While Saturday’s Grade 1 Arlington Million only drew a field of seven, which matches the smallest field in the 32-year history of the race, the race features a solid group including last year’s winner Real Solution and the defending Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician.
Real Solution actually crossed the wire second in last year’s running of the race but was bumped and carried out in deep stretch by The Apache, who finished a head in front but was disqualified for interference.
The Chad Brown trainee lost his next four starts but comes into the race off a sharp score in the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont Park in his most recent outing on June 7. The five-year-old is the second choice on the morning line at 5-2.
The likely betting favorite will be Magician, hero of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. However, the Aidan O’Brien trainee has won just one of his five starts since that win and is coming off a subpar effort in his most recent start at Ascot in the Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, where he was beaten 13 3/4 lengths.
The colt will be ridden by the trainer’s son Joseph, who said the colt did not handle the ground at Ascot very well. "Quick ground is essential to him really and he hasn't had that this year,” the jockey told At the Races. (h/t Sporting Life). “The ground was gone for him (in the King George) and I knew after a furlong I wasn't comfortable. We're hoping he can come back to that (Breeders' Cup) sort of form."
Smoking Sun (9-2) appears to have the best shot of pulling off the upset and is coming off a solid runner-up finish in the Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji.
"After he ran in the Singapore Cup, we thought that the Million was the next race for him," said Alan Cooper, racing manager for Flaxman Holdings, owner of the five-year-old son of Smart Strike. "It's been a longtime plan to come to Arlington. The distance is ideal for him, and he ships well," he told reporters.
The Arlington Million is supported by an outstanding race card that includes the $400,000 American St. Leger, the Grade 1 $500,000 Secretariat and the Grade 1 $750,000 Beverly D.
Here are my top three selections for the Arlington Million.
Win: Real Solution
Real Solution returns off a two-month break after matching his career top-speed figure while winning the Manhattan last out at Belmont Park. The Chad Brown trainee stalked the early pace, came with a seven-wide bid and finished strongly to get the win.
The third-place finisher Seek Again came back to win the Fourstardave (G2) at Saratoga in his next start on Aug. 9.
The son of Grade 1 turf winner Kitten's Joy crossed the wire second in this race last year, beaten by a head by The Apache, who was disqualified for interference in the stretch. He came back to run a decent third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and then was no match for Magician in the Breeders' Cup Turf, checking in ninth and beaten five lengths.
He comes in here sharper than his main rival and looks as if he may end up offering a bit more value for the top spot.
Magician won last fall's Breeders' Cup Turf but has only won one of his five starts since, a Group 3 at the Curragh in May. He followed that up with a couple of solid seconds in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup and Prince of Wales, then misfired last out in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) in his most recent outing.
The ground appeared softer that day than he generally likes, and although he won the Turf last year at 1 1/2 miles, the cut back here to 1 1/4 miles over firmer ground may suit him. His main knocks are his last outing and the short price. O'Brien won this race with Cape Blanco in 2011 and in 2005 with Powerscourt.
Show: Smoking Sun
Smoking Sun makes his U.S. debut for the Pascal Barry barn and makes his first go off a three-month break. His last start was one of his best, a runner-up finish in the Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji.
The five-year-old has won five of his 14 career starts, the best a Group 2 victory at Longchamp three back which was off a four-month layoff. He races from off the pace, and there is not much early speed in here, so he will need a good tactical ride from jockey Stephane Pasquier.
Morning line odds courtesy of Equibase
Follow Michael Dempsey on Twitter @turfnsport
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