It’s all eyes on Arlington this Saturday with its triumvirate of Grade 1 turf races on the 34th Arlington Million race day and this is naturally where our review will focus along with the Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.
You can bet your bottom dollar that, if you stage a valuable graded race on the turf, you will receive a visit from Mr Aidan O’Brien and the Arlington Grade 1 races are no exception to this rule with stable representation in each of the three races.
The weather could be quite a key factor today as many of today’s runners in the turf races want fast ground. There is some rain forecast in the form of showers but the forecast does not appear to predict anything that should change the going from the presently declared firm.
We’ll commence with the Secretariat Stakes, a $450,000 Grade 1 for 3 year olds over a mile and a quarter of the turf track. I have to say that, for a grade 1 contest, it is not exactly stacked with top class horses and the Beyer figures bear this out with none of the nine starters having recorded a Beyer of more than 91 in their last race.
Aidan O’Brien’s representative in this race is Long Island Sound. He was made favourite for the $1.25m Belmont Park Derby Invitational but finished a disappointing 6th beaten 2 ½ lengths. O’Brien certainly knows what it takes to win this race having captured it last year with Highland Reel and he boasts a 60% strike rate in the last five renewals.
This race is not as strong as that Belmont Park race and Long Island Sound could well win it virtually by default. However, he does look a bit lacking in tactical speed on the tight US tracks when fast ground prevails and I don’t see any value in the 5/2 Morning Line price.
Beach Patrol is an obvious alternative and certainly ran ok last time out without stirring the blood and his Morning Line price of 2/1 also looks skinny in my book. This race looks too tough to call for me. If Surgical Strike moved to a big across-the-board price he would be interesting as he has some good course form but really this is a race to watch.
Next on the card is the Beverly D Stakes, a $700,000 Grade1 for fillies and mares over a mile and three sixteenths of the turf course. The race boasts a pretty hot favourite (7/5 Morning Line) in the form of the Martin Schwartz owned Sea Calisi. The horse was fully expected to win Belmont’s New York Stakes in june but had a terrible trip and ended up second to Dacita.
Sea Calisi had some very decent form at the highest level when trained in Europe and has been made favourite in each race she has won in the States. Her best form has been over a mile and a half so this may be a bit on the short side for her. As a result, connections are employing a pacemaker in the form of Elusive Million.
Sea Calisi could well go off odds on in this race but that would be too short for me with doubts about the trip and her bad draw of 13 in a field of 14. Looking elsewhere, Aidan O’Brien has 2 interesting entries in the form of the three year olds Coolmore and Ballydoyle. Ballydoyle looked a potential superstar as a 2 year old and his win over Minding is top class. However, he seems to be regressing at three while Coolmore doesn’t quite look good enough. In addition, three year olds don’t have a very good record in this race.
In a dangerous race for punters, it may be worth siding with Faufiler, who is very consistent and may be able to take advantage of any slips by the principals.
So we move on to the feature race of the card, the Arlington Million, a mile and a quarter turf race for three year olds and up. An added bonus for this race is that the winner is given a free entry to the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Strangely, in this 13 runner race, the first four horses in the Morning Line market are drawn in the four outside stalls, not a good place to be according to the stats. Indeed, no horse drawn 13 has ever won over this track and trip; this does not bode well for Deauville!
Mondialiste might be the best of the European shippers. He has plenty of good Stateside form and is versatile as to ground conditions and trip. He has taken time to come to hand this season but looks to be coming good at the right time and the Morning Line price of 8/1 looks reasonable value.
We end our review at Saratoga with the Fourstardave Handicap, a Grade 1 for three year olds and up over a mile of the inner turf track and worth a cool $500,000. Initially, this looked like being a potential walkover when Tepin was originally declared to run. However, once she was a non-starter, the race has become the veritable punters’ minefield.
You could make a case for virtually all of the nine runners in this race and equally you could raise doubts about each. The 5/2 favorite, Tourist comes here in good form following a second to Midnight Storm (earned a Beyer of 109) in the Shoemaker Mile and the form of that race has worked out well. However, you could hardly accuse Tourist of being a regular stakes winner and, as such, his price looks too short.