It's a big day all across the country, but especially in Chicago for the Arlington International Festival of Racing (aka Million Day). If you haven't checked it out already, click on over to Siva&Bale3's look at the action from Saratoga, Del Mar and Arlington Park. He's on the ground at Del Mar this weekend and has some great thoughts on all the action taking place this weekend.
The morning changes are starting to trickle in across the internet. Below are links to the scratches at the three major tracks today, via Equibase:
And some thoughts from yours truly on the big four races at Arlington today:
American St. Leger
It's hard not to like Dandino (GB) a whole lot in the American St. Leger; if he can get a mile and a half at Ascot and Newmarket then he'll have no trouble at a mile and 11/16ths at Arlington. Furthermore, he's run well over firmer surfaces in his career, including this May at Newmarket where the ground was rated "Good" but was on the firmer.
I really liked the form of Ioya Bigtime last summer and fall but he's fallen off pretty badly in his recent starts and I'm not sure would like him at 15/1, let alone his morning line odds of 8/1.
If I'm looking for a decent priced American colt to spring the upset in this race, I'm gonna stare intently in the direction of Najjaar. He hasn't done a whole lot of winning in his recent career but he's absolutely bred to love longer distances. Unfortunately for Najjaar, we don't care a whole lot of race at a mile and a half or longer on the lawn. I love Najjaar at his morning line odds of 6/1 and will probably be a buyer all the way down to the 9/2 to 4/1 range.
In the Secretariat, the really intriguing colt in my eyes is the Visiyani (FR) in his first start on North American soil. This colt might not have a Group win to his name but he's run competitively in all of his starts in France at the top courses in the country. I suppose one could be concerned at this colt's unfamiliarity with races longer than a mile, but considering the more demanding conditions at courses like Longchamp, and the stamina pouring through the bloodlines on both sides of the pedigree (especially the dam); I'm not too concerned about and extra quarter of a mile for this guy. I think he needs to step up his game in this race to win, but I think the conditions might be ripe for a big run.
First Cornerstone is another intriguing former invader for Team Valor. He's a son of Arc winner Hurricane Run and he's shown an ability in the past to put up big efforts. He flopped pretty badly in the French Darby at Chantilly when he raced towards the rear of the field and did little to make up any ground during the course of the race. I suppose he might improve on firmer ground but the best performances of his career came over heavy ground; I'd take the longer odds on Visiyani.
Jack Milton makes a lot of sense when you consider his great run of form and the sparkling connections in his corner. And, really, 3/1 wouldn't be a bad price given this field.
I'll probably take a shot with Visiyani as I think he'll do well with the extra ground here in North America and perhaps throw him into an exacta above and below Jack Milton.
As much as I like Marketing Mix, she's got some speed to her inside and her outside that could make things a big contentious in the early stages. I also think the trio of Euro shippers are really top notch contenders to win this race. Duntle (IRE), Dank (GB) and Gifted Girl (IRE) have run well against top quality competition in Europe and have demonstrated the ability to run well over firmer ground, something that I think is a huge feather in their caps, were horses to actually wear caps. Which they don't.
Duntle won the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown last fall but was DQ'd after the stewards took a look at the finish. She's a multiple group stakes winning filly and finished second to the multiple Group 1 winner Elusive Kate in her most recent race, the G1-Prix Rothschild at Deauville. That on its own is enough to put her into the "major contender" category for me.
Out of the American contingent in the big four races at Arlington on Saturday, I think Jack Milton has the best shot of coming out on top. In the other three races, I see the typical Euro imports as very tough, even the ones that "on paper" look like 15/1 shots.
Little Mike has shown he can win from off the pace, as he did in the Breeders' Cup Turf last fall, so I don't think the inclusion of Nates Mineshaft and his early speed is really a death knell for a chance of a repeat. On the other hand, I'm not sure Little Mike's form is at the same spot as it was a year ago, and I think that's a bigger obstacle to success today than anything else.
Grandeur looks like a solid rival but his outside post will prevent William Buick from covering up in the early stages and some European runners get a bit rank if they can't find cover. In his three prior races in North America, he drew in the middle to inside of the pack, a luxury he won't have today.
I think The Apache and Mull of Killough provide decent wagering opportunities at 6/1 and 12/1, respectively, on the morning line. And Rahystrada, what a consistent old pro he is; loves Arlington and seems to always find a way into the top three. He's tough to leave off any ticket if your playing a tri or super in the Million.
Good luck! This is your weekend open thread.