Arlington international scouting reports: Armory, Space Traveller, Santa Barbara
The race historically known as the Arlington Million will be run under a different name on Saturday, the Mister D. S. (G1). But Arlington Park’s signature event retains its most fascinating dynamic – the international challenge.
Two-time Million winner Aidan O’Brien sends Armory, who looms as the primary challenger to U.S. turf star Domestic Spending. The more speculative European hope, Space Traveller, has back class going shorter.
O’Brien has yet to win the companion race for distaffers, the Beverly D. S. (G1), but Santa Barbara could rectify that for the master of Ballydoyle.
Armory – Mister D.
While Armory doesn’t already sport a Group 1 win like O’Brien’s past Million heroes, Powerscourt (2005) and Cape Blanco (2011), the Galileo colt has placed six times at the highest level. That standard of performance made him Europe’s joint top-ranked three-year-old of 2020 in the 1 1/4-mile range.
Armory was a prominent juvenile as well. After an eye-catching maiden score at the Curragh, where he had to bull his way out from an unpromising position, he graduated to a five-length rout of the 2019 Tyros S. (G3) at Leopardstown and made it three straight back at the Curragh in the Futurity S. (G2).
Then Armory lost his next five in a row. No match for Pinatubo when staying on for a distant second in the Vincent O’Brien National S. (G1), he was a close third in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) on very soft ground at ParisLongchamp. The Criterium International (G1) was less informative, as a two-horse race on heavy going. Armory put up a good fight until the mudlark Alson drew clear, then he sensibly took it easy to the wire.
Making his sophomore bow in last summer’s Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), Armory finished a creditable fourth to favored Siskin in a rough passage. He ran as though looking for longer. Armory duly stepped up in trip for the 1 1/4-mile Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) versus elders, winding up a one-paced fourth to stable star Magical and Sir Dragonet.
Armory’s sights were lowered for the Royal Whip S. (G3) over the same course and distance, and the class relief worked, although he had to overcome a nightmare trip. Bottled up, he dropped back and lost position before finding a seam and spearing through to get up by a neck. With a clean trip, he would have won more comfortably.
Armory reached a higher level afterward, albeit in defeat. Third to the titans Magical and Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion S. (G1) at 66-1, he held off next-out Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Sottsass. Armory backed up that effort in Australia’s coveted Cox Plate (G1), when making a sweeping move on the turn and striking the front, only to have Sir Dragonet outstay him late.
In his four-year-old debut, the May 7 Huxley S. (G2) at Chester, Armory continued that favorable impression. He rolled from last in a compact field of four to win handsomely. A shade beyond 1 1/4 miles on a tight left-handed circuit, the Huxley has been known to yield Million contenders. Chester House (1999) and Debussy (2010) won both, while Deauville (2017) was beaten three-quarters of a length at Arlington.
The Prince of Wales’s S. (G1) at Royal Ascot was a stiffer task against stablemate Love, and being held up further off her sedate pace didn’t help. Armory churned on for third to her and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) upsetter Audarya, gaining gradually without posing a danger.
Armory was most recently a better-than-appears fourth in the York S. (G2), beaten about 1 1/2 lengths by streetwise veteran Bangkok, in a tactically tricky affair, under top weight of 135 pounds. Well-regarded sophomore Mohaafeth was not suited by the race shape either in third.
Although Armory doesn’t have the flashy profile of Domestic Spending, he’s routinely competing in deeper company. In a race with less strength in depth, his own fine kick can become more apparent. Note that he tends to sweat noticeably, so it’s not an automatic concern if you see him lathered up going to the gate.
Space Traveller – Mister D.
Not the most obvious European candidate for this race, Space Traveller nevertheless offers a few intriguing clues. The 2019 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) participant is eligible to find Arlington more congenial than Santa Anita, and he hints of being able to handle 1 1/4 miles. The British shipper could be the type to rejuvenate his career stateside, as he takes up residence with Brendan Walsh.
Hitherto trained by Richard Fahey, Space Traveller first made headlines with a 25-1 upset of Space Blues in the 2019 Jersey S. (G3) at Royal Ascot. He was finally putting it together after a series of stakes attempts.
Space Traveller’s juvenile season in 2018 was a mix of promise, disappointment, and experimentation with equipment changes. After winning his first two career starts, he was unplaced in three of four stakes tries, including high-profile tilts in the Gimcrack S. (G2) and Middle Park S. (G1).
On the upswing at the beginning of his sophomore campaign, Space Traveller was second in the European Free H. and third in the Carnarvon S. (to Khaadem and Oxted). He endured a luckless trip in his final prep for Royal Ascot, a listed race at Maisons-Laffitte, when seventh in traffic. That kept him off the betting radar in the Jersey, but this time, he weaved a passage from far back to foil Godolphin’s classy Space Blues.
After a one-paced sixth versus elders in the Lennox S. (G2), Space Traveller stretched out to about nine furlongs in the Strensall S. (G3). His only career attempt beyond a mile, it’s also one of his best efforts, as he was a close third to Zaaki (now a celebrity in Australia) and Bangkok.
Back down in trip on Irish Champions Weekend, Space Traveller rallied from last to beat elders in the Boomerang Mile (G2) (sponsored by his owner, Clipper Logistics). With a relentless run, he collared Matterhorn. Back in fourth was Suedois, the 2017 Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) hero and Breeders’ Cup Mile fourth.
Space Traveller didn’t fare as well in his Breeders’ Cup Mile venture, winding up eighth behind Uni. A fast-run, two-turn mile was not going to give him enough time to build momentum, and it all unfolded too quickly for him.
Unfortunately, Space Traveller didn’t have a chance to keep moving forward at four. He raced just once in 2020, tiring to sixth in Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne S. (G1), and headed to the sidelines, reportedly with a knee issue.
Space Traveller resumed with a ring-rusty 10th in the March 27 Doncaster Mile, but promptly won next time out in the June 11 Ganton S. at York. Adding cheekpieces that day, he reeled in a tear-away frontrunner in a four-horse field.
Space Traveller regressed to eighth in the Summer Mile (G2) at Ascot, a lackluster display that saw him go off at 125-1 odds in his next start, the Sussex (G1) at Glorious Goodwood. Outpaced in elite mile company in that Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In,” Space Traveller still finished a decent sixth. He actually split the first and third from the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Order of Australia (fifth) and Lope Y Fernandez (seventh), on the soft going.
Back in better conditions at Arlington, Space Traveller can acquit himself respectably. His pedigree suggests that he is capable of outperforming his 20-1 odds. Sire Bated Breath has had success stateside, with the likes of Viadera and Gift List. And the requisite stamina can be supplied by his dam, a Galileo mare from a family steeped in black-type.
Santa Barbara – Beverly D.
Santa Barbara is trying to become just the second three-year-old filly to win the Beverly D., following the unique achievement of Euro Charline (2014).
Unlike Euro Charline, Santa Barbara has already mixed it up versus elders at the highest level, giving her collateral form with 9-5 favorite Mean Mary. Two starts back, she just missed in the Pretty Polly S. (G1) to Thundering Nights, who was an unlucky runner-up to Mean Mary in the New York S. (G2).
That effort, along with Santa Barbara’s background as a long-hyped daughter of Camelot, was covered in the international scouting report for the Belmont Oaks (G1).
The O’Brien pupil has been thrown into the deep end since her superb debut, in what could be described as on-the-job training. She took a big step forward in the Pretty Polly, and another in the Belmont Oaks, where she was locked up with nowhere to go until it was almost too late. Indeed, it would have been too late for most horses, but Santa Barbara had the explosive turn of foot to prevail.
Rather than advance to the next leg of the New York series in the Saratoga Oaks (G3), Santa Barbara rightly pursues this more prestigious prize. Yet her shadow loomed over the Spa last Sunday as the respective second and third from the Belmont Oaks, Con Lima and Higher Truth, ran one-two in the Saratoga Oaks to underscore her form.
Santa Barbara gets six pounds from her elders, and first-time Lasix. She also has a sentimental angle: her granddam, Starine, scored her signature win over this very Arlington course in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Santa Barbara has even closer Breeders’ Cup connections, as a half-sister to 2019 Filly & Mare Turf heroine Iridessa and aforementioned Mile upsetter Order of Australia.