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Breeders' Cup 2017

Little Mike Has Work Cut Out in Arlington Million Repeat Attempt

Priscilla Vaccarezza’s three-time North American Grade I winner and defending Arlington Million champion Little Mike will defend his crown against a field that includes the winners of Group I races on four other continents in Saturday’s marquee turf spectacular.  The Dale Romans-trained son of Spanish Steps has not finished better than fourth in three Grade/Group I events in 2013, including a disappointing trip to Dubai, but has been training forwardly for his confident connections.

However, it is a star on the rise, Yvonne Jacques’ multiple Grade II-winning Grandeur, who is listed as the 7-2 morning line favorite.  The son of Verglas won two Grade II stakes while wintering in the United States last year.  In his last race, the Jeremy Noseda-trained charge ran impeccably to finish second in a salty renewal of the Group II Sky Bet York Stakes, three-quarters of a length behind Mukhadram – one of the best middle distance horses in Europe – and 4¾ lengths ahead of fellow Million entrant The Apache.

Hunter’s Light, from the globally powerful Godolphin Stable, invades in an attempt to win his third Grade/Group I on as many continents.  In the last year, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained 10-furlong specialist won the Group I Premio Roma in Italy on the grass and the Group I Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 in the UAE on the all-weather – both 10-furlong races.  He enters off a third-place finish in another 10-furlong Group I, the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis at Munich.  Three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore has the call. 

Indy Point, a winner of three Argentinian Group I races, made his North American debut in the July 24 Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar last out, winning impressively by a widening 1¼ lengths.  A son of Indygo Shiner, GusMay-Fer’s Indy Point is trained by the highly able hands of Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, a conditioner with an enviable record of 8-1-3-2 in the Arlington Million.  In 2012, Indy Point won two-thirds of the Argentinian Triple Crown, including a victory in the Group I Gran Premio Jockey Club over a left-handed grassy 10 furlongs, in which he sped home in 1:58.25.  Hall of Famer and two-time Million winner Gary Stevens has the ride.

South African Group I victor The Apache looks to return to the form that earned him a victory in the 2011 Group I Champions Cup on his native continent and an excellent runner-up finish two races back in the Group I Dubai Duty Free.  The Mike de Kock trainee will be ridden by two-time French champion jockey Christophe Soumillon and comes off what appeared to be a fitness-building fourth-place finish in the York Stakes.

Two horses who have yet to claim Grade/Group I glory, but figure to garner significant respect are Windy Hill Farm’s lightning-fast multi-surface performer Nates Mineshaft and Robert E. Courtney, Jr.’s three-time Grade III Arlington Handicap winner Rahystrada.  The latter (Rosie Napravnik aboard) finished in a dead-heat for third in last year’s Million for trainer Byron “Scooter” Hughes and will be the first horse to compete in the race four times.  Nates Mineshaft (E. T. Baird), once considered one of the best dirt horses in America, has been reinvented on the grass and looks to be rounding back into top shape for trainer Anne P. Smith.

The most intriguing longshot may be Giuliano Manfredini’s lightly raced Guest of Honour, who earned his way to the Million with a fine third in the Group II Summer Mile Stakes – the same race in which fellow Million entrant Mull of Killough finished second.  A son of Cape Cross – the same sire of world champions Sea the Stars and Ouija Board – Guest of Honour is trained by Marco Botti and will be ridden by Martin Haley.  Invictus’ Mull of Killough, a 7-year-old gelding, was a good fifth – beating Hunter’s Light – in the Singapore Airlines International Cup prior to the Summer Mile.  A return to that form makes the Jane Chapple-Hyam trainee very competitive here.

A series of stellar steeds round out what will be a distinguished renewal of the Million.  Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Real Solution, a Grade I-placed son of 2004 Secretariat winner Kitten’s Joy, is looking to give trainer Chad Brown and jockey Alan Garcia their first Million wins.  Donegal Racing’s Finnegans Wake, a son of 2005 Million victor Powerscourt, returns to Arlington for the first time since running arguably his best race when runner-up in last year’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes.  Dale Romans trains and Robby Albarado, winner of the 2007 Million, rides.  Pearl Bloodstock’s 6-year-old gelding campaigner Side Glance, a seven-time Group/Grade I performer who finished third to Frankel in 2012 at Royal Ascot and fourth – defeating Hunter’s Light – in this year’s Dubai World Cup hopes to return to winning form for trainer Andrew Balding and jockey Jamie Spencer.  Lastly, Niall Racing’s Temeraine, an improving 4-year-old gelding trained by Tom Proctor, hopes to give Eddie Castro an upset win in his first Million ride.

The Arlington Million provides the winner an automatic starting position in the Breeders’ Cup Turf as part of the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.



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Older Comments about Little Mike Has Work Cut Out in Arlington Million Repeat Attempt...

then he will be on my ticket euro
At the moment, I am leaning more toward The Apache. I am not sure Mull of Killough last jockey said that he might want more cut in the ground than he will get. I still like him better than Guest of Honour, but Guest of Honour is the most progressive of the group. But, I think The Apache is sitting on a huge run.
Little Mike will be a much different horse tommorrow than he was in the United Nations at Monmouth Park.Coming off the layoff,he was to keen and basically got away from Rosario and never relaxed.By the way he is managed this year,you can tell the connections had only 3 races in mind.The dubai turf,The Millions and the BC turf Classic.Romans has been pointing for this race ,over the past 3 years he has proven to be an extremely dangerous and capable trainer when doing so.I am not familiar with the pace scenerio on the Euro horses.But looking at the balance of the field,Rosario with Mikes' extremely gifted quality early pace. He should be able to secure a great tracking trip.More than likely he will be on the lead and setting pedestrian fractions.The key will be getting him to relax.his recent breezes at 5f suggest he is coming ino the race in top shape.Just compare the last 2 works to his 2 previous works in the U.N. .Like night and day. Like i said,Mikes success last year,allowed Romans the luxury of using a Graded stakes race as a stepping stone.
1st-Grandeur 2nd-The Apache 3rd-Mull of Killough 4th-Hunter's Light. Too much European muscle this year given Little Mike has been far below his best in Dubai and since his return.
Hunter's Light and Real Solution

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