Million-bound Tryster tops Godolphin squad for Arlington

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

July 14th, 2016

Godolphin has announced a solid team for the August 13 Arlington International Festival of Racing. As expected, Tryster is set for the Arlington Million (G1), but he will be joined by Sky Hunter. Very Special is confirmed for the Beverly D. (G1), and Secret Number adds a welcome touch of class to the American St Leger (G3).

In the lead-up to Million Day, we’ll profile all of the international contenders, but this can serve as a sneak preview of Team Godolphin.

Tryster, who made a name for himself on the British all-weather scene, emerged as a proper turf horse during the Dubai Carnival. After his third in the March 26 Dubai Turf (G1) (to Japan’s Real Steel and 2014 Beverly D. heroine Euro Charline), the Charlie Appleby trainee resurfaced with a fifth in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot. Since he needs good-to-firm ground to deploy his explosive turn of foot, it was never going to pan out for him on the soft going there. Tryster’s also going to find his deep-closing style a challenge at the European Group 1 level, where high-class rivals are going to get the jump on him. But American conditions should suit him well.

“He has come out of Ascot well and he deserves a crack at a decent prize in the States,” Appleby told

Group 2 veteran Sky Hunter has been competing over longer trips, but the Saeed bin Suroor trainee was adept over 10 furlongs earlier in his career. Unraced since beating only two home in the November 3 Melbourne Cup (G1), Sky Hunter has run well fresh, and the cutback in distance makes sense off the layoff.

“He is doing well in his work at home and I am looking forward to seeing him run,” bin Suroor told the team’s website.

Like Tryster, Very Special also burst onto the turf scene in the Dubai Carnival, although the bin Suroor pupil has an entirely different style as a bold front runner. Her British reappearance went much better than Tryster’s when she finished second in last Friday’s Falmouth (G1). As discussed in my recap, Very Special’s early speed makes her a real contender in the Beverly D.

“I was very happy with her run in the Falmouth last week,” bin Suroor said. “She had returned from Dubai in great form after winning there at G2 level. I expect her to be suited by the track at Arlington, this is the right race for her.”

Rounding out the bin Suroor trio is Group 3 scorer Secret Number, who like Sky Hunter, is also returning for the first time since an Australian venture. Unfortunately, Secret Number didn’t get into the Melbourne Cup field, but made the jaunt worthwhile with a troubled runner-up effort to Dandino in the November 7 Queen’s Cup (G3). His overall form is plenty good enough for the American St. Leger.

“Secret Number is a very consistent horse,” bin Suroor said, “and his recent form shows that he is up to this level. I was pleased with his second in Melbourne last time out, and we have brought him along slowly this season. The American St Leger is very suitable for him.”

With Aidan O’Brien sure to be well represented at Arlington as well, Chicagoland promises to be the battlefield between racing’s biggest global operators. The Coolmore battalion is yet to be firmed up, but it would be logical to see Deauville try to follow up his Belmont Derby (G1) heroics in the Secretariat (G1). Similarly, last year’s Secretariat romper, Highland Reel, could well have a return trip for Million 34 – but first he’s aiming for the July 23 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot. The improving Sir Isaac Newton may also have a crack at Arlington, while we can probably presume that O’Brien will have a filly in mind for the Beverly D.

Also under consideration for the Arlington Million is Mutakayyef. Trained by William Haggas, Sheikh Hamdan’s runner made it two-for-two as a gelding with an authoritative victory in Ascot’s Summer Mile (G2) last Saturday.

The international turnout for the Million may be enhanced by the fact that Flintshire’s staying home in New York. While Arlington’s lost the divisional leader, a robust invasion force would offer compensation.

The results of last Saturday’s Million Preview Day presented a mixed picture for the domestic team.

Although Kasaqui and Faufiler each produced a sparkling turn of foot to win the Arlington H. (G3) and Modesty H. (G3) respectively, they’re running into an historical obstacle: no Arlington winner has doubled up in the Million, and no Modesty winner has gone on to add the Beverly D. (England’s Legend won the 2002 Modesty a year after her Beverly D. score.)

Kasaqui’s success was reaffirming the key race status of the May 7 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1), where he clipped heels and fell (gratefully unscathed). But for that mishap, we’d have a better line on how he stacks up against the Woodford Reserve one-two, Divisidero and World Approval. Divisidero is definitely pointing for the Million. World Approval, fresh off a career-best victory in the United Nations (G1), is very much in the mix. Others who took a step forward from the Woodford Reserve are Midnight Storm and Tourist, the top two in the Shoemaker Mile (G1), and Danish Dynaformer, victorious in the Singspiel (G3) at Woodbine.

Faufiler became the third Just a Game (G1) also-ran to come back and run well, after Lexie Lou (who captured Woodbine’s Dance Smartly [G2]) and Irish Rookie (a creditable fourth in the Falmouth). In Faufiler’s case, the step up to 1 3/16 miles certainly suited the daughter of Galileo and Six Perfections. But she’s eligible to find a couple better in the Beverly D., including fellow import Sea Calisi.  

No American Derby winner has annexed the Secretariat since Gun Salute in 2005, and One Mean Man doesn’t figure to buck the trend. To be fair, he has the same admirable determination as his full sister, Mizz Money. But his form looks a cut below the top tier: note that Surgical Strike, who collared him in the Arlington Classic (G3), was subsequently fifth in the Belmont Derby.

Europeans have won three of four runnings of the American St Leger (G3), with only The Pizza Man preventing total domination in 2014. After the blanket finish to last Saturday’s Stars and Stripes, the internationals will be sitting pretty again. When you’ve got Greengrassofyoming winning a Grade 3 first off the Mike Maker claim, in a 4-way photo with The Pizza Man at the bottom of the superfecta, it’s hard to get too enthusiastic.

The Pizza Man just hasn’t found his groove yet this season. Never before in his career had he failed to crack the top three in three consecutive races. On the plus side, he was stretching out dramatically to 1 1/2 miles in his second start back from a layoff, and trainer Roger Brueggemann might have him just right on Million Day – the third start of his form cycle. But if you mapped it out on paper, this isn’t necessarily the ideal way to approach a Million title defense.

Tryster photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins