Returning to the blog for the Arlington International Festival of Racing is Davy Lane who you may remember had every selection in the frame last year at Arlington and also tipped up last year's Melbourne Cup winner on these pages. Davy was a winner of Channel 4 Racing's Top Tipster at Royal Ascot this year. Follow Davy on @LosCharruas.
One Mile and a Quarter (Turf)
US $1m, Grade 1
1848 local, 2348 BST, 0848 AEST
ML odds cited.
Timeform card link
There is a curious melange of handicap overachievers and Group level underachievers in this year's Million. The trainers on the other hand are unquestionably top drawer -- Chad Brown, Graham Motion and Bill Mott from the States and Mikel Delzangles, John Gosden and Andreas Wohler from Europe. No disrespect to George Baker and David Marnane or their industrious handicappers, but one would expect the winner to come from the barn of one of the more renowned handlers. Of the rest, Michael Maker's entrant is interesting. The presence of the Walter Swinburn owned Legendary may prompt some sentimental punts. And The Pizza Man (who dispatched Dandino in last year's St Leger) is a home town favourite and will take some money. Most American money is likely to be down on the Chad Brown pair of Slumber and Big Blue Kitten and with British punters having their heads turned by the presence of William Buick on a John Gosden horse, my idea of the winner should return with a healthy starting price.
The British and Irish Handicappers
13. Belgian Bill 30/1 and 12. Elleval 30/1 have been tenacious competitors at Meydan and on the scene in respectable Listed and Group races. Connections were obviously encouraged with how last year's seven runner contest panned out, but the form book and their super wide draws (13 and 12, respectively) greatly diminishes their winning chances. The UK Each Way prices may be tempting, but if you insist on backing them, then slipping one of them into a US Pools Superfecta may prove a more profitable angle.
The American and Canadian Also Rans
So what about the Morning Line double digit odds contenders from North America? There are five of them. 6. Legendary 15/1, 8. Quiet Force 15/1, 9. Shinning Copper 30/1, 7. The Pizza Man 10/1 and 1. Up with the Birds 12/1. In theory none of them should trouble the judge. This will not stop them chasing the big purse or auditioning for a late stud career. I generallly like to map out a race within a race of those I am inclined to toss and then use whichever comes out on top in random each way and pool bets.
The Jamaica Handicap ain't what it used to be, so I suspect the connections of 1. Up with the Birds would like a second Group I win to embellish their horse's stud credentials. Running in the Japan Cup last year was a stretch. Sending the horse to Graham Motion this year was smart. Aiming at the Million -- a so called "soft" Group I -- is a sensible move. But a comprehensive three-length defeat to Quiet Force in the Arlington Handicap prep. last month suggests not even Graham Motion can turn every sow's ear into a silk purse.
9. Shining Copper is the Chad Brown rabbit. The 5 year old gelding will ensure a true run race and may also rattle two of the other more legitimate contenders -- Maverick Wave and The Pizza Man -- who like to have their own way up front.
7. The Pizza Man was cross entered for the US St Leger, but connections opted for the Million. Unfortunately, The Pizza Man is not good enough to win the three races in one he will endure at Arlington. By the time The Pizza Man has caught Chad Brown's rabbit, William Buick's mount will be forcing him to race again around the far turn. He will then get swamped down the stretch.
Nothing stands out about the 6. Legendary other than he is owned by Walter Swinburn and is by Exceed and Excel. The 6 year old gelding had patchy UK form and has always came up a buck short state side, but for a Grade III win over Up with the Birds in yielding ground at Belmont last October.
The horse I have scribbled on to my short list from the also ran pack is 8. Quiet Force. Quiet Force won the Arlington Handicap, the prep. race for this over 1m 11/2 f last month. He is a lightly raced 5 year old entire by Dynaformer. He has had July Cup winner Undrafted behind him in a 7f sprint over the Keeneland Polytrack. He is going further with each race. And his trainer Michael Maker knows how to prepare winners at this meeting.
The Chad Brown Contingent
The Chad Brown pair of 2. Slumber 7/2 and 4. Big Blue Kitten 3/1 are the Morning Line favourites. (Shining Copper I have already discussed.) I can't have Big Blue Kitten because I can't banish that image of him failing to chase down Hillstar at Woodbine last year. Hillstar is just your standard issue Group III English horse. I expect Slumber to finish ahead of his stable mate, despite Big Blue Kitten having his number last time out in the UN stakes at Monmouth. Slumber was conceding 5 lbs that day. Irad Ortiz, Jr. rides Slumber. The Puerto Rican is the best young jockey riding in the US today. He should be good enough to get Slumber a bigger piece of the purse that his stablemate.
The British, French and German Shippers
3. Bookrunner 15/1 and 5. Wake Forest 12/1 have cosy draws and shrewd big time classic winning trainers, yet both are "overs" per the Morning Line oddsmakers at Arlington. I had initially discounted Bookrunner because I saw his declaration as an excuse to give US based owner a day out in Chicago. The booking of Gerald Mosse forced me to reevaluate the form, yet I still find it hard to make a winning case for the son of Tiznow. He gets drugged up on lasix for the first time, so could sneak into Superfecta.
Wake Forest on the other hand does have appeal. His latest victory in a Group III at Hamburg was facile. The Racing Post incorrectly cited the winning margin at 3/4 lengths when in fact it was 1 3/4 lengths. A potentially costly transcription error for punters from the UK racing paper of record. One has to watch that Hamburg race back to get an appreciation of just how formidable Wake Forest could be in the Million. Wohler's stable jockey, Eddie Pedroza had his ass high in the air and was barely moving while the others including one time Aidan O'Brien charge Giovanni Baldini were flat to the boards behind him. Wohler has won the Million before. His barn is hot. His jockey is hot. His horse is hot. Wake Forest belongs high on the shortlist. Wake Forest also gets lasix. This is seriously significant as this will prevent Wake Forest from having a stud career in Germany. However, the connections also own the Newsells Park Stud in England and Maine Chance Farms in South Africa, so I suspect a non-German stud trajectory has already been plotted for this son of Sir Percy.
11. Maverick Wave 8/1 is also a contender and will be using the performance enhancing juice. He won last time out around Chester, England's tightest track. He is trained by the best trainer in England, John Gosden. He has Dubai World Cup winning jockey William Buick aboard. And reports from Arlington suggest he looks a picture. But Maverick Wave has not raced since early May. He is drawn wide. He likes to front run and will have a rabbit and a pizza man to contend with down the backstretch. I also sense his entry could be partly about Godolphin wanting to have a runner in the race. The chestnut colt is not my idea of the winner, but if John Gosden - who should be busy preparing Golden Horn for the Juddmonte at York next week - materializes at Arlington on Saturday, I may reevaluate.
The son of Monsun 10. Triple Threat 6/1 is my idea of the winner. Once a wise guy horse in Europe -- but one who often found himself racing in very soft or yielding conditions -- Triple Threat's eighth place finish, 3 3/4 lengths behind Japanese Derby winner Kizuna in the Prix Niel two years ago, with English Derby winner Ruler of the World and Hong Kong Vase winner and second-placed Arc finisher, Flintshire, just ahead, is easily the best form on offer here. Moreover, Bill Mott's barn is smoking hot right now. Triple Threat has won coming from off the pace, so being drawn 10 will suit and although I have concerns about the limited home stretch of 1,028 feet, I have faith in Jose Lezcano (who won on him in his first US outing) to get the fractions right.
The clincher for me was buried in the nominations. Triple Threat was sent to the US for a change of scenery and to forget about chasing Cirrus des Aigles through the French mud. He spent the Winter and Spring at a farm in the Carolinas recharging his batteries. He was NOT among the nominations when they first closed on May 23rd. But Bill Mott eventually realised what he had and Team Valor subsequently paid the late nomination fee. This suggests to me the horse is coming good fast. That's the horse y'all got to be on!
2. Slumber - Chad Brown - Irad Ortiz, Jr.
3. Bookrunner - Mikel Delzangles - Gerald Mosse
5. Wake Forest - Andreas Wohler - Eduardo Pedroza
8. Quiet Force - Michael J. Maker - Robby Albarado
10. Triple Threat - William I. Mott - Jose Lezcano
11. Maverick Wave - John Gosden - William Buick
13. Belgian Bill - George Baker - Jamie Spencer
Win & EW - 10. Triple Threat - US-ML 6/1; 9/1 RaceBets
Win & EW - 5. Wake Forest US-ML 12/1; 12/1 Ladbrokes
Superfecta 5 x 2 Dollar Units
10, 5, 2, 11
5, 10, 2, 11
10, 5, 2, 3
5, 10, 2, 8
5, 10, 2, 13
Use 10. Triple Threat and 5. Wake Forest in across the card each-way multiples.