Arlington Million winner Mondialiste seeks turnaround at York
Although the York S. serves as a course-and-distance prep for next month’s Juddmonte International (G1), it has also become a catapult to Arlington in recent years. Mondialiste finished an excellent second to Time Test here before capturing the Million.
In 2013, The Apache moved forward off a York fourth to finish first at Arlington, only to be demoted to second. York runner-up Grandeur also went to the Million, winding up seventh, and York third Wigmore Hall shipped for the American St Leger, closing belatedly for fifth.
The 2012 York had an influence in successive Millions. Afsare was second there and again at Arlington. Third-placer Side Glance didn’t cross the Atlantic that summer, but he later finished third in the 2013-14 runnings of the Million (as well as in the 2014 United Nations [G1]).
Similarly, the mare Secret Gesture was runner-up in the 2014 York, the year before her disqualification from her first-past-the-post in the Beverly D. (G1). And York winner Sheikhzayedroad himself ventured to Woodbine to land the Northern Dancer Turf (G1) next time out, underscoring the importance of this Group 2 for a North American context.
Mondialiste has twice used the “Knavesmire” as a springboard to success on this continent. The David O’Meara charge captured the 2015 Strensall (G3) at York on the way to plundering the Woodbine Mile (G1) and bursting late for second to Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). In 2016, the well-bred son of Galileo took a couple of starts to knock the rust off, but turned the corner in this very race, presaging his victory at Arlington.
Now seven, Mondialiste has yet to recover that level of form so far in 2017. Unlike last year, when his first two races back came in Group 1s, he hasn’t met the big guns on European soil this term, but still hasn’t hit the board. Two starts back, Mondialiste was fourth to Autocratic and Algometer in the May 25 Brigadier Gerard (G3), and he must find a way to reverse that form here. A return to the Knavesmire may help, although he’s coming off a loss at York, a sixth in the listed Ganton. Granted, that was a mile, and Mondialiste has been looking more of a 10-furlong horse.
If Mondialiste does spring back to life Saturday, perhaps he’ll run himself into a title defense, even though the two-week turnaround from York to the August 12 Million gives him less time between races than last year's three-week gap. After all, the Million was the original plan, as O’Meara told Dubai Racing Channel’s Laura King back in May. Yet an interim trip to Belmont Park was the first part of that design, and that didn’t come off. And in Michael Adolphson’s latest feature for The Blood-Horse, Mondialiste was not mentioned for the Million, with Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville (third last year), Jean-Claude Rouget’s Mekhtaal, and Godolphin’s Scottish all named as likely international candidates. Let’s hope for a better showing from Mondialiste at York in any event.
Autocratic, a Cheveley Park homebred by Dubawi, has been brought along steadily after Sir Michael Stoute’s fashion, and figures to continue climbing the ladder. The David Simcock-trained Algometer, who beat Dartmouth in a Newbury Group 3 last September, was a pleasing second to Autocratic in his reappearance on ground that was quick enough for him. With York riding “good” at last report, and following another fine performance when third to Godolphin’s Hawkbill and Frontiersman in the Princess of Wales’s (G2) last out, Algometer could do better in the rematch versus Autocratic. The cutback from 1 1/2 miles, though, may undercut that line of thought.
Irish raider Success Days is quite capable on rain-softened ground, as evidenced by the multiple Group 3s on his resume and his placings to the likes of Found, Fascinating Rock, and Zhukova. Whether York will be soft enough for him to win is another question, but the market currently has him shading Autocratic for favoritism. Success Days was most recently a half-length second to O’Brien’s Johannes Vermeer (an Arlington Million nominee) in the International (G3) at the Curragh.
Mondialiste isn’t the only Million nominee in the field, for trainer Andrew Balding has made Elbereth eligible for the Arlington feature as well as for the American St Leger (G3) on the undercard. Second in a heritage handicap (the John Smith’s Cup) over course and distance last summer, the progressive mare went on to place versus males in the Premio Jockey Club (G1) in Milan and the International Bosphorus Cup (G2) in Istanbul.
Elbereth has continued her trajectory in 2017, finishing second to O’Brien’s ill-fated Somehow in the Dahlia (G2) at Newmarket and fourth to Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup (G1). Her five-length loss in Royal Ascot’s listed Wolferton is better than it looks on paper. Drawn widest of all in post 16, she chased a solid pace and was in the hunt until meeting with interference late. Carrying 131 pounds against male handicappers was another factor. Balding has mentioned the Caulfield Cup (G1) as a long-range possibility for the proven shipper.
Hathal, long highly regarded, hasn’t quite fulfilled those hopes on course so far, but the William Haggas trainee is intriguing on the stretch-out to this distance for the first time. If pedigree wouldn’t necessarily suggest it for the son of Speightstown and 1000 Guineas (G1) winner Sleepytime, there are stamina influences further back, and Haggas must see it as worth his while to try. Hathal scored his biggest win in last September’s Superior Mile (G3) at Haydock, didn’t handle the class hike when eighth behind Minding and Ribchester in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1), but returned to action with a useful third to Mutakayyef in Ascot’s Summer Mile (G2).
Haggas also sends out Victory Bond, exiting a creditable seventh as the favorite in the John Smith’s Cup. Fellow class climber Central Square, ninth in the same heritage handicap for Roger Varian, was troubled when unplaced in the Wolferton. Last October, Central Square was a closing third to Autocratic, while spotting the winner 13 pounds, in a handicap at this track and trip.
Mondialiste photo courtesy Four Footed Fotos