As a fan of racing and wagering, Arlington Million day is always one of my favorite events of the year--solid, deep fields, top horses from all over Europe, and some of the best turf racing offered in this country. The Million is perhaps my favorite turf race of the season, other than the Breeders' Cup races.
There are also many other big races from around the nation this weekend as well, including the Whitney, Test and Vanderbilt from Saratoga, and the Bing Crosby and Clement Hirsch from Del Mar, the latter featuring the undefeated Zenyatta. Let touch on a few of these and we can talk more in depth about all of them on Friday's live blog, which begins at noon.
This year the American's seem to have an edge, especially with the presence of Gio Ponti, Einstein and Presious Passion, who have a total of six grade I wins between them this season alone. It's hard to dismiss Gio Ponti since he fires almost every time and has won two of three starts at this distance. He also has run well on both firm and soft turf, even though the weather is supposed to be fine for Saturday. Christophe Clement has won nearly every big turf race this country has to offer, including the last two editions of the Beverly D., but has never won a Million. This would seem to be his best shot.
Einstein will certainly be tough too and Presious Passion is dangerous on the front end if Recapturetheglory doesn't go with him. Just as Well deserves consideration too after coming off a win on the course in the Arlington Classic. Jonathan Sheppard owns and trains the son of A.P. Indy, which is never a bad thing. He will be a big price. As for the Euros, I like Cima de Triomphe the best of the three. He's a horse who either wins or doesn't fire. The Italian Derby winner won a group II two starts back in England and ran fourth to Sea the Stars in the Coral-Eclipse last out. He has been settling in nicely at Arlington for more than week.
The Pick: It's hard to separate many of these, so I'll just give out an exacta box: Gio Ponti, Just as Well and Cima de Triomphe. I'll leave out Einstein at my own risk.
Commentator goes for his third Whitney win and has been working lights out coming into the race. Had it not been for the entry of Tizway, it would be very hard to pick against the 8-year-old star. But the speedy Tizway won't let him alone on the lead and could challenge him enough to set up one of the horses stalking the pace. A couple good candidates are Smooth Air and and Asiatic Boy.
Smooth Air has been very consistent this season, finishing first or second in all four starts. He makes his second start for new trainer Chad Brown and should get a nice, ground-saving trip from post 1, and have first run at Commentator in the stretch. He'll be a nice price. Asiatic Boy makes his third start for Kiaran McLaughlin in the U.S. and seems to be right on the edge of winning a big one over ere. He could have very easily won the Stephen Foster. The cut back in distance from the Suburban could help. Dry Martini also seems to be in his best form in quite a while and should be considered.
The Pick: I'll take a stab with Smooth Air to win and box him in an exacta with Commentator and Asiatic Boy.
Zenyatta tries to stay undefeated in a race she won the year before. It's always difficult to pick against her and the race isn't a great one from a betting perspective, but I'll try to make a case for Life is Sweet, her stablemate and the probable second choice.
Life is Sweet was second by less than two lengths to Zenyatta in the Milady in May, then came back to run a solid third against males in the Gold Cup. She will make her first start at Del Mar, but has been training lights over the surface, as evidenced by her huge work on Aug. 2. A cutback to 1 1/16 miles may be to her advantage and if she likes the surface, she could get the jump on Zenyatta.
The Pick: What the heck, I'll take a stab with a small win bet on Life is Sweet and also box her in a trifecta with Zenyatta and Dawn After Dawn, who had the lead at the top of the stretch in the 1 1/8-mile Vanity before finishing third.
Other quick picks for the weekend: Take the Points in the Secretariat, Black Mamba in the Beverly D., and Fabulous Strike in the Vanderbilt.
Good luck to all. Who do you like?