a length in the
Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes behind the highly regarded Byword and Twice
Over during the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting June 16; HRH Princess Haya of
Jordan’s Debussy, a second John Gosden-trained colt who was seventh in that
same Royal Ascot run but more recently fourth in the Group II Sky Bet York
Stakes at York on July 24 after the rider dropped his stick; and William
Bellew’s Summit Surge, a 6-year-old Irish-bred gelding who won Great Britain’s
Sky Bet York Stakes by a length and a quarter last month and was a close second
in Italy’s Group II Premio Carlo Vittadini at San Siro last May 30.
European invaders now deleted from the upcoming Arlington
Million are: Kirsten Rausing’s Lady Jane Digby, slow to recover from her
victory in Germany’s Group I Bayerisches-Zuchtrennen July 25: Juddmonte Farms’
Famous Name, with connections concerned about the possibility of firm ground in
Chicago; Godolphin’s Allybar, apparently not training aggressively in recent
days; and Alan Spence’s Jukebox Jury, who did not perform as expected in his
Still on track for the Million among American-based runners
are Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada, Jonathan Sheppard’s Just as Well and
Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, first, second and third respectively in the Grade
III Arlington Handicap as the designed local prep for the Arlington
Million. Also Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, sixth in the Arlington
Handicap, who would come only if the ground had some “give” to it.
Jean and Ted Barlas and Michael Porcaro’s Quite a Handful,
a winner in optional claiming company at Indiana Downs’ July 12, remains a
Million possibility depending on who looks likely to go to the post as the race
Don Van Racing, Michael Nentwig, George Saadeh and Jeffrey
Byer’s The Usual Q. T., winner of the Del
Mar’s Grade I Eddie Read Stakes, was still a possible Million starter as of
Wednesday morning providing firm ground was expected at Arlington on Million Day, trainer James
The complexion of the 20th renewal of the Grade I Beverly
D. as the Arlington Million’s sister race changed rapidly following the
unfortunate death last Sunday of William de Burgh’s Tuscan Evening, Arlington’s
Grade III Modesty Handicap winner who was the projected Beverly D.
Richard Duchossois’ Éclair de Lune, runner-up to Tuscan
Evening in the Modesty, may now inherit the favorite’s mantle, but is expected
to be challenged once again by Nelson McMakin’s Hot Cha Cha and Augustin
Stable’s Rainbow View, third and fourth respectively in the Modesty.
Others probable in the $750,000 Beverly D. – some of whom
are late additions – are: Helen Alexander’s Acoma, winner of Churchill’s Grade
III Cardinal Handicap last November, second in the Grade III Mint Julep June 5
and fourth in the Grade III Locust Grove at that same Twin Spires oval on July
3; Three Chimneys Racing’s Ave, second by a nose in Woodbine’s Grade II Dance
Smartly July 18 and third in Belmont’s Grade II New York Stakes June 19;
Marquesa de Moratalla’s Biased, third in France’s listed Prix de la Pepiniere
July 25 at Maisons-Lafitte; and Team Valor International’s Gypsy’s Warning,
fifth in Woodbine’s Dance Smartly but winner of Monmouth’s Grade III Eatontown
Handicap May 31.
Other fillies and mares considered probable for the Beverly D. are Michael
Deegan’s Pachattack, a European-based daughter of Pulpit who won Great
Britain’s listed EBF Chalice Stakes at Newbury Aug. 1, Newcastle’s listed EBF
Hoppings Stakes June 24 and was third in Epsom’s Group II Princess Elizabeth
Stakes June 5; California-based Turning Top, owned by Michael Tabor and heroine
of Hollywood’s Grade III Beverly Hills Handicap in her last start June 26;
Princess Haya, owned by Eileen Hartis and fourth in that same test; Frank
Calabrese’s Romacaca, winner of Mountaineer’s $75,000 Firecracker Stakes on
July 3 at last asking; Juddmonte Farm’s Treat Gently, winner of the Grade III
Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park July 17 and Belmont’s Grade II
Sheepshead Bay Stakes before that May 22; and Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena, who
breezed a half in 50.20 Wednesday morning after finishing fourth in Monmouth’s
Grade III Matchmaker Aug. 1. Trainer Mike Stidham indicated that he was
“on the outside looking in” and would wait to see the likely competition in the
Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado, considered the top
turf-favoring sophomore in North America at this time, worked five furlongs in
1:02.20 over the main course at Churchill Downs July 31 and will work once more
before traveling from Louisville to Chicago for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes Aug. 21 as the
final leg of Arlington’s
Awaiting Paddy O’ Prado, who won the Grade II Virginia
Derby July 17, the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup June 19 and was third in the
Kentucky Derby before that May 1, will be Estrorace LLC’s Workin for Hops, who
won the 75th renewal of the $100,000 Arlington Classic May 22 and the Grade II
American Derby July 17 to win the first two legs of Arlington’s Triple.
Other notable probable starters in the Secretariat Stakes
are: Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s
Dean’s Kitten, second and third respectively behind Workin for Hops in the
American Derby; James Hackman and Glenn Thompson’s Two Notch Road, fourth in
Monmouth’s $145,000 Jersey Derby Aug. 1, fourth in the Virginia Derby and third
in the Colonial Turf Cup; European invader Wigmore Hall, owned by Mark Hawtin
and winner of his last two at Great Britain’s Newmarket on Aug. 6 and over the
Knavesmire at York July 10; Craig Family Trust’s Twirling Candy, heroine
of Del Mar’s $112,000 Oceanside Stakes July 21; and Millard Seldin Revocable
Trust and the Estate of Hoss Inman’s Cherokee Lord, second in optional claiming
company at Arlington July 29.