Arlington Million scouting report: Belgian Bill
Belgian Bill, a tough handicapper with a proven ability to take his game abroad, makes his first Grade 1 attempt in his 44th lifetime start.
As that suggests, the seven-year-old faces significant class questions here. Trainer George Baker has been very forthcoming about the rationale for the Arlington trip:
"I've given him a stupid entry in the Arlington Million and I just feel that 'have horse will travel.' We have the massive advantage that while some horses will boil over traveling from Manton to Newbury, you could take him around the world five times and he would be fine.
"Sometimes the Million cuts up to six or seven runners, and while I'm not saying we will win it we could finish fourth or fifth and pick up some money - and the organizers help to pay your way."
On the plus side, Belgian Bill will enjoy the faster conditions here. Even though 1 1/4 miles is at the upper end of his distance range, he’s held his own at this trip in Dubai handicaps, and placed second in the 2011 Anatolia Trophy over the synthetic at Veliefendi. Three of his four lifetime stakes placings have come on synthetic. His lone turf stakes placing was a near-miss in a forgettable renewal of the 2013 Prix Quincey (G3) at Deauville.
Although not competing at the all-star level, Belgian Bill is one of those yeoman campaigners that delight connections with their honesty and work ethic, as Baker describes:
“He's the horse of a lifetime. I know it's a cliché, but he came to me when we first started and no one else wanted to buy him when I picked him up at the sales. He's taken me to all the right places and never, ever lets me down.”
Belgian Bill kicked off 2015 with a victory in a one-mile handicap in Dubai, beating Dark Emerald, who came back to win a pair of handicaps over the same Meydan course and finished second in the Zabeel Mile (G2):
In his latest start off a four-month vacation, Belgian Bill nearly landed a lucrative mile handicap at Glorious Goodwood. He was just overhauled in deep stretch by So Beloved (regarded by his trainer, David O’Meara, as a potential Group-class performer).
Belgian Bill is giving his ownership group a great experience at the Million. And whatever happens, he’ll give them a proper run, and you can’t ask for more than that.
By Exceed and Excel, Belgian Bill is out of a half-sister to someone American fans know well – multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Hawksley Hill, best known for finishing second to the resurgent Da Hoss in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.