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Vancouverite Officially Joins Million Chase

This week the Road to the Million is more of a laundry list – albeit an exciting one – through the probables for each race, as well as a scanning of those no longer foreseeable to enter the International Festival of Racing.

Perhaps the most exciting news of the week for the Grade I Arlington Million is the expected addition of Vancouverite.  The Godolphin-owned son of Dansili – whose offspring (e.g. Dank, Dandino) usually prefer the firm ground they receive in the United States – was Group I-placed earlier this year in the Jebel Hatta in Dubai and was last seen finishing a nose short in second in the Listed Doom Bar Stakes.  The Doom Bar was an especially salty renewal with multiple Group I-winning comebacker Al Kazeem and the well regarded trio of Battle of Marengo, Nabucco and once Kentucky Derby-bound Out of Bounds in the field.

A 1¼-miles specialist, Vancouverite’s best winning performance was at Deauville last year in the Group II Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at said distance.  When last seen at the Group/Grade I level, the Charlie Appleby trainee was eighth of 16 in the Group I Dubai World Cup behind stablemate African Story.  A win by the improving 4-year-old could not only provide a little solace after Godolphin’s Hunter’s Light’s troubled trip in the 2013 Million, but also would be the outfit’s first victory since Sulamani in 2003.

The 39-year-old Appleby has never raced a charge in the Million, but has only been a head trainer for Sheikh Mohammed’s operation since July 2013.  Still, he made quick headway and proved his Stateside mettle when winning the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with Outstrip last fall at Santa Anita. 

The major players in this side of the pond are still filing themselves into line, but one thing for sure is that defending champion Real Solution is training well and seemingly ready to roll.  The Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey homebred son of Kitten’s Joy put in a solid five-furlong turf work in 1:00.64 on July 20 at Saratoga in company with multiple Grade I-winning stablemate (and fellow Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf alum) Big Blue Kitten.

Plans have been since Real Solution’s impressive win in the Grade I Manhattan on June 7 to train up to the Million.  Big Blue Kitten is six works into his season and should be making his 2014 debut later this summer at Saratoga, according to Ramsey stable manager Gary Partridge.  Admiral Kitten, second in the Grade III Arlington Handicap last out and winner of last year’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes – both at the course and distance of the Million – is expected to join Real Solution in the gate on Aug. 16.  Arlington Handicap winner Finnegans Wake is expected to return for the Million – a race in which he finished fourth in 2013 – but has not yet been confirmed.

The Ramseys may not be the only powerful stable with a double entry in the Million.  The Niarchos Family – a racing family entrenched in international racing and highly successful at shipping horses Stateside for Grade I glory – has Smoking Sun as probable for the event and Main Sequence as possible.  Smoking Sun is trained by Pascal Bary, who trained the Niarchos’ Domedriver to victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2002 when it was held at Arlington International Racecourse.  Main Sequence recently won the Grade I United Nations in his American debut and first effort for decorated trainer Graham Motion.  The conditioner commented afterward that he is looking at the Million for the son of Aldebaran, but would leave it up to the owners’ discretion, as he was aware they have Smoking Sun pointing toward the race. 

Listed as possible for the Million at this point are Juddmonte Farm’s Noble Mission – a full brother to the great Frankel – who is expected to run this weekend in the Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot.  Juddmonte also has U. S.-based Seek Again in the Bill Mott barn as possible.  A Grade I winner last fall at the Million distance, he was recently third behind Real Solution in the Manhattan one start after losing a photo to Wise Dan in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs.

An interesting Million possible is 2013 Canadian Horse of the Year Up with the Birds, who was extremely impressive this past weekend in the Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine.  Returning to the winner’s circle for the first time in three 2014 races, the talented Sam-Son Farm homebred defeated a good field of graded stakes winners, including 2013 Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Za Approval.  Trainer Malcolm Pierce mentioned the Million and the Grade II Sky Classic as possible next targets for the colt, with the caveat that he and the owners were trying to separate the top two turf horses in their barn – the other being recent Grade III Singspiel Stakes winner Aldous Snow.  Up with the Birds’ participation would give Sam-Son a chance to avenge the loss of its losing favorite in the 1992 Million, Sky Classic.

This weekend is all about Europe as far as last preps for Million possibles.  Keep a keen eye on the aforementioned King George, as well as the Group II York Stakes in England and Group I Grosser Dallmayr-Preis in Germany.  All three have produced Million starters in the recent past, including three last year (Hunter’s Light from the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis, and The Apache and Grandeur from the York).  Also, keep watch on local turf allowances for longshot last-minute Million entries.  The last two years have seen impressive wins by local horses (Willcox Inn in 2012 and Nates Mineshaft in 2013) garner an entry into the big dance. 

Owner Gary Barber has three possibles for the Million: the Mark Casse-trained Kaigun – who has been knocking heads with the best Americans all season – as well as the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Boisterous and Jack Milton. That triad joins Moyglare Stud’s Speaking of Which, Pearl Bloodstock’s Side Glance, Phipps Stable’s Imagining, Diamond M Stable’s War Dancer, and Coolmore’s duo of Verrazano and Ruler of the World (the latter co-owned by Al Shaqab Racing) as horses under serious consideration.

 

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