Ascend poised to bounce back in Arlington Million

Ascend poised to bounce back in Arlington Million
Photo: Jesse Caris/Eclipse Sportswire
Stone Farm and Madaket Stables’ Ascend will start in the Grade I Arlington International Racecourse for trainer Graham Motion, his fourth horse to run in the 10-furlong turf stakes. Drawn in post 12, the 5-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) will have the services of jockey Jose Ortiz, who piloted the gelding to his biggest win in the Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park in June.
Bred by Stone Farm, the son of Candy Ride (ARG) made his debut in 2015 as a 3-year-old but it wasn’t until his first race at the age of four that he found the winner’s circle. Over the course of the season between New York and Kentucky the gelding won four of his eight starts against allowance company, finishing second twice, before taking a break from racing last October. He returned in the Henry Clark Stakes at Laurel Park on April 22 and won with a sweeping and steady drive from last to first.
“The time off over the winter seemed to really help,” said Motion. “We brought him back to training in Florida, and the race at Laurel just seemed like a good fit.”
Ascend won the Manhattan next out by 1¼ lengths after stalking a slow pace. His last start, the Grade II Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga on July 29 saw the gelding in a similar stalking position, but he failed to fire after sitting close early and finished fourth.
“He was a little closer to the pace and just did too much,” said Motion. “Ortiz knows him well and how he likes to run, so we aren’t worried about that this time.”
Motion previously started Better Talk Now in the Arlington Million in 2005 (4th) and 2006 (7th) as well as Up With the Birds in 2015 (4th).
Al Shaqab Racing’s Mekhtaal (GB) and Afandem (FR) stepped out on the track at Arlington International Racecourse Friday morning for their last work prior to their Grade I starts on Saturday. Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, the pair have set out for the track together each day, but in their final bit of trackwork stuck closer together than previously seen. After schooling from the starting gate, the duo began cantering down the track towards the half-mile pole with Afandem two lengths in front of Mekhtaal before beginning the work three furlongs from the wire. At the quarter-pole Mekhtaal angled inside of Afandem and drew even with the younger colt while being restrained by his rider to not run past his workmate. The two colts stayed neck-and-neck through the wire, with Mekhtaal receiving an official time of 38.00 seconds for the three furlongs.
Mekhtaal, a 4-year-old son of Sea the Stars (GB), drew post 13 in the Grade I Arlington Million with Frankie Dettori slated to ride the Group I winner. Afandem, by Zoffany (IRE), will also be ridden by Dettori in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds, where he will break from the rail.

Source: Arlington International Racecourse

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