Top picks, exotics players & longshots for Arlington Million Day
Here are the horses who've attracted my interest during Arlington's blockbuster International Festival of Racing program. For detailed wagering guidance, be sure to check out the blogs by Ed DeRosa, James Scully and Vance Hanson.
The 6TH, PUCKER UP (G3)
Miss Chatelaine (#10) is obviously coming out of the deeper races, having finished unplaced behind superstar Lady Eli in both the Wonder Again and Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1). The Christophe Clement trainee rates as the likeliest winner, but post 10 tempers my enthusiasm a little.
Longshot: Giant Deduction (#2) steps up in class in just her third start, but she's out of the excellent Team Block matron Taxable Deduction, making her a half-sister to Suntracer, Free Fighter and 2012 Pucker Up winner Leading Astray. The Giant's Causeway filly might be on a mission just to try for a Grade 3 placing in an open-looking race, and thus an intriguing use, especially in the exotics.
The 7TH, AMERICAN ST LEGER (G3): I prefer the internationals, partly on class and partly because of the marathon trip.
Lucky Speed (#3) ran a better than appears fourth in his comeback in the Nijinsky (G2), and as a stoutly-bred German Derby (G1) winner, he should profit from the added ground.
Longshot: Panama Hat's (#1) close second to Kingfisher back in June really stands out, since Kingfisher came back to finish an unlucky second in the Ascot Gold Cup (G1). He's better than his 10-1 odds suggest. Of the Americans, Hyper is completely logical, but Highball (#11) might be a sneaky longshot at 15-1. He's usually thereabouts, as the Europeans would say, and as a son of Lemon Drop Kid, he's been crying out for long distances. The Wayne Catalano charge was a creditable third here in last summer's American Derby (G2) before finishing fifth in the Secretariat (G1).
The 8TH, SECRETARIAT (G1): Force the Pass might have been flattered by quickening off a slow pace in the Belmont Derby (G1). He might get a similar set-up here, but he's also facing better Europeans, so to me, it's "advantage internationals."
I think that Highland Reel (#6) is simply the best horse. While he might not be quite as push-button as Adelaide, who won last year for Aidan O'Brien, he's been competing at a higher level than Adelaide was. The 1 1/4-mile distance is perfect for him. I've been a fan since he burst onto the scene last year -- he's out of a full sister to one of my old favorites from Australia, Elvstroem. War Dispatch (#7) was beaten a couple of lengths by Highland Reel when they were second and third, respectively, in the French Derby (G1), where he had a little trouble in the stretch. I'm expecting War Dispatch to make more use of his early speed here, and the combination of a change in tactics and venue could help him bridge the gap. Still, Highland Reel looks very tough. Goldstream (#3) is the wild card, since I have no idea how he'll stack up outside of Italy.
Longshot: For the vertical exotics, I can see Closing Bell (#1) making the frame at 10-1. He was narrowly beaten in a blanket finish for the minors in the Belmont Derby, fresh off his maiden win, and Hall of Famer Bill Mott comes right back in this spot.
The 9TH, BEVERLY D. (G1): The Europeans hold the upper hand here. Not only is the squad exceptionally deep, but they're also meeting a U.S. team missing the two hottest turf distaffers around -- Lady Eli and Hard Not to Like. I've been a longtime Stephanie's Kitten fan, but she's worrying me by dropping so far back these days, and she can't get away with that.
Carla Bianca (#6) might be sitting on the race of her life for Dermot Weld. I've always liked her, so this is a biased view, but she did just beat Arlington Million (G1) runner Elleval last out in the Meld (G3). For some reason I have an inkling that this isn't an open-and-shut case for Euro Charline (#8). She makes all the sense in the world, and she's coming up to her title defense well. Still, she's going to be a shorter price than warranted in a contentious group. And this is a stronger European contingent than a year ago. Wedding Vow (#9) is the other legitimate win candidate, but she's likely to be overbet as an O'Brien horse, and I have a slight scruple about whether she's quite as good as her bare form implies. Secret Gesture (#10) is probably more of the type to use underneath. Unless she gets an inspired ride, she's liable to be outkicked.
Longshot: Watsdachances (#2) is the exotics player at 10-1, and I wouldn't be totally shocked even if she upset the apple cart. Although in the shadow of stablemate Stephanie's Kitten, Watsdachances might get herself in better position before closing late. She belongs in Grade 1 company, having finished second to future French classic winner Flotilla in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and fourth off a pedestrian pace in last fall's Flower Bowl Invitational (G1). She's sure to get a better pace set-up here. And as a dependable type, she'll run her race and uncork her typical triple-digit BRIS Late Pace ratings.
The 10TH, ARLINGTON MILLION (G1): The best European candidate (The Corsican) ended up skipping the race. As a result, the international team has more question marks, and that could play right into the hands of the Americans -- especially a French emigre now with Mott.
I've long had a high opinion of Triple Threat (#10), a well-bred son of the late, great German stallion Monsun, who flashed talent in his native France. A Group 2 winner at this 1 1/4-mile distance, he even came into consideration for the 2013 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1). Triple Threat didn't progress as hoped last year, but a change of scenery to the U.S. has reinvigorated him. I was delighted to see him capture his U.S. debut for Mott in the Monmouth (G2), despite a nine-month layoff and a slow pace. He missed his intended prep, the Arlington 'Cap, with a temperature. That might have been a blessing in disguise, since he runs well fresh. The illness couldn't have been too bad either; he was back working 5 furlongs July 27 and hasn't missed a beat since. The rollicking tempo, courtesy of Ramsey's rabbit Shining Copper, should set it up for him. Since he'll presumably drop back early, I'm not too worried about post 10.
Of Chad Brown's dynamic duo, I like Slumber (#2) better than morning-line favorite Big Blue Kitten (#4) at this distance. Not only did Slumber beat him convincingly in the Manhattan (G1), but he might have done it again in the United Nations (G1) if he hadn't run into traffic trouble.
Longshot: Bookrunner (#3) is an upset threat at 15-1 for successful international trainer Mikel Delzangles, for all the reasons outlined in my scouting report. And Irish shipper Elleval (#12) could be an exotics bomb at 30-1, given his late-running style and proficiency going 1 1/4 miles left-handed.