Submitted by Hank Goldberg on Friday, August 10, 2018 at 5:05 PM
Friday, August 11
In the world of North American racing the month of August belongs almost exclusively to Saratoga and Del Mar. I write, almost, because for one weekend each August Arlington Park takes center stage with their International Festival of Racing, a 4 Turf Race Series which includes a trio of Grade 1 Races, the Arlington Million, the Beverly D. and the Secretariat Stakes plus the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes.
The Arlington Million and the Beverly D. are not only Grade 1 Races that have drawn 11 and 9 contenders respectively, but each is a Breeders’ Cup designated Win and In Race.
Prior to the Beverly D. (Race 10) is the Grade 1 Secretariat (Race 9), which drew 13 entrants and following the Grade 1 Arlington Million (Race 11) is the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes (Race 12) which also drew a deep and contentious field of 13.
You can see why so much attention will shift to Arlington Park for these four races. Bettors will have multiple opportunities for single race win-through Superfecta wagers but also will be able to combine multi-race Daily Doubles, Pick 3’s and the Late Pick 4.
(PICK 4 BEGINS IN RACE 9 WITH THE SECRETARIAT STAKES)
Last year emerging star OSCAR PERFORMANCE dominated a less competitive field and in fact that colt will return to Arlington on Saturday as one of the leading players in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.
It doesn’t appear as though there is a singular Oscar Performance in this year’s field, but for the sake of a better wagering opportunity it instead appears that there are a handful of “Performers.”
The stakes action kicks off in the 9TH with the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (G1) as a field of 13 turf 3-year olds travel a mile and a quarter. This is truly an international affair as four in the field make their NA debut, while a fifth, the Aiden O’Brien trained HUNTING HORN made a good showing when 3rd in his stateside debut in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational last out on July 7.
O’Brien also sends out LUCIUS TIBERIUS to face graded/group competition for the first time. And will go against his son Joseph who sends out MING, who like LUCIUS TIBERIUS makes his NA debut and goes against Grade or Group 1 foes for the first time.
The other two first time stateside starters are PLATINUM WARRIOR and BANDUA. The former, trained by Michael Halford, captured the Gallinule Stakes (Ire-G3) at the Curragh two back on May 27. He could do no better than ninth in the Irish Derby (Ire-G1) most recently and gets the services of Joel Rosario here. Well-known to Americans conditioner Dermot Weld sends out the lightly raced BANDUA, who finished one spot in front of Platinum Warrior in the Irish Derby.
The competitive NA contingent features ANALYZE IT who just missed by a head in the Belmont Derby last out for trainer Chad Brown. A dual Grade 3 winner at Del Mar and Keeneland, the colt has regular jockey Jose Ortiz in the irons for his Arlington Park bow.
REAL STORY is two-for-two at Arlington. The Ignacio Correas IV charge has won his last two over the course, including a wire job in the local prep, the American Derby (G3), on July 7.
Second and third behind REAL STORY in the American were CAPTIVATING MOON and DUBBY DUBBIE. Captivating Moon has a trio of second place finishes, once in a Grade 2 and twice in a Grade 3. DUBBY DUBBIE made his stakes bow in the American Derby and accounted well for himself, entering that contest off a pair of allowance/optional claiming wins at Churchill Downs.
Although UNTAMED DOMAIN has not posted a victory in five starts in 2018, he eclipse the Grade 2 Summer Stakes Woodbine followed by a fast-closing second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar. Trainer Graham Motion has enticed Irad Ortiz, Jr. to make the trip from Saratoga.
Not to be discounted are SNIPER KITTEN who is 4-3-0-0 lifetime for trainer Mike Maker after winning his stakes debut last out in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park and CARRICK, the Tom Morley-trained son of Giant’s Causeway, third in the Kent Stakes at Delaware in his most recent and gets the services of John Velazquez.
How wide open this race is will be reflected in all the payoffs as the Pick 4 begins with the Secretariat.
(TOUGH GRADE 1 BEVERLY D. IS FIRST OF TWO BC WIN-AND-IN BATTLES)
This year’s Grade 1 Beverly D., to be run at a mile and 3/16ths over the turf course could be the deepest in years.
As you might expect, Chad Brown has a pair of top level runners in barn mates SISTERCHARLIE and FOUR STAR CROOK.
If racing against the best makes you the best then the three times these two have faced each other this year should set them up well as they battle to get the automatic BC F&M Turf spot that goes to the Beverly D. winner.
SISTERCHARLIE bested her stablemate in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland, but in the Grade 2 New York it was FOURSTAR CROOK who got the jump on SISTERCHARLIE.
FOURSTAR CROOK has not run since, but SISTERCHARLIE lines up after grabbing victory in the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga.
In another wrinkle it is worth mentioning that the Beverly D. has been won only once by a three-year-old (Charline in 2014.) Seeking to be the second are two European invaders ATHENA and NYALET.
ATHENA enters off a commanding 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks, which came just six days after a third-place finish against older fillies and mares in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh. NYALETI captured the Group 2 German 1000 Guineas Düsseldorf but was beaten 12 lengths by Alpha Centauri in the Group 1 Falmouth at Newmarket in her most recent.
Did I say that Chad Brown had a pair entered? Make that four total as he will also tighten the girth on INFLEXIBILTY and THAIS.
While neither is yet at the level of SISTERCHARLIE and FOURSTAR CROOK, would anyone be surprised if either improves to this height?
INFLEXIBILITY will line up following back-to-back seconds in the Grade 3 Beaugay and Grade 2 Dance Smartly, while THAIS, who is also multiple Group 3-placed, has only a single victory in five starts since coming from France.
DONA BRUJA, was the 2-1 favorite when beaten a half-length in the 2017 Beverly D. cannot be overlooked. In her most recent she was fifth in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley but it was one of two bad races, the only bad races since immigrating here with both over the Keeneland grass course.
Of late, DADDY’S LITTLE DARLING appears to be moving towards these upper echelons. A winner of the 2017 Grade 1 American Oaks, she was third by a little more than a length in the Grade 2 New York Stakes, and then rebounded to win the Grade 3 Modesty H. in the easiest of fashion last time. Reaching high is OH SO TERRIBLE, who will look to jump up from the allowance ranks.
(10 RIVALS LOOK TO TAKE DOWN FAVORED OSCAR PERFORMANCE IN BC WIN-AND-IN GRADE 1 ARLINGTON MILLION)
As 11 horses are set to go forward in the Grade 1, mile and a quarter Arlington Million, one of them had to be made the morning line favorite and that designation at 3-1 went to OSCAR PERFORMANCE.
OSCAR PERFORMANCE has already shown he likes the Arlington turf when he romped as the favorite in last year’s Grade 1 Secretariat. But that isn’t the only feature on the colt’s resume. OSCAR PERFORMANCE also captured the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and Grade 3 Pennine Ridge last year as well as the 2016 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
However, a quick glance at the Million field indicates this will not be anywhere as easy as last year’s Secretariat triumph was.
As you would expect, there is a well-represented European contingent signed on.
Aiden O’Brien sends DEAUVILLE back to the states to try and avenge last year’s ¾ length beaten third in the Million as the 9-5 favorite. The Galileo horse travels following a good second in a Leopardstown Group 3…the same final prep he used a year ago before shipping to the states.
Also making the cross-Atlantic trip are CENTURY DREAM who travels following a pair of competitive efforts in a Group 2 and Group 1 at Ascot and longshot CIRCUS COUTURE who is making a considerable step up in here.
Would it be a major stakes race if Chad Brown were not represented? Of course not. But as they say about Todd Pletcher with his juveniles, when it comes to the older horses on turf…the rich stay rich.
Brown has three representative in the race and each is, based on the assigned morning line, going to be well-respected.
Brown (and yours truly) won last year’s Million with BEACH PATROL ($11.00) and the two-time winning conditioner is right back with the trio of ROBERT BRUCE (9-2), ALMANAAR (5-1) and MONEY MULTIPLIER (6-1).
ROBERT BRUCE won the Grade 3 Fort Marcy (G3) in early May suffered a tough trip when 6th in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes in his last but was only a length back of the winner. Irad Ortiz, Jr. takes the assignment.
ALMANAAR looked to be on his way to serious deeds when he captured the 2017 Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf but then went to the sidelines for a 16-month recovery. He returned to eclipse allowance foes in mid-June at Belmont, has been working forwardly and has Joel Rosario in the irons.
Not to surrender anything to his stablemates MONEY MULTIPLIER will look to prove he can carry his consistent winning and competitive form to this top level. His strong second in the Grade 1 United Nations gave Brown the indication that he deserves his chance.
SPRING QUALITY will look to prove his 18-1 upset win in the United Nations was not a fluke and multiple Grade 1 winner DIVISIDERO might show that he still has plenty left in the tank after winning over the course here in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap in his most recent.
A pair of longshots CATCHO EN DIE who pulled a mild upset in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes here 5 weeks ago and former claimer TWENTY FOUR SEVEN complete the field.
(GRADE 3 PUCKER UP STAKES COMPLETES ALL STAKES PICK 4)
Last, but when it comes to contention, certainly not least, the $100,000 Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes (G3) will be run at a mile and an eighth over the turf as Race 12 when a field of 13 sophomore fillies knocks heads for supremacy.
The top three might turn out to be BEYOND BLAME, DARK ARTIST and COSMIC BURST.
BEYOND BLAME enters off a 1 1/2-length win in the Grade 3 Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 16. DARK ARTIST brings a three-race win streak into the Pucker Up, including scores in the Boiling Springs Stakes and Open Mind Stakes at Monmouth Park in her past pair. As for COSMIC BURST, the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes winner at Oaklawn just returned off a three-month break last out in the Iowa Oaks (G3) and finished second.
PRINCESS WARRIOR and PAMINA bring last-out allowance/optional claiming wins into the Pucker Up, while DIAMONDCOAT and MADAME MILAN each won an allowance/optional claimer and then finished off-the-board in a stakes next out.
A pair of tough to gauge runners are A. A. AZULA’S ARCH who attempts her first start away from Woodbine after a second last out in the Group 3 Ontario Colleen Stakes and. IN THE MOOD a Grade 3-placed stakes winner who prepped for the Pucker Up with a daylight allowance win over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs.
Completing the Pucker Up field are DEADLINE, who placed in the Tawee Stakes most recently; SECRET MESSAGE, who since joining the Graham Motion barn finished second in the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico and fourth in the Regret at Churchill; SMART SHOT, who has won two straight as she makes her stakes bow and stakes winner KABELLA, who was seventh in the Regret last out.
I have handicapped, wagered on and won these races for years…but without any hesitation I can tell you these are the bets fields I have seen on International Festival Of Racing Saturday in many years and I PLAN ON CASHING IN MULTIPLE PLAYS.