Arlington Adventure

Arlington Million Contender The Apache in the Arlington Paddock on Aug. 16

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL (Aug. 15, 2013) -- Arlington Park, a pristine mothership of a racetrack planted firmly in the middle of Northwest Chicagoland, is host once each year to the grand and glorious sort of event the place was made for. During the International Festival of Racing, the track comes alive with imported contenders and top American turf prospects, the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (gr. IT) heading up top-quality stakes action including the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) and Beverly D. (gr. IT).

Argentinian Import Indy Point is a Top Contender for the Arlington Million

On a picture-perfect summer morning before the one-day extravaganza, horsemen sent runners through their final preparations as a cool breeze ruffled the flags of various countries on the grandstand balconies. Million contenders, headed by defending victor Little Mike, were front and center with brisk gallops over the main track's all weather surface. The action began around 6:30 a.m. CDT, when international contenders emerged from Barn 28, their quarantine home away from home. Yvonne Jacques' Grandeur, 7-2 favorite on the Million morning line, headed the procession with a fellow Jeremy Noseda trainee--Charles Fox's Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) contender Yeager--at his side.

Grandeur (red towel) and Yeager Head to the Track

Next came Essafinaat Limited's South African star The Apache, gearing up for a big effort in the Million for trainer Mike de Kock. The plain bay 6-year-old is nevertheless a striking specimen, and knows it. He was very attuned to the click of camera shutters, and readily turned his head for photographers as he strolled on a leisurely route through the paddock to the oval.  

The procession featured a who's who of international racing, including trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who accompanied Million entrant Hunter's Light for Godolphin Racing.

Hunter's Light, a Texting Groom, and Trainer Saeed bin Suroor

Also headed to the track were Invictus' Mull of Killough--who had an eventful morning as he was reportedly cast in his stall in the early hours, but nevertheless was fine to train--and Pearl Bloodstock Limited's Side Glance, who gave just that as he walked past.

Mull of Killough Looks OK After Eventful AM

On the track, Flaxman Holdings' Beverly D. runner Duntle galloped strongly for trainer David Wachman. In the paddock, Million contender Indy Point schooled with Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. And back in Barn 1, a capable crew prepped Little Mike for his 8:30 a.m. appearance while Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans enjoyed the horsemen's breakfast (which, complete with fresh fruit and a pancake station, was extremely delicious).

Beverly D. Entrant Duntle Speeds Along Through a Brisk Gallop

Little Mike heads into the Million 0-for-3 this year, with two disappointing performances in Dubai and a fourth in the July 6 United Nations (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park to his credit for owner Priscilla Vaccarezza. The 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) victor took the Million last season with a wire-to-wire run before going on to his Breeders' Cup success over Point of Entry.

Romans said Little Mike is a bigger, stronger horse than he was last year, and that his hopes are high for history-making consecutive Million scores from the 6-year-old Spanish Steps gelding (for a video interview with Big D, click here). Little Mike arrived at Arlington late afternoon Aug. 15, and galloped over the track for the first time the morning of Aug. 16. He was on the muscle.

Defending Million winner Little Mike gallops Aug. 16 at Arlington Park

Visually impressive award of the morning, however, goes to Beverly D. entrant Starformer, who clocked a serious beast-mode gallop around the oval under the straining biceps of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott's assistant, Rodolphe Brisset. The winner of the June 29 New York Stakes (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park, this 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer will tangle with the sterling Marketing Mix in the Beverly D.--but given the way she galloped this morning, that grade I winner could have something serious to deal with.

Starformer Touts Herself in the Beverly D. With a Strong Morning Gallop

With a busy morning in the books, it's time to settle down on the eve of the big event. For further Arlington Million coverage, follow me @bh_cnovak. Who do you think will win Illinois' marquee race?

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