Although it’s premature to say that the field is coming together for the August 11 Arlington Million (G1), Sunday’s Arlington barn notes named possible candidates for the “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Oscar Performance plots a return to the scene of his 2017 Secretariat (G1) victory after a course record-smashing comeback in the one-mile Poker (G3) over Belmont Park’s Widener turf. The Kitten’s Joy colt not only lowered Elusive Quality’s longstanding mark of 1:31.63 established in the 1998 Poker, but his new time of 1:31.23 equaled the North American record for a turf mile set at Monmouth (by Mandurah in a starter handicap) in 2010. Two-for-two at 1 1/4 miles, with a score in the Belmont Derby (G1) preceding the Secretariat, Oscar Performance did not prosper on the stretch-out to 1 1/2 miles versus older horses last fall. Hence trainer Brian Lynch is planning to cut back in trip after the Million. The Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland is reportedly his prep of choice for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs, where he’ll try to become a two-time Breeders’ Cup winner, having landed the 2016 Juvenile Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.
Yoshida, fifth to Oscar Performance in last summer’s Belmont Derby, has taken a step forward this season. The Bill Mott pupil defeated 2017 Million winner Beach Patrol in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day, then tried Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne (G1) and wound up fifth down the straight mile.
According to Arlington, two of his Queen Anne rivals could ship in for the Million – Godolphin’s Benbatl, a disappointing 10th as the favorite, and the progressive runner-up Lord Glitters, trained by David O’Meara who sent out 2016 Million winner Mondialiste.
Benbatl has just accepted an invitation to the October 27 Cox Plate (G1), and a potential clash with the living legend Winx. Godolphin.com reports that his next target is in Germany, the July 29 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis Bayerisches Zuchtrennen (G1) at Munich. Could the Saeed bin Suroor charge wheel back at Arlington before heading Down Under? And will he recover his blistering Dubai Turf (G1) form?
Rounding out the international possibles is Va Bank, the 2015 Polish Triple Crown star co-owned by Team Valor and now based in Germany with Andreas Wohler. Sent to Dubai for the Carnival, he unfortunately missed it with an ankle injury. Va Bank’s comeback was postponed to the end of May, when he resumed from a year-long layoff with a solid second in the Badener Meile (G2). On July 5, he was just denied in the Hamburg Trophy (G3).
Three Manhattan H. (G1) alumni are currently in the mix. Graham Motion’s 18-1 upsetter Spring Quality may bid to follow up on that new career high, while wide-trip fourth Manitoulin and troubled sixth Robert Bruce would be spoiling for a rematch. Chilean import Robert Bruce brought a perfect record into the Manhattan, and beat both Spring Quality and Manitoulin in his American debut for Chad Brown in the Fort Marcy (G3).
Brown, who’s won two of the last five runnings of the Million, expects to be double-handed with Almanaar also on the list. The Shadwell homebred was sidelined just as he reached the pinnacle in the 2017 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1), and returned triumphant off a 16-month layoff at Belmont on June 8.
Divisidero has run himself into the picture by capturing Saturday’s Arlington H. (G3) on “Ride to the Million” Day, but trainer Kelly Rubley is considering rather than confirming at this stage. He was seventh in last year’s Million, his fourth unplaced effort at the 1 1/4-mile trip for original trainer Buff Bradley. As a son of Kitten’s Joy, however, Divisidero could be getting stronger with age, and Rubley believes he’s “continued to show improvement this year.”
Revved Up was runner-up in the Arlington ‘Cap in his final start for the Phipps Stable. Offered at Monday’s Fasig-Tipton July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale, he commanded $350,000 from Empire Thoroughbreds as agent for Kingsport Farm. Might his new connections let him take his chance in the Million?
And to keep going down the speculative route, Cliffs of Moher would be a fascinating contender if Aidan O’Brien decides to make him the pick of the Ballydoyle options. Last year’s Epsom Derby (G1) runner-up has been competing in a series of major races this summer, most recently along for third to sophomores Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior in the Eclipse (G1). But we’ll have to await word on the O’Brien representative(s).