There’s going to be a rumble late Saturday afternoon in northwest Chicago. It’s not the Jets versus the Sharks as it was in “West Side Story” – but it is three European-born equine invaders and their seven rivals foaled on American soil that will be “getting it on” in the 29th running of the Grade I Arlington Million.
Heading up the European Arlington Million XXIX contestants is the Irish-bred Cape Blanco, owned by Mrs. Fitriani Hay, Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor. He is a 4-year-son of Galileo who lists last summer’s Group I Irish Derby and last fall’s Group I Irish Champion Stakes among his accomplishments.
Assuming the leader-of-the-pack status among the Arlington Million’s American runners is Castleton Lyons’ Gio Ponti, who won the Arlington Million in 2009 and could become the second horse – joining Dotsam Stable’s legendary John Henry – to win the centerpiece race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season twice. Gio Ponti, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Tale of the Cat, was the runner-up in last summer’s renewal of the Arlington Million.
However, Cape Blanco has already made one Atlantic crossing this year to defeat Gio Ponti by 2 1/4-lengths in the Grade I Man o’War Stakes at New York’s Belmont Park July 9. Trained by Irish-born Aidan O’Brien, Cape Blanco will arrive back from his Irish headquarters aboard an equine charter Wednesday morning and be bedded down at Arlington’s International Barn shortly thereafter.
Cape Blanco, who will be ridden by Jamie Spencer, has been installed as the slight 9-5 choice in the morning line over Gio Ponti, trained by French-born conditioner Christophe Clement, who has been pegged at 2-1 in the early line with Ramon Dominguez aboard.
In spite of the impressive credentials of Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti, it would be a huge mistake to assume Saturday’s Arlington Million will be a two-horse race.
Likely to be extremely dangerous, and installed at 6-1 in Saturday’s showcase is Naipaul and Terikchand Chatterpaul’s Mission Approved, who defeated Gio Ponti in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap at Belmont June 11 on Belmont Stakes Day. Trained by Naipaul Chatterpaul, the 7-year-old son of Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval was second by a neck to Gio Ponti in the 2010 Man o’War and was fourth behind Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti in this year’s edition. Jose Espinoza will ride.
Mark Hawtin’s Irish-bred European invader Wigmore Hall is already familiar to fans of Chicago’s International Festival of Racing after finishing second in last year’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes, beaten 1 1/4-lengths by Donegal Racing’s since-retired Paddy O’Prado. The son of two- time Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf winner High Chaparral was more recently third in the Grade I Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup Day March 26, is 8-1 in the morning line and has European jockey Hayley Turner slated for the stirrups. She will become the third female jockey to ride in the Arlington Million.
French-bred Zack Hall, owned by Matthieu Offenstadt, Sylvain Fargeon, Patrick Offenstadt and Mikel Delzangles and trained by Delzangles is the third European invader and is 10-1 in the morning line. He was fourth at last asking in the France’s Group I Grand Prix de St. Cloud June 26 and will be making his first start outside his native land. French jockey Christophe Soumillon is named in the irons.
Robert Courtney Jr.’s Rahystrada, winner of the 2010 Grade III Arlington Handicap and fourth in last summer’s Arlington Million, is 12-1 in this year’s Million morning line. He is trained by Scooter Hughes and will be ridden Saturday by Sheldon Russell.
Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, winner of this season’s Arlington Handicap July 9 and sixth in the 2010 Arlington Million, is also 12-1 in Saturday’s morning line. Danny Peitz is the trainer and Irish-born James Graham will be the jockey.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten, third in this year’s Arlington Handicap as the final local prep for the Million, is 30-1 in the morning line. The son of 2005 Secretariat Stakes winner Kitten’s Joy, who was also Ramsey-owned, is conditioned by Mike Maker and has French-born jockey Julien Leparoux astride.
Proceed Bee, owned by Arlington’s 2011 leading owner William Stiritz and trained by Scott Becker, was third in Arlington’s Grade III Stars and Stripes July 23 but is 50-1 in the Million morning line. Arlington’s 2006 jockey champion Chris Emigh rides.
Also 50-1 in the morning line is Pasquale Vizzoni’s General Perfect, who was fifth in the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth July 3 and then fifth again in Monmouth’s Grade III Oceanport July 31. The New Jersey-bred is trained by Glenn Thompson and will be ridden by two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez, who was Arlington’s jockey champion in 1997.