A new chapter begins Saturday for one of the most celebrated events on the summertime racing calendar.
Smooth Like Strait is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Grade 1, $1 million Arlington Million. Post time from Churchill Downs is 6:25 p.m. EDT, with FS1 to air the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes for 3-and-up runners.
Arlington Park made history in 1981 when it put a $1 million purse on the line, the richest of any single race at that time. Future Hall of Famer John Henry won the inaugural running by a nose – three years before winning again in 1984 – and new tradition was born.
Bricks and Mortar (2019), Cape Blanco (2011), Gio Ponti (2009), Paradise Creek (1994), Tight Spot (1991), Steinlen (1989), John Henry (1981, ’84) and Perrault (1982) all won the Arlington Million in campaigns that resulted in Eclipse Awards for Champion Turf Male.
There were fits and starts along the way. The 1988 Arlington Million ran at Woodbine as construction took place at Arlington, and the event did not take place in 1998 and ’99 due to a track closure or in 2020 due to COVID’s effects on racing.
Arlington Park owner Churchill Downs announced in February 2021 that it would sell the property and the NFL’s Chicago Bears purchased it months later. The track conducted its final meet last year, with 27-1 shot Two Emmys winning a race that ran as the Mr. D. Stakes.
While Arlington Park itself is shuttered, Churchill Downs has resumed some of the former track’s stakes races more than 300 miles south of Chicagoland in Louisville, Ky. Highlighted among those are the Arlington Million, which will run at 1 1/8 miles rather than the traditional 1 1/4 miles.
The 2022 Arlington Million drew a field of nine, all of whom race for U.S.-based trainers. Favorite Smooth Like Strait ships east for trainer Michael McCarthy for his first start since running second in the Shoemaker Mile Stakes (G1) on May 30 at Santa Anita.
Smooth Like Strait shows a 21: 7-8-3 record with $1.58 million earned but has not won a race since the 2021 Shoemaker Mile. Jockey John Velazquez will ride the 5-year-old son of Midnight Lute.
Santin (3-1) already owns a Grade 1 win over the Churchill turf, having won the Turf Classic Stakes one race before the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Trained by Brendan Walsh, he looks to bounce back from a sixth-place effort June 11 at Belmont Park in the Manhattan Stakes (G1).
Set Piece (4-1), twice a Grade 2 winner, was fifth July 15 at Saratoga for trainer Brad Cox in the Forbidden Apple Stakes (G3). Chad Brown trains Sacred Life (9-2), last out winner of the Monmouth Stakes (G3) on June 18. Grade 2 winner Field Pass (8-1) steps up in class off a Texas Turf Classic Stakes win July 16 at Lone Star.
Here is a look at the field for the 2022 Arlington Million (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Set Piece (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux), 4-1
2. Sacred Life (Chad Brown, Manny Franco), 9-2
3. Field Pass (Mike Maker, Reylu Gutierrez), 8-1
4. Smooth Like Strait (Michael McCarthy, John Velazquez), 5-2
5. Megacity, SCR
6. Santin (Brendan Walsh, Tyler Gaffalione), 3-1
7. Admission Office (Brian Lynch, Brian Hernandez Jr.), 10-1
8. Cavalry Charge (Dallas Stewart, David Cohen), 20-1
9. Cellist (Rusty Arnold, Corey Lanerie), 15-1
TimeformUS’ pace projections show Smooth Like Strait going out to the early lead under Velazquez and setting a fast pace.
Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on stakes action Saturday at Churchill Downs and Saratoga.
Arlington Million links
Eight-time Churchill Downs leading rider Tyler Gaffalione has never ridden in the Arlington Million but hopes his debut in the storied race aboard Godolphin’s Santin brings him to the winner’s circle.
Santin trainer Brendan Walsh joins the Ron Flatter Racing Pod to talk about his horses in Saturday’s runnings of the Arlington Million and Beverly D. Stakes (G1). Walsh said Santin “loved this track on Derby weekend” and “if he can reproduce that race, then it should make him very dangerous.”
Trainers shared varying thoughts on Churchill Downs’ troubled turf course ahead of Saturday’s Arlington Million card.
This week on HorseCenter, hosts Brian Zipse and Matt Shifman look back at Life Is Good's win in the Whitney Stakes (G1) before handicapping the Arlington Million and Beverly D. Stakes.
Other Saturday stakes
Here is a look at other graded stakes taking place Saturday across North America. All post times are EDT.
2:47 p.m. – $200,000 Saratoga Special Stakes (G2), 2-year-olds, 6 1/2 furlongs, Saratoga, FS1
Gulfport (4-5) looms over this field for trainer Steve Asmussen after romping in Churchill Downs’ Bashford Manor Stakes by 12 1/4 lengths July 4. Jockey Joel Rosario will get a leg up on the Uncle Mo colt, who is 2-for-2. Michelle Lovell trains Damon’s Mound (7-5), a debut winner July 2 at Churchill. Super Chow (8-1) also won his debut race July 2, his coming at Gulfstream Park for trainer Jorge Delgado.
3:01 p.m. – $500,000 Beverly D. Stakes (G1), 3-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/8 miles (turf), Churchill Downs, FS2
Rougir (2-1), who was seventh in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, is morning-line favorite in this “win and you’re in” qualifier for the race’s 2022 running. Chad Brown trains and Manny Franco rides the 4-year-old Territories filly, a French Group 1 heroine who was fourth July 16 at Saratoga in the Diana Stakes (G1). Aidan O’Brien trains Lily Pond (5-2), who makes her U.S. debut off a Kilboy Estate Stakes (G2) win July 17 at Curragh. Two-time Grade 2 winner Princess Grace (3-1) won the Dr. James Penny Memorial Stakes (G3) on July 12 at Parx for trainer Michael Stidham.
4:20 p.m. – $150,000 (about U.S. $117,000) Trillium Stakes (G3), 3-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles (all-weather), Woodbine, TVG
Lady Speightspeare (5-2), a Grade 1 victor for trainer Roger Attfield, aims for back-to-back wins after taking the Nassau Stakes (G2) on July 2 at Woodbine. Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson will pilot the 4-year-old Speightstown filly. Barbara Minshall trains Dreaming of Drew (4-1), a three-time local stakes winner who finished seventh in the Nassau. Lake Lucerne (6-1) goes north of the border for trainer Brendan Walsh off a third-place effort July 9 at Horseshoe Indianapolis in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff Stakes.
4:54 p.m. – $150,000 (about U.S. $117,000) Bold Venture Stakes (G3), 3-and-up, 6 1/2 furlongs (all-weather), Woodbine, TVG
Souper Stonehenge (4-1), a two-time Grade 3 winner, was sixth July 5 at Presque Isle Downs in the Karl Boyes Stakes. Mark Casse trains and jockey Patrick Husbands will ride the 6-year-old Speightstown gelding. Wesley Ward trains Outadore (6-1), the third-place finisher in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf who was runner-up in the Karl Boyes. Avie's Flatter (8-1), twice a Grade 2 winner, was ninth in his seasonal debut against local allowance foes July 3.
6:13 p.m. – $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap (G1), 3-and-up, one mile (turf), Saratoga, FS1
Regal Glory (6-5) battles the boys for Brown in this “win and you’re in” race toward the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Jockey Jose Ortiz gets the call on the 6-year-old Animal Kingdom mare, whose four straight triumphs include the Just a Game Stakes (G1) on June 11 at Belmont Park – one of three Grade 1 scores on her ledger. Brown also trains Masen (2-1), winner of Belmont’s Poker Stakes (G3) on June 18. Casa Creed (5-2) defended his title in Belmont’s Jaipur Stakes (G1) on June 11 for trainer Bill Mott and was third in the 2021 Fourstardave.
7:34 p.m. – $250,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2), 3-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles (turf), Del Mar, TVG
Going Global (6-5) carries the high weight of 125 pounds, five more than her closest rival, in search of her seventh graded win for trainer Phil D’Amato. Jockey Umberto Rispoli will be up on the 4-year-old Mehmas filly, a Grade 1 winner who was third May 30 at Santa Anita in the Gamely Stakes (G1). Leonard Powell trains Avenue de France (4-1), winner of Del Mar’s Osunitas Stakes on July 23. Park Avenue (4-1) tries to make the grade for trainer John Sadler after winning the Ouija Board Distaff Stakes on May 30 at Lone Star.
9:04 p.m. – $200,000 Sorrento Stakes (G2), 2-year-old fillies, six furlongs, Del Mar, TVG
Procrastination (8-5) won on debut on Independence Day at Los Alamitos, powering away by eight lengths. Jockey Ricardo Gonzalez retains the mount on the Not This Time filly for trainer Michael McCarthy. Doug O’Neill trains Absolutely Zero (9-5), whose 2-for-2 ledger includes a Fasig-Tipton Futurity win June 18 at Santa Anita. Dazzlingdominika (4-1) won on second asking May 13 at Churchill for former trainer William Walden and makes her first start Saturday for D’Amato.