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Hawk’s Arlington Million Preview and Selections

August 17, 2014

We’re privileged to be trackside in Chicago for what promises to be an interesting day of racing – a horse racing Ryder Cup of sorts, with the Americans hosting the Europeans.

By the end of the day, expect to have some clues for the Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate, as well as some horses bound for Hong Kong in December.

I’ve previewed the four international races briefly. Hopefully we can find a winner as we tackle American racing – which, to be honest, I find the toughest of all jurisdictions to understand. Perhaps we might have a better insight after today…

LISTED AMERICAN ST LEGER (1 11/16m – a.2700m)

This race has been upgraded to black type status this year, only two years after it was initiated. Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock have won both runnings of the race, with subsequent Melbourne Cup third Jakkalberry in 2012 before DANDINO’s win last year. Dandino, of course, went on to finish a barnstorming second to Fawkner in the Caulfield Cup before a terrific fifth in Fiorente’s Melbourne Cup.

He has been dreadful in two runs this year – well, his Hardwicke Stakes run wasn’t too bad, but his effort at Newmarket last time out was woeful. Still, if he returns anywhere near his best, he should give these a drubbing. He’s the best of what looks a far superior European bunch here, and he can book his ticket to Melbourne.

If the Europeans are to be defeated, I think it will come from last year’s runner-up SUNTRACER. He has not won in almost two years, but his fast-finishing effort for third in the Stars and Stripes behind fellow runner THE PIZZA MAN off a soft tempo was enough to suggest he can threaten here.

Of the others, keep an eye on HAVANA BEAT – this is the sort of race the enigmatic galloper’s been looking for – while Coolmore’s EYE OF THE STORM is coming off a short back-up by European standards after winning the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown 10 days ago.


GRADE 1 SECRETARIAT STAKES (1 1/4m – a.2000m)

It would be a shock if the now half-Australian owned ADELAIDE did not win here. His formlines through Eagle Top look vastly superior here, while it’s arguable he wasn’t at his best in the Belmont Derby when just edged out by Mr Speaker. Fourth-placed Gailo Chop was hugely impressive in winning a Group 2 at Deauville in France a couple of days back, so the form has been franked. This shapes as an easier race and I think he should win here as he heads for the Cox Plate.

DIVINE OATH, to my eye, looks the best of the locals. He’s very lightly raced and is continuing to improve each start, and he won the American Derby over this course and distance last start, showing a terrific turn of foot off a hectic tempo to win comfortably. A repeat off a likely slower tempo, which may prove more suitable, would see him go close.

SHELDON was fifth behind Mr Speaker and Adelaide in the Belmont Derby, when he was closest at the finish. He had a few traffic problems, which may be his problem here again, but I’d expect him to run well.

TOURIST is the local fancy, and he’s likely to get things his own way up in front, but I’m not sure how his form stacks up and happy to take him on. Next best, HIGHBALL.


GRADE 1 BEVERLY D (1 3/16m – a.1900m)

It’s an open race, but I do think the three main chances pick themselves.

JUST THE JUDGE looks the one to beat on her best European form. Last year’s Irish 1000 Guineas winner has been good in two performances behind Thistle Bird recently, in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom and the Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh. She’s a ridiculous price in Europe given she’s likely to find this race quite suitable. Really fancy her.

STEPHANIE’S KITTEN is the best of the locals for mine, with three runs under her belt she looks ready to produce. She finished strongly for second behind SOMALI LEMONADE in the Diana at Saratoga last start, and with a slightly quicker tempo here, she should be in the firing line.

I think EURO CHARLINE is some chance, but I think she may not have the tactical speed and the turn of foot necessary for American racing. She’ll be up near the leaders, but I think she may be overcome late – especially stepping up in trip.

Next best TANNERY.


GRADE 1 ARLINGTON MILLION (1 1/4m – a.2000m)

A small but highly competitive field takes on one of America’s better turf races – an oxymoron, given the state of American turf racing, but still…

It’s hard for me to oppose SMOKING SUN here. I saw him in Singapore last start, when he was beaten by a horse I’m very familiar with in Dan Excel. That day, Dan Excel had the perfect run behind Tokei Halo, who set a cracking tempo, and it was hard for anything to make ground to defeat the first couple. It’s likely to set up differently here, and I think Smoking Sun can settle closer and unleash his terrific turn-of-foot.

SIDE GLANCE is probably second on the list of the world’s stalwart globetrotters these days, behind Red Cadeaux. And it is not as though Side Glance is a prolific winner – his only win outside the United Kingdom was the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington last year – but he always seems to pop up for thirds, fourths, fifths, enough to pay for his next trip. He was third here last year, and is coming off a third in the United Nations at Monmouth Park. Likely to be up on the speed, and depending on how much he is pestered by HARDEST CORE, he could prove a tough cookie to run down.

Last year’s winner REAL SOLUTION – who won the race after The Apache was disqualified – is coming into this race in much better form than last year. He is a last-start Grade 1 winner on Belmont Stakes day, taking out the Manhattan Stakes, and has had two months off since then. He did finish five lengths behind MAGICIAN in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but I doubt a mile and a half is his distance and I think he looks a place (or a show) chance here.

Next best Magician, who is awfully short in European markets and looks no value whatsoever.


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