Contentious stakes races highlight the Late Pick 5 on the Arlington Million Day program and while the 10-horse Beverly D. (G1) is no exception, I will take a stand with Dona Bruja, who brings an explosive late kick to the 1 3/16-mile turf affair for distaffers.

Here are my thoughts on the Pick 5:

A lightly-raced son of Tapit, #6 Gain Ground brings improving form and commendable BRIS Speed and Pace numbers into the 8th race, the Bruce D. Memorial. He will look to take advantage of an expected hot/contested pace and is my top pick at 12-1 on the morning line. Woodbine invader #7 Yorkton also looks poised to run a good race, and I will also spread with #4 Smoke ‘n’ Gloat and #5 Kitten’s Cat.

Mike Maker has top contenders #1 Keystonetovictory and #2 Taghleeb in the 9th race, the American St. Leger (G3), and I will include Taghleeb on a back-up ticket. But I am giving #8 Bullards Alley the edge for top honors. The 5-year-old gelding has really come on in the last couple of starts for Tim Glyshaw, posting a better-than-it-looked sixth (beaten only 3 ½ lengths) against a star-studded international cast in the Belmont Gold Cup two back (Taghleeb was a well-beaten ninth) and an excellent second in Woodbine’s Singspiel (G3) last out. The long-distance specialist can deliver a winning performance today at an expected decent price (6-1 morning line).

In the Beverly D (10th race), Chad Brown has a nice pair in #1 Dacita and #5 Grand Jete, and Aidan O’Brien’s #10 Rain Goddess can’t be dismissed off a runner-up effort to Enable. I will use the trio on a back-up ticket.

Trainer “Nacho” Correas talked openly about how Argentinean champion #4 Dona Bruja may need a little time to acclimate to North American racing before her North American debut in mid-June and I think the 5-year-old mare has more to offer following a pair of impressive wins stateside. She displayed an awesome turn of foot in the July 8 Modesty (G3) over the course, with jockey Declan Cannon looking to save plenty for today as he only asked her to run for about a sixteenth of a mile before taking her back under wraps in the easy win, and Dona Bruja will look to confirm her status as a rising star in the turf distaff ranks. She’s my best bet of the day.

The scratch of Scottish reduces the Arlington Million (G1) field to 12 and I’m looking right past post positions with #12 Ascend and #13 Mekhtaal.

Ascend has really come on for trainer Graham Motion, capping a three-race win skein with a convincing tally at this distance in the June 10 Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park. The runner-up from that race, Time Test, is the 8-5 morning line favorite in today’s Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga and I’m willing to draw a line through Ascend’s last start in the Bowling Green (G2) as Jose Ortiz moved too early in what he feared was a tepid pace only to get caught up in a prolonged battle that softened up all the front-runners for the latter stages. Expecting a much better trip today from the up-and-coming Ascend, who has posted century-topping BRIS Late Pace Ratings in recent wins.

Mekhtaal recorded a pair of outstanding performances in France before facing much better competition at Royal Ascot in his last outing. His sophomore season was a little uneven, but the 4-year-old colt is definitely headed in the right direction this year for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget and possesses decent tactical speed. With the long run to the first turn, jockey Frankie Dettori should have room to drop in right behind the leaders and Mekhtaal is eligible to finish up best of all.

The Pucker Up (G3), race 12, concludes the sequence with a full field of sophomore turf fillies. I’m siding with #5 Dontmesswithjoanee for a minor upset, and #4 Journey Home looks like a must for multi-race wagers. I’ll add #3 Lipstick City and #10 Happy Mesa to the mix on the main ticket.

50-cent Pick 5 tickets (races 8-12)

Singling Dona Bruja:

4,5,6,7 with 1,2,8 with 4 with 12,13 with 3,4,5,10 ($48)

Back-up ticket:

6,7 with 2,8 with 1,5,10 with 12,13 with 4,5 ($24)

Good luck!