By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
The 1 1/4-mile $1 million
Arlington Million (G1) and the 1 3/16-mile $500,000 Beverly D. Stakes (G1) long
ranked as the highlights of the summer racing season at Arlington Park. When
Arlington closed down following the 2021 meet, the two races transitioned to
Churchill Downs and were contested over 1 1/8 miles in 2022.
The Arlington Million and
Beverly D. have shifted locations again for 2023. This year, they're taking place
at Colonial Downs in Virginia, and their distances have been restored to their
Both races have drawn competitive
fields, so let's dig in and settle on our selections:
Beverly D. (G1)
The morning line odds have
established #1 Fev Rover (2-1) as
the mare to beat, and her credentials are solid. Last year's Canadian S. (G2)
winner kicked off 2023 with a sharp victory in the one-mile Nassau S. (G2) at
Woodbine, launching a last-to-first rally over a yielding turf course to beat
record-setting 2022 Queen's Plate S. winner Moira by 4 1/4 lengths. Then Fev Rover
shipped to Saratoga and ran third in the 1 1/8-mile Diana S. (G1), beaten only
half a length against a strong field.
Fev Rover is versatile in
terms of running style and has every chance to win the Beverly D., but might #5 Didia (3-1) be just as likely a
winner at better odds? The Argentinean-bred mare won her first four U.S.
starts, including the 1 1/8-mile Modesty S. (G3) at Churchill Downs, and exits
a deceptively strong runner-up finish in the 1 1/4-mile New York S. (G1) at
In the New York, Didia
settled as many as four lengths behind pedestrian fractions of :24.56, :50.26,
and 1:15.29 before closing 2 3/4 lengths through a final quarter-mile timed in
:23.15 to come up three-quarters of a length short against gate-to-wire winner
Marketsegmentation. The third-place finisher, McKulick, returned to win the
Glens Falls S. (G2) at Saratoga.
There's another positive in
Didia's corner—she's 2-for-2 at Colonial Downs. Last year, she won a $75,000
allowance optional claimer and the Old Nelson S. racing 1 1/16 miles on grass
at Colonial. Returning to this Virginia oval should suit Didia just fine, and I'm
willing to bet she can spring a mild surprise against Fev Rover.
Arlington Million (G1)
The 11-horse Arlington
Million field is stacked from top to bottom with talented horses. Truthfully,
you can make a case for anyone to visit the winner's circle.
There's a good chance an
upset is in the offing. Morning line favorite #4 Atone (7-2) won the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) during the
winter, but hasn't hit the board in two starts since, including when fifth in
the Dinner Party S. (G3) behind #2 Never
Explain (6-1). Morning line second choice #5 Rockemperor (5-1) upset the 2021 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1),
but since winning the 2022 Bowling Green S. (G2) he's missed the trifecta in
four straight starts, including both his runs in 2023.
Let's try to beat the
favorites with #8 Catnip (8-1).
Since being gelded, the four-year-old son of Kitten's Joy has rattled off three
wins and a second from four starts. His three victories culminated with a
deceptively strong triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Monmouth S. (G3) at Monmouth Park,
in which he got shuffled back in traffic before re-rallying gamely to beat
Never Explain by half a length.
Catnip's win streak came to
an end in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations S. (G1) at Monmouth last month, but he
didn't run a bad race by any means. After tracking a runaway leader from second
place, Catnip rallied to lead in midstretch, only to get caught in the final furlong
by 10-time stakes winner Therapist.
It's possible the 1 3/8-mile
distance was a bit too long for Catnip, but he was only beaten 1 1/2 lengths
and finished three-quarters of a length ahead of 2023 Man o' War S. (G1) winner
Red Knight, a seven-time stakes winner with three graded wins to his credit
since September 2022.
Cutting back to 1 1/4 miles
should suit Catnip just fine. He has tactical speed and figures to sit a
favorable trip stalking #7 Strong
Quality (12-1), a live longshot after finishing a pacesetting fifth against
two-time Grade 1 winner Up to the Mark in the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan S. (G1) last
time out. If Catnip times his homestretch pounce just right, he can post an 8-1
upset in the Arlington Million.
Now it's your turn! Who do
you like in the Arlington Million and Beverly D.?
Want to test your handicapping skills against fellow Unlocking Winners readers? Check out the Unlocking Winners contest page—there's a new challenge every week! (Please note: older contest entries can be found here.)
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.