Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the Arlington Million (G1) twice, with Cape Blanco (2011) and Powerscourt (2005, correcting the record after his unfortunate disqualification in 2004). Both were older horses, making O’Brien’s placement of three-year-old Deauville here all the more thought-provoking.

The logical plan would be the Secretariat (G1) against his own age group on the Million undercard, the path O’Brien trod successfully with Ciro (2000) and in recent years with Treasure Beach (2011), Adelaide (2014) and Highland Reel (2015).

Deauville is instead trying to make history as only the second sophomore to win the Million, joining Tolomeo from all the way back in 1983.

If Deauville were head and shoulders above the rest of his generation, the bold stroke would be expected. But his Belmont Derby (G1) victory didn’t conclusively establish that point even among U.S. turf sophomores, never mind where he sits on O’Brien’s three-year-old depth chart.

Is Deauville in the Million because he already has his U.S. Grade 1, and connections are eager to pave the way for stablemate Long Island Sound in the Secretariat? A gamble with little to lose, and lots of upside if he takes another step forward?

Another point to keep in mind is that Deauville is co-owned by Coolmore in partnership with his breeder, Mrs. Fitry Hay – just like aforementioned Million winner Cape Blanco.

Mrs. Hay herself campaigned Deauville’s older full brother, The Corsican, who was considering coming for the Million last summer. I was desperate to see him try his luck at Arlington, but he ended up not making the trip. Unfortunately, the David Simcock charge suffered a fatal injury in training this spring, and we’ll never know just how good he might have turned out to be.

Perhaps Deauville is getting the opportunity that The Corsican never had.

One of a trio of Galileos pre-entered in the Million (along with Mondialiste and Decorated Knight), Deauville is out of the Danehill mare Walklikeanegyptian. His dam knew her way around Arlington, romping by five lengths in a turf allowance and placing second in the 2006 Pucker Up (G3). Walklikeanegyptian is a three-quarter sister to Canadian champion turf mare Callwood Dancer and 2010 Oaks d’Italia (G2) heroine Contredanse, from the further family of Group 1 winner Maroof and dual classic victor Desert King (sire of Makybe Diva).

My backgrounder for the Belmont Derby emphasized that Deauville’s been competing in high-profile races. Coming to hand fairly early at two, he captured his debut at Listowel and made it two straight in the Tyros (G3). He didn’t have the finishing speed of Foundation when runner-up in the Royal Lodge (G2), and failed to do himself justice on rain-softened ground when fifth in the Racing Post Trophy (G1). The form otherwise hasn’t worked out, but at least Deauville has progressed from there.

Reappearing in the May 12 Dante (G2) at York, England’s marquee trial for the Derby (G1), Deauville stalked the leader, took over some way out, and just got run down late by the race-fit Wings of Desire. It all went wrong for him when the ground came up softish at Epsom, and he trudged home 11th (with Wings of Desire fourth). Wings of Desire has since come back to finish second to Highland Reel in the July 23 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot.

Deauville rebounded back on firm ground, and cutting back from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/4 miles, in the Belmont Derby. He was best on paper going into Belmont Derby, but benefitted from a tactical masterstroke by Jamie Spencer to prove it on the course. Holding on grimly from the rallying Highland Sky, Deauville posted a slower time than Catch a Glimpse in the Belmont Oaks (G1) (2:00.51 versus 1:59.87).

 

Yet Deauville does bring some substantial plusses into the Million: he’s high class, in career-best form and possibly still improving, 10 furlongs is his optimal trip, and he has the advantages of a six-pound weight break, and tactical placement however the race unfolds. Moreover, three-year-olds have enjoyed a good run of success over their elders in Europe’s Group 1s this summer (e.g., to mention only the boys, Hawkbill in the Eclipse [G1] and The Gurkha in the Sussex [G1]).

Deauville holds an entry in the October 22 Cox Plate (G1), like O’Brien’s past two Secretariat winners Adelaide (who won) and Highland Reel (third to supermare Winx).

Photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography