Handicapping the International Festival of Racing at Arlington
Saturday’s International Festival of Racing features a trio of Grade 1 turf stakes including the 36th running Arlington Million. The 1 ¼-mile race awards an all-fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) as a “Win & You’re In” for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup and the Beverly D. serves the same capacity for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
I’m keen on #11 Oscar Performance in the Million. He’s listed as the 3-1 morning line favorite but I’m optimistic his price won’t be too short given the options facing bettors in the nine-horse field.
After missing second by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), Oscar Performance established a new course record when returning with a sharp win in the one-mile Poker (G3) at Belmont Park on June 17 and the four-year-old appears poised to carry his form forward today for Brian Lynch.
Ten furlongs certainly proved to be an ideal distance for Oscar Performance last year based upon sterling wins in the Belmont Derby (G1) and Secretariat (G1), the latter being a convincing score over Arlington’s turf, and I think the Kitten’s Joy colt has a chance to be the best male turf router in the country. He will take a step in that direction with a Million victory.
The Million anchors an All-Stakes Pick 4 and Pick 5. Here are my thoughts on the races:
8th race, Bruce D. Memorial
#7 The Tabulator broke his maiden by nine lengths on the Poly and is the one to beat in the Arlington return. #5 Nobrag Justfact enters on the upswing and is eligible to carry his improving turf form forward on a synthetic track.
#2 Sir Anthony and #8 Nottoway are intriguing at better odds. Sir Anthony turned in a sharp effort in a one-mile Arlington stakes three back and I like the removal of blinkers. Nottoway recorded a fine second versus allowance foes at Churchill and really took to the Poly last time, easily capturing a local allowance. Bred to appreciate added ground.
9th race, Secretariat
#9 Analyze It ran huge in his first three starts up to 1 1/16 miles but hasn’t fared as well in the last two at longer distances, basically shutting things down and relinquishing the advantage after rallying to the fore in the stretch. He appears to have a tactical edge over his main rivals today and can’t be dismissed from win consideration, but recent behavior is not encouraging.
#2 Platinum Warrior is my top choice in his U.S. debut. A convincing maiden scorer in his juvenile finale, the Galileo colt needed a couple of starts before stepping up at age 3 with a sharp Group 3 win at The Curragh two back, easily defeating subsequent Irish Derby (G1) victor Latrobe at today’s 1 ¼-mile distance. Platinum Warrior gained valuable experience when stepping up in class and distance for Irish Derby last time and the gray colt has plenty of upside for conditioner Michael Halford. And I like the addition of Joel Rosario on the 10-furlong specialist.
#12 Lucius Tiberius has a similar profile to my top choice; the European-based colt appears to discovering his best form presently and could be poised for a breakthrough here. The developing son of Camelot exits back-to-back handicap wins in Ireland for Aidan O’Brien, both coming at 1 ¼ miles, and further progression looks possible.
I’ll add the following runners to my main Pick 4 ticket: #1 Real Story, #3 Bandua, #10 Sniper Kitten and #13 Hunting Horn.
10th race, Beverly D
#4 Dona Bruja rates a slight edge and I will also use #7 Fourstar Crook on all tickets.
Dona Bruja opened 2018 with an excellent four-length tally in the Endeavour (G3) at Tampa and reportedly didn’t like the turf at Keeneland when fifth in the Jenny Wiley (G1) last time. She ran well at Arlington last year, including a close dead-heat second in the Beverly D, and I expect strong effort on the front end.
Chad Brown will send four postward and Fourstar Crook will be looking to mow her rivals down in the stretch. The New York-bred mare has really come on at age 6, recording a pair of Grade 1 wins and a second in the Jenny Wiley, and her massive BRIS Late Pace numbers reach as high as 115. Hot-riding Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard.
I’m against stablemate Sistercharlie, who didn’t look as sharp in the last two outings as she did winning the Jenny Wiley in April. She was fortunate to get up by a nose over Ultra Brat in the Diana (G1) last out but the best horse in the race, third-placer A Raving Beauty, would’ve easily won if she hadn’t experienced trouble. I’ll just watch for now with Sistercharlie.
11th race, Million
Oscar Performance will be singled on my main tickets but I will save in the Pick 4 with #5 Century Dream, an English-based colt who is coming on at age 4 for Simon Crisford; and #10 Robert Bruce, a classy Chilean import for Brown who lost all chance when stymied by traffic in the Manhattan (G1).
12th race, Pucker Up (G3)
I like #2 Princess Warrior, who is listed at 30-1 on the morning line for her third turf start. A multiple graded-placed filly on dirt, the daughter of Midshipman made her turf debut in the Herecomesthebride (G3) at Gulfstream in March and had to check in traffic during the stretch drive before finishing fast for fourth.
Didn’t understand why she returned to the main track for her next four starts but Kenny McPeek finally got Princess Warrior back on turf last time and the bay lass should benefit from the confidence-building allowance victory, registering a 107 BRIS Late Pace rating in the process. Rosario picks up the mount and Princess Warrior won’t be facing the stiffest competition, with her main rival stuck on the far outside. I’m tabbing an upset.
#13 Beyond Blame may be able to overcome post 13 and will be included on tickets following a fine win in the Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs. She has the right connections (Brad Cox and Florent Geroux).
#1 Dark Artist, #3 Pamina, #6 A.A. Azula’s Arch and #10 Secret Message will be added as savers.
50-cent Pick 5 (races 8-12):
2,5,7,8 with 2,9,12 with 3,4 with 11 with 2,13 ($24)
50-cent Pick 4 (races 9-12)
1,2,3,9,10,12,13 with 3,4 with 11 with 1,2,3,6,10,13 ($42)
2,9,12 with 3,4 with 5,10 with 2,13 ($12)
Total = $78