Boisterous headlines an evenly-balanced 11-horse field for the 30th rendition of the Arlington Million and looks to give his trainer Shug McGaughey his first win on the prestigious race.
Interestingly enough, McGaughey will not be present on Saturday, because he will be at Saratoga saddling Point of entry for the G1 Sword Dancer.
The son of Distorted Humor has been very steady and close to winning his first G1 race. Two races ago, he closed fast at the G1 Manhattan Handicap but finished third 1.5 lengths behind Desert Blanc and Papaw Bodie.
On his last start—the G3 Arlington Handicap—he had to swing six wide and just missed catching the pace-setting Rahystrada. His losses are common to the top horses in the division—many of which are retired now—and on this race, he definitely looked the part of the favorite.
Jose Lezcano picks up the mount, since his past two regular riders, Alan Garcia and John Velazquez, are back in Saratoga to fulfill their commitments.
Little Mike will be the pace setter on the race. He is the fastest horse, and while he has yet to venture beyond nine furlongs, he has been able to stretch his speed and win the last two times he has run that far.
Ramon Dominguez picks up the mount and will be very dangerous, with virtually no challengers up front.
Rahystrada won wire-to-wire on his last, but he is at his best when stalking the pace. The lack of pace on the Manhattan Handicap allowed him to control the pace with his tactical speed and held on barely at the end over Boisterous.
He could be one of the early ones to go take on Little Mike and could take advantage of it. His inside post position could lessen his chances if he fails to get out early.
The European contingent making the overseas trip is comprised by Treasure Beach (GB), Wigmore Hall, Crackerjack King (IRE), Afsare (GB) and Colombian (IRE).
Treasure Beach (GB) is a multiple G1 winner but has not shown the same form this year. He has failed to show that great late kick on the home stretch and could be short for this race. Jamie Spencer picks up the mount, with his main rider Colm O'Donoghue going to Crackerjack King (IRE).
Crackerjack King (IRE) is an interesting prospect. A winner in seven-of-nine races lifetime in Italy, he has lost both times when the going on the turf track has not been good. He closes mowing down his competition on the stretch, and if there is a firm turf on Saturday, he has to be on all bets.
Wigmore Hall (IRE) finished fourth to Cape Blanco (IRE) on this race last year. He then won the G1 Northern Dancer at Woodbine but has failed to be a true factor in a race since. Just like Treasure Beach (GB), he just seems to be short for this race.
Afsare (GB) has been a steady performer who likes to track the leaders and always shows up to do a good race. He just seems to be a notch below his fellow European shippers, even losing to Crackerjack King (IRE) in Italy, two races back.
Colombian (IRE) is a stalker that likes to make his move midway through the race. He has been a steady performer, who has lost to top horses like So You Think at the G1 Prince of Wales in Royal Ascot last June.
Wilcox Inn and Cherokee Lord are two horses that seem to be just a class below the top horses here and would need to make the best race of their lives to win.
Vertiformer completes the field but could be a possible scratch since he is cross-entered in the American St. Leger Stakes, which is the seventh race of the card on Saturday. If he runs, he will need a good pace upfront for him to make his best race during the stretch.
The race is a hard call, since we know that Boisterous would be hard to beat over wet turf. In addition, Crackerjack King (IRE) needs a a firm going to do his best running.
The forecast for Arlington Park on Saturday calls for ideal conditions that should render the course possibly firm but moving to good more likely, with sunny skies and a high temperature in the mid-70s.
But, pardon the redundancy, all this will have 'little' to do with Little Mike, who should wire this field even when he is going to race 10 furlongs for the first time.
His win at the G1 Turf Classic in Churchill Downs was impressive over a stellar field, and that was at nine furlongs. He was pressed early by Turbo Compressor, who was worn down after a half-mile, and still had enough to win driving clear.
Dominguez will get him to relax early and will be able to stretch his speed the additional furlong he needs to go. Trainer Dale Romans wouldn't go for this if he didn't know he has a chance to win it; just remember what he has done with Shackleford.
Win - Little Mike
Place - Crackerjack King (IRE)
Show - Boisterous
The Arlington Million is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Races and the winner gets an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Turf.
The race will be the 11th race on the 12-race card and the final of three Grade I stakes races as part of the Arlington International Festival of Racing. Post time will be at 5:44 p.m. CT.
11th Race | Arlington Million | Grade I | Purse: $1,000,000 | Distance: 10 furlongs
Arlington Park - Turf | Post Time: 5:44 p.m. CT
|1||Rahystrada||8/G||Julien R. Leparoux||Byron G. Hughes||126||8-1|
|2||Boisterous||5/H||Jose Lezcano||Claude R. McGaughey III||126||4-1|
|3||Afsare (GB)||5/G||Kieren Fallon||Luca M. Cumani||126||6-1|
|4||Little Mike||5/G||Ramon A. Dominguez||Dale L. Romans||126||6-1|
|5||Colombian (IRE)||4/C||William T. Buick||John M. Gosden||126||8-1|
|6||Treasure Beach (GB)||4/C||Jamie P. Spencer||Aidan P. O'Brien||126||6-1|
|7||Wilcox Inn||4/C||James Graham||Michael Stidham||126||12-1|
|8||Wigmore Hall (IRE)||5/G||Hayley Turner||Michael L. Bell||126||12-1|
|9||Crackerjack King (IRE)||4/C||Colm O'Donoghue||Marco Botti||126||5-1|
|Cherokee Lord||5/G||Francisco C. Torres||Charlie Livesay||126||30-1|
|Vertiformer||5/H||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wayne M. Catalano||126||20-1|
Morning Line odds by drf.com.