Mucciolo’s Graded Plays for Million Day

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August 10th, 2018

The biggest racing date on the Arlington calendar is Saturday. The 36th Arlington Million Stakes highlights a 12-race card, with the four of the graded kind. I will take a look at each:

Secretariat (G1)

Sophomores will go 1 ¼ miles on the turf with 13 signed on. A fine European contingent of five will contest the race and I have major intrigue in one of them. BANDUA ships in for expert horseman Dermot Weld and sits at 20-1 on the morning-line.

Weld saddled the 2008 winner of this event with Winchester. And while Bandua has not yet proven himself at the Grade 1 level, the widely-respected conditioner did toss him into the Irish Derby (Ire-G1) in a third lifetime run after considering a bid in the Belmont S. (G1) this spring. He obviously thinks highly of the colt.

Bandua faces a strong field including Belmont Derby (G1) second Analyzie It and third-placer Hunting Horn. But I will take my chances at a big price with Bandua and pilot William Buick.

Beverly D. (G1)

Nine fillies and mares will contest the 1 3/16-miles affair. The race is a very competitive handicapping assignment on paper and we could see a blanket finish at the wire.

DADDY’S LIL DARLING waltzed home a facile heroine in the Modesty H. (G3) on this course most recently and might get overlooked in the wagering. Kenny McPeek trainee is a Grade 1 victress with class and consistency, combined with a fine draw along the rail. Scat Daddy filly has shown to be more tractable in two of her trio of races in 2018. And she was close to 9-5 choice Sistercharlie two back at a similar distance in the New York H. (G2).

Brian Hernandez, Jr. gets the nod and will have the filly tracking while saving ground. I think Daddy’s Lil Darling will also get first run on the late runners with a clear trip today.

Million (G1)

A good field of 11 will travel 10 furlongs on the Arlington lawn in the headliner. I gave a trio serious consideration for the top prize and will give mention to each.

Morning-line choice OSCAR PERFORMANCE is a deserved favorite and was a sensational winner in his seasonal debut in the Poker (G3). Kitten’s Joy colt drilled the mile on firm turf in a blurring 1:31 1/5 and will be super tough to deny with anything similar today.

The widest post and his ability to perform as well going this distance are slight concerns.

ROBERT BRUCE is a four-time Group 1 victor who comes off his lone setback when beaten a length in the Manhattan (G1). Chad Brown trainee gets off the rail which he will appreciate after a tricky voyage at Belmont when buried inside.

Dark bay colt receives a positive rider change to Irad Ortiz Jr. But he also gets a potentially tough draw in the 10-hole.

CENTURY DREAM surely appears to be the top Euro import in the cast. Simon Crisford trainee has never been better in running very well against some of the most talented European milers.

Cape Cross colt should handle, and possibly thrive, going 1 ¼ miles at Arlington coming off a pair of mile tests at Royal Ascot. He gets Lasix and Buick comes along for the voyage. The ability of Century Dream to handle firm turf is a question mark.

Handy sort is a generous 15-1 on the morning-line, though.

Pucker Up (G3)

Finale on a huge racing day pits a baker’s dozen of sophomore fillies going nine grassy panels. I like a pair in this race and will close out the day with them.

DARK ARTIST has been especially sharp since removing blinkers three back. Paynter filly has won all three, including the last two in the stakes ranks at Monmouth Park displaying a fine turn of foot (101 and 106 BRIS Late Pace numbers).

Jane Cibelli charge draws the rail to save ground early on and also has the positional speed to secure a good spot. I think it’s a positive that Trevor McCarthy, who was in the controls for the last two, retains the mount.

A. A. AZULA’S ARCH has very good 2018 form and raced on the lawn for the initial time at Woodbine last out. Canadian invader was a game second in the Ontario Colleen (G3) to the talented Got Stormy, who won her third in succession for Mark Casse.

A bay daughter of Arch, A. A. Azua’s Arch  has won from on or off the pace and has every reason to improve second time on the green.