Arlington Million betting strategy focuses on Deauville

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TwinSpires Staff

August 10th, 2017


Hard to believe but the Arlington Million (G1) will be run for the 35th time on Saturday at Arlington Park. Despite a million dollars not being what it used to be, it still packs a punch on the international scene thanks to the indefatigable Richard Duchossois whose force of personality keeps the Million in its target spot for domestic and international turf stars.

The first Million was a memorable one when legendary JOHN HENRY (Ole Bob Bowers) improbably won a nose photo over THE BART (Le Fabuleux). Shoemaker over Delahoussaye; pretty good stuff. Eventually, the international horses responded to the purse money available and they have sent over many of their top runners to compete.

1 1/4 miles is a bit of an unusual distance in Europe where many race progressions jump from a mile to a mile and a half. A mile and quarter is a bit of an outlier with a few Group one races run at the distance but not too many. The prospect of an attractive purse and distance coupled with firm going (maybe?) has helped keep the Million on the radar for many trainers.

This year’s renewal sees a field of 13 try to negotiate the distance on ground that has not been used very often until Saturday. The big field will be problematic since it is a very tight start with starting gate at the end of the far turn but still on the curve. A shorter field enables them to move the starters to the outside stalls but not this year. Similar to the Kentucky Derby (G1), the inside posts can be problematic since they can easily get squeezed getting straightened away from the gate.

There are three big international stars shipping in for the race (the fourth, Scottish, was scratched with an injury Thursday morning). Aidan O’Brien brings in DEAUVILLE (Galileo) and he almost won last year’s renewal as a three-year-old against older rivals. He thrived on the firm ground but has shown an ability to handle any ground as long as it is not too soft. He has had six starts this year and shows a win at Chester in the Huxley Stakes (G3) at a similar distance around a tight, left-handed course like he will see on Saturday.

O’Brien is not taking any chances this year and has booked Ryan Moore to ride who will break from post 5. If it comes down to a street fight in the stretch, Moore finishes as well as anyone in the game.

Right next to Deauville in the gate is FANCIFUL ANGEL (Dark Angel) from Marco Botti. On form, he looks hopelessly outclassed but he does show a win in a handicap race at Meydan going a mile this past January and adds Lasix for the first time. He’s 30 to 1 on the morning line.

The final member of the international contingent is MEKHTAAL (Sea the Stars) from Jean-Claude Rouget, France’s leading trainer by wins. He won a Group 1 stakes race going nine furlongs at Chantilly two starts back then finished right behind Scottish in sixth in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) last out. He has a Group 2 stakes win at today’s distance and can handle any ground. Post 13 does not help but Frankie Dettori is back from an injury and we always root for him to see his flying dismount in the winner’s circle when he wins.

Using the simplistic analysis of the European turf horses are better than ours, the best from Europe should win this more often than not and I think that Deauville will be awfully tough today. He almost won it last year from post 11 when he stalked a slow (-23, -17) pace with Seamie Heffernan. Ryan Moore is the first-string rider for Aidan O’Brien and he gets the mount back after O’Brien’s son 19-year-old son, Donnacha, rode him last out in Ireland while trying to make all the running with a 138-pound impost.

We are going to go with a big win bet on Deauville and straight exactas over Mekhtaal and Beach Patrol.