Racing for the week of August 15-18 at Arlington was run under very nice weather conditions and with extremely firm turf, except on Sunday when Arlington was off the turf after heavy morning rains. The main track (Polytrack) favored speed horses from Thursday thru Saturday, with many front-runners winning or outrunning their odds. Perennial leading jockey Jose Valdivia, who had lost his lead in the standings the week before, reclaimed the top slot in the jockey standings with a blazing-hot week that included a pair of four-win days.
Arlington Trip Notes (August 15-18)
COUNTESS ST MICHEL: Nearly caught a lone speed leader, coming up just a neck short of catching that one while clear of the rest of the field.
DAME OF THRONES: Stayed in an off-the-turf race and was not a factor on the main track. Will return to form with a return to the turf.
DUMBMARK: Should have been the clear speed in the race but broke poorly and never even went for the lead, then chased for third, a head out of second. Just needs a clean start.
ENZOEXPRESS: Chased a wire-to-wire winning monster runaway even-money favorite and held on to be best of the rest in second when handling the local surface off a 70-day layoff. Looks good in next.
HERO OF THE HOUR: Chased far off a battle up front on a front-runner’s friendly firm turf course, and was the only horse to gain late for second. Usually finishes in the exacta.
KLASSY KARALYNN: Had no chance to catch a flat out loose lone speed winner, but did what she could to pass horses at 5 1/2 furlongs for second. Will benefit from that first race back off a seven-month layoff and should graduate in next.
KNOCKYOURBLOCKOFF: Percolated into a three-length-gap speed duel and held on strong to outrun 12-1 odds for second behind only a perfect set-up odds-on favorite.
OH SO TALL: Gave an odds-on favorite a run for his money to hold on for a clear second, nearly five lengths clear of third. Can find the right spot next time.
The Secretariat Stakes (G1) will be the first of Arlington’s three Grade 1 races run on the loaded Saturday, August 10 Arlington Million Day card. The Secretariat for three-year-olds has been shortened this year and will be run at one mile with a purse of $500,000. The race drew a nine-horse field this year and unlike the Arlington Million (G1) and Beverly D. Stakes (G1) which will both feature heavy favorites, the Secretariat looks like a wide-open field that is up for grabs. Any of the nine horses could win. The good-sized field and lack of a single standout favorite will make the Secretariat an excellent betting race.
The Secretariat is such a wide-open race that you easily could find yourself hitting the all-button in your multi-race wagers, especially if you plan on singling in other legs of the Pick 5, Pick 4 and Pick 3 in the Beverly D. and Secretariat. If you are not so inclined to use “all” in this race, then Chad Brown seems like a logical place to start narrowing down the field with Fog of War looking like the real deal, and his Valid Point keeping Javier Castellano aboard. Of the two foreign Aidan O’Brien options, Never No More seems to have the most upside. The final horse to use in your exotics would be longshot Clint Maroon, because it is still far too early to give up on that horse based on excuses in the recent losses.
Here’s a brief look at this year’s Secretariat field:
CLINT MAROON (#1) (20-1) may be the forgotten contender in the race at 20-1 on the morning-line, and has enough tactical speed to be in the thick of the race throughout for new trainer Wayne Catalano. Was riding high on a three-race winning streak earlier this year and the bandwagon has been prematurely abandoned after two straight losses, both times with excuses. Tired at 1 1/8 miles two races ago in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) and then got off to a bad start last time which prevented him from flashing any early speed en route to a loss in the Manilla. Now gets back to one mile, which is probably his best distance, and just needs a clean trip to be speed from the rail with a definite upset chance.
VAN BEETHOVEN (#2) (8-1) has been keeping good company coming out of three straight European Grade 1 races, but was not competitive in any of those spots and now will try his fourth different country in four races for trainer Aidan O’Brien. Form perhaps has tailed off this year, or else he’s just plain not suited for this class level. Very firm turf is expected Saturday, and it’s unclear if that’s what he prefers.
NEVER NO MORE (#3) (6-1) is the more lightly-raced but up-and-coming Aidan O’Brien entrant in this race, and has looked good on the track since arriving at Arlington. Comes out of back-to-back wins and wins in three of his last four, all in Ireland and adds first-time Lasix for this U.S. debut. Never been in this tough and gets the class test here, but O’Brien sees enough in this colt to ship him across the pond and puts go-to rider Ryan Moore aboard. Guy feeling says it would an extreme mistake to overlook and/or underestimate this guy. Should be stalking the pace from midpack and based on his running style he may even improve with the stretch to this one-mile distance.
THE LAST ZIP (#4) (6-1) nearly made the successful leap from maiden winner to stakes winner last time out when finishing in a dead-heat for second in a three-way win photo in the local prep race the American Derby (G3). Had actually run faster figures in the Belmont maiden win at one mile two races ago, so we’ll see if the slight cutback in distance moves him up. Nevertheless, this assignment will be considerably tougher than in the prep race last time, and he had every chance in the stretch to get the job done last time and didn’t.
RY’S THE GUY (#5) (15-1) had been knocking around the maiden ranks for several tries until finally graduating in the slop at Churchill Downs two races ago, but then looked like a completely new horse last time out when switching surfaces to the turf for the first time and easily beating Churchill allowance horses in a grass mile with a speed figure that is amongst the highest among this field. Quickly makes the jump not only up into a stakes, but into a Grade 1 stakes race today, but this horse appears to be coming around quickly now and three-year-olds that suddenly start getting good at this time of the year are always dangerous, at least for the exotics.
FOG OF WAR (#6) (3-1) invades from New York for trainer Chad Brown and actually ran his best race in defeat last time out when second d in Belmont’s Manilla Stakes behind the tour-de-force career turf debut victory performance of Win Win Win that day. This horse finished second, a head ahead of third-place finisher Casa Creed, who came back to win the Hall of Fame stakes (G2) at Saratoga in his next outing. Irad Ortiz picks up the mount. You’ve gotta like how the improvement last time out seemed to coincide with the addition of first-time blinkers, which apparently moved this horse up several notches. Tough to go against anything Chad Brown sends out in these races, and this horse certainly is among the ones to beat.
VALID POINT (#7) (5-1) also goes out for all-world trainer Chad Brown, which adds to the appeal, as it does with Fog of War. Jockey Javier Castellano had been riding both Chad Brown horses in their prior races, and he evidently chooses to stay aboard this horse while Ortiz goes to the stablemate. Valid Point has started his career in style with two wins in two races, both times as the well-bet favorite. Untried and untested so far against stakes competition, but it would be no surprise if this horse is bound to win a stakes, today and/or in the future.
FARAWAY KITTEN (#8) (9-2) is a winner of two stakes in a row for Mike Maker, including the $200k Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury and the local prep for this in the American Derby (G3) at Arlington. He was available for a $50k claiming tag as recently as four races ago, and now he’s a multiple stakes winner with a realistic shot in a Grade 1. Beat some of these contenders in a close finish last time when up late in the American Derby, and has been able to close in time to win at a mile despite a tough trip when blocked against some solid horses. John Velazquez sees enough to pick up the mount.
CRAFTY DADDY (#9) (5-1) is another of the horses in here that were involved in the close three-way finish in the American Derby (G3) when dead heating with The Last Zip just a neck behind Faraway Kitten. The loss in the American Derby ended his three-race winning streak including races at Fair Grounds, Keeneland, and Churchill, but it didn’t end his stretch of good efforts because he just missed. Draws outside again (post 9 today, post 10 last time), but is one of several in this race with a legit chance.
PHOTO: Fog of War (c) WEG/Michael Burns Photography
The 50-cent Late Pick 4 kicks off in Race 9 at Arlington Park in the Beverly D. Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares going 1 3/16 miles.
FLEETING (#1) (5-2) is a three-year-old taking on older rivals for the first time. She has been in against the best in Europe for Aidan O’Brien and other than her seasonal debut going a mile, she has run three straight strong races against high-caliber competition. Daughter of Zoffany draws the rail and gets in with 117 pounds and Ryan Moore. A ground-saving trip and first-time Lasix should put her right in the mix here.
SISTERCHARLIE (#7) (8-5) has won four straight Grade 1s, including her seasonal debut at Saratoga four weeks ago where it looked like she might have been vulnerable. Irish-bred closes relentlessly in her races and the wide, sweeping turns of the course that will be used today will be to her benefit. She got up in time here last year off the same pattern and will be tough again today.
AWESOMETANK (#2) (8-1) is a British shipper from William Haggas, who is as good a big-race trainer as there is over there. This is a move up in class for her but she has plenty of speed and should get a trip from the inside. Florent Geroux picks up the mount.
$10 exacta wheel
1 with 2, 7
$.50 Pick 4: 1, 2, 7 with 3, 4, 6, 7 with 1, 2, 3, 10 with 4, 9, 10, 11
Race 10 is the Secretariat Stakes (G1) for three-year-olds going one mile on the turf. Aidan O’Brien sent far better horses here for half the money than he did to the $1 million Saratoga Derby.
NEVER NO MORE (#3) (6-1) began this year with two sharp wins, including one over Madhmoon who came back to run second in the Epsom Derby (G1). He’s been off for 126 days after missing the classics season and shows up here with Ryan Moore. Son of No Nay Never drops eight pounds off his last win.
VALID POINT (#7) (5-1) is a son of Scat Daddy who won his career debut going this distance at Gulfstream Park then came back four months later to win at Belmont Park in very fast time. He moves up in class for Chad Brown and gets Javier Castellano back aboard.
FOG OF WAR (#6) (3-1) won a Grade 1 last September going this distance at Woodbine then returned at Belmont Park going seven furlongs where he weakened late when sitting behind a slow pace. He came back in a stakes race there and just missed when Lasix was added and should appreciate firm ground today.
THE LAST ZIP (#4) (6-1) broke his maiden two starts back then shipped here and just missed in the American Derby (G3). He took his time figuring the game out but at least he still has some upside.
Never No More (#3)
Valid Point (#7)
Fog of War (#6)
The Last Zip (#4)
BRICKS AND MORTAR (#3) (8-5) has been a monster since returning from a long layoff due to surgery. He has won his last five starts and three of them were Grade 1. At equal weights and post three, he is the strongest of this group and his fast and steady workouts on the turf at Saratoga should have him ready for Chad Brown to win another Million.
ROBERT BRUCE (#1) (7-2) is the defending champion after winning this last year with a late surge. He hasn’t won a race since then but his second-place finish in the Manhattan Handicap (G1) behind Bricks and Mortar shows he is back at his favorite distance. Javier Castellano can save ground from the rail until the stretch.
MAGIC WAND (#2) (5-1) is a four-year-old filly who ran well in a Group 1 two starts back in Ireland. Throw out her last on soft ground in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot and she has run well in her three starts in America.
BANDUA (#10) (6-1) has a win over the course in very good time and can get a piece of this with a repeat of that effort.
Bricks and Mortar (#3)
Robert Bruce (#1)
Magic Wand (#2)
$10 exacta wheel
3 with 1, 2, 10
Finally, Race 12 is the Pucker Up Stakes (G3) for three-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
INDIGO GIN (#4) (6-1) beat allowance foes here two starts back going gate to wire then came back and did it again in the Hatoof Stakes which is the prep for this. Her liking this course and tactical speed should help her get a trip and could be tough to run down.
WINTER SUNSET (#9) (7-2) was only beaten a length in the Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs by Concrete Rose, who only turned out to be the dominant sophomore filly turfer and would be odds-on in here. Winter Sunset came back to run third after an awkward start in the Edgewood Stakes (G3) but improved last out with a good second in the Regret Stakes (G3) when she stalked a slow pace.
CAFÉ AMERICANO (#11) (3-1) won her first two career starts on the turf then came back and raced evenly going 10 furlongs when forced wide at a crucial point. She has to overcome a wide draw here so Irad Ortiz Jr. will have to use her some going into the first turn.
ART OF ALMOST (#10) (5-1) broke her maiden on the Tapeta at Woodbine in her sixth career start and then beat allowance foes on the turf by 4 1/2 lengths. She was a good third there last out in the grassy Dance Smartly Stakes (G2) but she will have to used hard going into the first turn instead of settling like she likes to.
Indigo Gin (#4)
Winter Sunset (#9)
Café Americano (#11)
Art of Almost (#10)
$20 exacta wheel
9, 10, 11 with 4
PHOTO: Sistercharlie (c) Coady Photography/Arlington Park
A trio of Grade-1 races led by the 37th running of the $1 million Arlington Million (G1) will headline the action at Arlington Park on Saturday. The monstrous day of racing features numerous betting options throughout the card, and I will take a crack at starting the day off with a score.
The early Pick-4 features a trio of maiden contests, with two for the youngsters, and I like the sequence a lot. While it may not yield a life-changing return, there is potential for value while keeping the ticket at a reasonable cost.
Juveniles fillies will sprint 5 1/2 furlongs on the main oval in the opener. The Larry Rivelli-trained JOSEPHINE BAKER (#3) (9-5) makes a second lifetime showing and will run on Lasix for the initial time. Malibu Moon filly showed big early foot on debut before fading but improvement is expected from the top juvenile barn on the grounds.
I will also use CONTENDRESS (#7) (9-2) from the Brendan Walsh barn. Competitive Edge filly shows a pair of dirt races at the level, and she will add blinkers while trying the all-weather for the first time.
JURISDICTION (#3) (5-1), LINFIELD (#4) (9-2) and NICELY NICELY (#8) (7-2) makes the ticket.
Maiden special weight affair for fillies and mares on the lawn attracted eight. OUR BAY B RUTH (#2) (8-5) looks very tough for conditioner Eddie Kenneally. Candy Ride filly was a fine runner-up from the 10 post in a similar spot at Churchill Downs most recently, and the well-bred lass seems poised to graduate today.
I will also use GENTLE TOUCH (#4) (8-1) at a nice price. Larry Rivelli trainee was a positive third on debut before faltering most recently, and the Kitten’s Joy filly tries the lawn for the initial time. Sophomore has five turf-winning siblings and gets top pilot Jose Valdivia Jr.
Allowance/optional claiming run on the lawn will close out the sequence and could deliver a price to end it. I could make a decent case for the longest shot on the board, BLUE SKY KOWBOY (#7) (20-1), who loves the Arlington turf course. So with that said I will hit the ‘all’ button in the competitive field.
$.50-cent Pick 4: 3,7 with 3,4,8 with 2,4 with all = $48
Happy Million Day!
PHOTO: Arlington Park (c) Coady Photography/Arlington Park
Million Day at Arlington features a 12-race card headlined by a trio of Grade 1 grass stakes – the Arlington Million, Beverly D. and Secretariat – as well as two other stakes and a slew of big fields throughout the day. The Arlington Million is run at 1 1/4 miles and goes as Race 11.
Many races throughout the day offer excellent opportunities for multi-horse exacta bets, plus plays in the other exotics. Perhaps the best of the exotics races of the day will be the big one, the Arlington Million, which will feature a 10-horse field topped by the defending champion Robert Bruce, perhaps the country’s top turf horse, Bricks and Mortar.
Here are four horses to use in all of your Arlington Million exotics.
Arlington Race 11 Arlington Million Exotics Picks:
ROBERT BRUCE (#1) (7-2) is the defending Arlington Million champion after topping a softer bunch last year, but nevertheless turning in a career-best effort in the process. Obviously loved this course and seems clearly at his best at the Arlington Million’s 1 1/4-mile distance. Comes in attempting to become the first horse in history to win back-to-back Millions, and catches another break in terms of the course conditions, which will be extremely firm just the way he likes it. Javier Castellano picks up the mount for the country’s leading turf trainer, Chad Brown, who also will saddle favored Bricks and Mortar.
BRICKS AND MORTAR (#3) (8-5) will be the big favorite and horse to beat in the Arlington Million for trainer Chad Brown. Bricks and Mortar has blossomed into the country’s top turf horse in his five-year-old season so far, rattling off four consecutive Grade 1 or Grade 2 victories in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream, Muniz Memorial Handicap (G2) at Fair Grounds, Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill and Manhattan (G1) at Belmont. Owns graded wins on five different courses so he clearly takes his track with him, and also wins on any kind of footing from yielding to good to firm. Doesn’t win by big flashy margins, but reliably gets the job done, and this 1 1/4-mile distance looks squarely in his wheelhouse with regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard.
INTELLOGENT (#9) (12-1) is a 12-1 Euro invader on the morning line who can really bump up the value of your Arlington Million exotics. Euro horses in this race trained by Aidan O’Brien (Magic Wand and Hunting Horn) may attract more attention, but Intellogent ships into this race looking for firm turf and gets his wish with rock-hard course conditions currently prevailing at Arlington. Firm turf is right up his alley based on his Grade 1 win last summer in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville. Finished less than two lengths behind prominent turfer Zabeel Prince last out in a Longchamp Group 1, and this horse should not be overlooked despite the fact that he is likely to be.
BANDUA (#10) (6-1) won the local prep for the Million last month in the Arlington Handicap (G3) against a much softer field. It was not who he beat, but rather, how he beat them that mattered the most. Bandua served notice he is ready to take the leap up into Grade 1 company when he won the Arlington Handicap in course record time of 1:53 for the 1 3/16 miles on this surface. Also ran third here last year as a three-year-old in the Secretariat, and should once again land in the trifectas again today. Has the speed to be on or close to the lead, and may get away with a moderate pace.
ARLINGTON MILLION (FOUR-HORSE) EXOTICS WAGERS:
Box the above four horses in the exotics, and key Bricks and Mortar in the exactas, you will be covering the speed (Bandua), the defending champion (Robert Bruce), the favorite (Bricks and Mortar) and the live longshot who should have an affinity for the rock-hard turf course conditions currently prevailing at Arlington (Intellogent). You will have the makings of a winning exacta, plus a big chance at the trifecta and superfecta. Best of luck!
The following are trip notes for horses who had tough trips the week of August 1-4 at Arlington Park, and/or who figure to improve in their next races. Add these runners to your horses to watch list, and bet them back next time out if they land in a reasonable spot.
Racing for the week of August 1-4 at Arlington was run under very nice weather conditions, with firm turf. Without any rain, storms, or changing weather occurrences, the main track played fair throughout the week/weekend.
The horses listed below exit races run at Arlington during the week of August 1-4, and all of them have good chances to run well, outrun their odds, and/or win in their subsequent starts.
Arlington Trip Notes (August 1-4)
ANDREAS: Had to come from last in a tough 12-horse race after a rough start, but was the only closer in the race to make a dent to close late for fourth. Worth another try.
BRENTLEY’S DREAM: Had to close from last in a five-furlong race without much pace in first race back from an eight-month layoff and surged late to almost make it in time. Lost by a head on the wire and shouldn’t be denied in next.
BRILLIANT ONE: Improved a bunch to be competitive vs. maiden claimers at a mile on the turf after getting a bad start and getting pinched back in traffic in the early going.
FIFTYSHADESOFGRAYCE: Three-time turf sprint front-running winner got off to a slow start and then couldn’t make the lead to lose best chance. Can rebound with a good start.
GRAY OWL: Broke awkwardly when wanting to show speed, then had to be hustled to battle up front and gamely held on to the wire for a near miss third-place finish. Can go all the way with a better break.
IMPRESSED: Maiden lost to a good one, but ran a solid effort in his own right to be second, nearly five lengths clear of third. His turn to graduate next time.
KARATE HOTTIE: Came from off a slow pace to win anyway despite a troubled trip. Scored only by a neck, but was five ahead of third and was much the best and is ready to repeat up at the next level.
LAUNCH AWAY: Was by far the best but settled for third, second via DQ, after getting checked hard with no room to go between horses in mid-stretch. Just needs a clean trip.
MILK CHOCOLATE: Turf sprint invader ran well to close for second but had no chance to catch a loose lone speed runaway Larry Rivelli speedster. Just needs pace to chase.
THOUGHTLESS: Got off to a bad start when she landed in a very tough turf sprint spot at five-furlong. Needs a return to the main track for an instant rebound.
WICKED VALENTINE: Turf routing first starter two-year-old ran big for Michael Stidham for second, and Stidham usually doesn’t usually crank up his maidens until their second start. Won’t remain a maiden for long.
PHOTO: Arlington Park (c) Coady Photography/Arlington Park
With its distance trimmed to a flat mile, the character of the Secretariat (G1) has changed, but Aidan O’Brien ensured that the Arlington Million Day fixture is still attracting notable international representation.
The master of Ballydoyle has used the Secretariat in the past to showcase a few stable stars, including globetrotter extraordinaire Highland Reel (2015). The question now is whether the revamped race will be as happy a hunting ground for O’Brien, or tip the scales in favor of Chad Brown, as I wrote in the Million Day pre-entries blog:
O’Brien has had greater success in the three-year-old feature, scoring four victories in its former guise as a 1 1/4-mile test. Compare that tally to his *two in the Million (with an asterisk since Powerscourt was disqualified in 2004, or else O’Brien would have had three) and his shut-out in the Beverly D.
In contrast, Brown has captured the Secretariat just once, compared to three Millions and five runnings of the Beverly D. (including the past four in a row). The reconfiguration might enhance his Secretariat prospects.
O’Brien’s Secretariat hopes are a study in contrasts. Never No More has loads of upside but returns from a layoff, while Van Beethoven is thoroughly exposed but coming out of much deeper races.
NEVER NO MORE
A €300,000 ($354,420) Goffs Orby yearling, Never No More hails from the first crop of No Nay Never. The Scat Daddy stallion has already made a splash by siring the brilliant Ten Sovereigns, who just dominated the July Cup (G1), and his second-crop includes Coventry (G2) hero Arizona. Never No More descends from the same female line as multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Winchester, conqueror of the 2008 Secretariat by 7 1/4 lengths in a time faster than the Million.
Debuting over five furlongs at Naas last September, the chestnut was off a beat slow, raced a tad greenly, and finished well for second to streetwise stablemate All the King’s Men. Never No More learned enough to score next time on the Dundalk Polytrack, stalking the leaders before pulling away stylishly at the same trip.
Jockey Donnacha O’Brien (Aidan’s son) commented to irishracing.com:
He’s smart. He impressed me there, I hadn’t ridden him a whole lot at home.
He had a good run the last day behind a decent horse and he made no mistake today. He feels smart.
He traveled smooth, he’s still a little bit raw, and when I hit him a flick he quickened up nicely.
Never No More accordingly was dispatched as the even-money favorite in the Legacy S. at Navan nine days later. His fans had an inkling early on that he wasn’t going to fire, for he never traveled with fluency and regressed to seventh behind old foe All the King’s Men.
Reappearing at the beginning of the Irish Flat season March 24, Never No More rebounded with a convincing display in a premier handicap at Naas. He had no difficulty stepping up to seven furlongs on yielding-to-soft going, or toting 133 pounds, when slogging 3 3/4 lengths clear.
Never No More then passed a serious class test in the April 6 Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial, collaring hitherto unbeaten odds-on favorite Madhmoon. Granted, he was capitalizing on race-fitness, while comebacker Madhmoon was merely prepping for his classic targets, and the three-pound weight break might have made a difference late.
Still, Madhmoon was two lengths ahead of the rest, and it took some performance from Never No More to run down a colt of his quality in full flight. Madhmoon, who had dusted Broome in the KPMG Champions Juvenile (G2) in his prior start, has since held his own in classics from a mile to 1 1/2 miles. Sheikh Hamdan’s runner rallied for fourth in the 2000 Guineas (G1) (one spot ahead of the non-staying Ten Sovereigns) and missed by a half-length when second in the Derby (G1) at Epsom.
Never No More would have been intriguing in the French 2000 Guineas (G1). Unfortunately, he was scratched from the May 12 classic and sidelined thereafter.
O’Brien has given him a raft of Group 1 entries for the rest of the season, and even flirted with the July 31 Sussex (G1) at Glorious Goodwood – a Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) “Win and You’re In” – before opting for Arlington. The Secretariat isn’t an easy spot off the four-month break, especially being his first race outside of Ireland. But it’s not as brutal as tackling the Sussex or his alternative engagement this weekend, Sunday’s Prix Jacques le Marois (G1) at Deauville.
Considering how well Never No More ran in his 2019 debut, he might be less in need of a race than a typical O’Brien off the bench. Nevertheless, it is his first try at a mile, and whatever he does in Chicago will bring him on for a fall campaign. Note that he’s untested on a course as firm as Arlington’s likely to be, but both his pedigree and action suggest he’d handle it fine.
By Scat Daddy and out of a full sister to Exotic Bloom, the dam of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Stopchargingmaria, Van Beethoven looked like one who could emerge on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail. A slow-starting ninth in the UAE Derby (G2) ended that speculation, but continued the enigma of a colt who hasn’t built upon his initially promising efforts at two.
Van Beethoven, a debut third at Newmarket, improved to wire a six-furlong event at Naas with authority. Odds-on in the Marble Hill at the Curragh, the dark bay was outpaced by talented stablemate Fairyland and eventually ground his way into second. I thought he was looking for another furlong, but O’Brien dropped him back to five for Royal Ascot’s Windsor Castle, where he made up ground on the far side to take fourth.
Back up to six for the Railway (G2), Van Beethoven got the job done as the odds-on favorite. He was workmanlike in a less-than-stellar renewal, again prompting questions about his optimal trip.
The rest of Van Beethoven’s record is anticlimactic. After sweating up badly in his poor seventh in the July (G2) at Newmarket, he had his chance to try seven furlongs in the Vintage (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. A frustrating trip didn’t help as he kept having to maneuver for room down the stretch, but he gained belatedly to snatch fifth.
Not seen again until the September 15 Champagne (G2) at Doncaster, Van Beethoven passed a couple of rivals to finish fourth, but nowhere near the imperious Too Darn Hot or second-best Phoenix of Spain. He entered the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint but failed to draw in from the also-eligible list.
Van Beethoven’s trajectory could simply be the familiar story of a precocious juvenile who was found out as the season progressed. Yet his pedigree has made me want to resist that conclusion. Might last summer’s virus at Ballydoyle have been a factor in blighting his second-half resume?
Either way, it’s a moot point by now because Van Beethoven hasn’t hit the board in five tries this term. He returned with a fourth in the Patton S. on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, a creditable enough effort off a nearly six-month layoff under top weight of 134 pounds. But hopes that he’d move forward have been misplaced.
Never involved in the UAE Derby once he broke slowly and took the scenic route around Meydan, Van Beethoven has been highly tried back on the European turf. He finished sixth to Persian King in the French 2000 Guineas on heavy going, but no better on good-to-firm in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) as he reported home seventh behind Phoenix of Spain and Too Darn Hot (the reverse of the Champagne exacta).
Van Beethoven might have been the type to drop in class for the Jersey (G3). Instead he was pitched back in among the heavyweights in the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, and unsurprisingly wound up a non-threatening eighth.
In a telltale sign of loss of confidence at Ballydoyle, Van Beethoven sports no more Group 1 entries in Great Britain, Ireland, or France.
For a horse who had good tactical speed once upon a time, it’s possible that being held up off the pace has only taken him out of his game. If he’s more of a cruising speed/galloping type, he wouldn’t have the turn of foot to make up ground from too far off the pace.
The Secretariat offers Van Beethoven an opportunity to turn things around, although it’s fair to ask how many more chances he can get. Beyond Saturday, I’d love to see my pet hypothesis – that he’s a dirt horse at heart – tested by his remaining stateside.
Aidan O’Brien, still in search of his first win in the Beverly D. (G1), could be double-handed as he tries to halt the Chad Brown winning streak. Brown has won four straight (and five overall) editions, and his defending champion Sistercharlie will be difficult to dethrone in this sister race to the Arlington Million (G1).
O’Brien has Magic Wand, who is cross-entered to the Million, and Fleeting, who might be left to shoulder Ballydoyle hopes alone in the Beverly D.
Before Brown’s reign began, British shippers had taken three in a row (2012-14), and would have made it four if Secret Gesture hadn’t been demoted in 2015. There’s one British hopeful this time around, in the tactical Awesometank.
Which Brown behemoth should Magic Wand take on? Bricks and Mortar, who comfortably beat her in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), looms large in the Million. Sistercharlie likewise defeated her in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), but on paper, Magic Wand has less of a deficit to make up on her main distaff rival.
As discussed in the Million scouting report (see her replays and analysis at the link), Magic Wand didn’t get her preferred quick surface when trying either one of the Brown stars. Gulfstream Park was yielding for the Pegasus, and Churchill Downs was officially “good” but with plenty of residual moisture that blunted her kick in the Breeders’ Cup. So she’s capable of better than the bare results in both.
Although her beaten margin was about the same when runner-up to Bricks and Mortar (2 1/2 lengths) and fourth to Sistercharlie (2 3/4 lengths), the respective weight assignments must be included. Bricks and Mortar gave her 12 pounds and a comfortable beating, while Sistercharlie carried four more (as an older filly versus then-sophomore Magic Wand). At Arlington, Magic Wand would receive only three pounds from Bricks and Mortar, and meet Sistercharlie on level terms. By those calculations, the Beverly D. is the better spot.
The counterpoint is that Sistercharlie is a fresh champion making just the second start of her campaign. As dominant as Bricks and Mortar has been, it’s not easy to remain at a peak from wintertime straight through the summer. And if he regresses at all, the Million is up for grabs. Even knowing that no mare has captured the Million besides Estrapade (1986), the big prize is tempting.
The Coolmore brain trust is presumably assessing every angle, especially as Magic Wand comes off a career-worst last in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1). That strikes me as a draw-a-line-through-it loss, but still a factor in the decision-making.
Stablemate Fleeting enters in the form of her life, with the proviso that three-year-olds have generally found it tough to cope with elders in this spot. Euro Charline (2014) is the lone winner from this demographic, and she was already proven over older distaffers (admittedly of lesser caliber).
By Zoffany, a scion of the Danehill line, Fleeting inherits her abundant stamina from her dam, Spanish champion Azafata. That daughter of Motivator (the same sire as Treve) romped in the 2012 Premio Villamejor (Spanish St Leger) going 1 3/4 miles at Madrid’s La Zarzuela.
Fleeting won at first asking as a juvenile – a good sign for an O’Brien runner even in a small field at Limerick. She must have been showing something at home to go off as the 9-4 second choice, and needed every yard of the seven furlongs to get up. Shortening up to six furlongs for the Grangecon Stud (G3) figured to be too sharp, but she had the pace to lead before dropping back to last, in too poor a display just to chalk up to the distance.
Indeed, Fleeting wasn’t seen again for two months until the September 1 Flame of Tara (G3) at the Curragh, where she placed a solid third to Just Wonderful (who recently was second to Concrete Rose in the Belmont Oaks Invitational [G1]). She didn’t have Just Wonderful’s turn of foot but kept on dourly.
Fleeting improved for that tightener when wheeling back 12 days later to upset the May Hill (G2) at Doncaster at 12-1. In a change of running style, she relaxed at the rear of the field, hit top gear in the final furlong of the mile, and won going away. Runner-up Star Terms came right back to finish a near-miss third in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) on Arc Day.
The Boussac was on the radar for Fleeting, as was the Fillies’ Mile (G1), but she ended up calling it a season. She resurfaced in Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1) and faded to last of 15, in what was merely a warm-up.
Fleeting took a leap forward over 1 1/2 miles in the Oaks (G1) at Epsom. Switched off at the back of pack, in an unpromising position entering the straight, the 25-1 shot did not have the clearest of runs before spearing through on the inside. Her eye-catching rally snatched third to Anapurna and well-backed stablemate Pink Dogwood.
Staying at 1 1/2 miles in her two ensuing starts, Fleeting validated her Epsom effort. She was sent off as the favorite in the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot, but ran into John Gosden’s rapidly progressing Star Catcher. The decisive point came in upper stretch when Fleeting tried to follow Star Catcher through, but the winner forged clear. To be fair, Fleeting did quicken while having to thread through the field. Yet Star Catcher’s better position gave her the upper hand, and she found more in the final furlong to keep Fleeting at bay.
Star Catcher again prevailed in their rematch in the Irish Oaks (G1). Fleeting narrowed the gap to a half-length, but the tactical virtuosity of her rival once more made the difference. On the plus side, Fleeting reversed Epsom form with stablemate Pink Dogwood, who was left 4 1/2 lengths back in third.
After placings in two classics and a Royal Ascot feature, Fleeting’s form must be respected. The concern, aside from her tender age, is the sharp cutback in trip. Fleeting’s doing her best work in the 11th and 12th furlongs, and she’ll need to pick up a lot sooner here.
Multiple Group 3 placings might not be good enough in theory at the Grade 1 level, but the gritty speed type can punch above her weight for William Haggas.
The British trainer, who recently suffered the heartbreaking loss of superstar Sea of Class, had three notable runners in the United States last season. The Queen’s Call to Mind rolled in a course-record Belmont Gold Cup (G2), and both of his Breeders’ Cup starters performed creditably, Queen of Bermuda finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint and One Master a close fifth in the Mile (G1).
Awesometank has already overachieved as a bargain 25,000 guineas ($39,561) Tattersalls December weanling. The daughter of Intense Focus (a Giant’s Causeway stallion) hails from the family of reigning Irish St Leger (G1) hero Flag of Honour but apparently doesn’t share his distance capacity.
As a juvenile, Awesometank bumped into future French classic winner Teppal when trying to break her maiden in her third start. She then took the nursery (two-year-old handicap) route and scored determinedly in a three-way photo at Newmarket. (Scratched from that same “Jersey Lily” nursery was Simply Breathless, the Wilshire [G3] winner who was third in the Modesty [G3]).
Awesometank made it a double in a nearly one-mile nursery over the boys at York, where she kept her neck in front in juvenile course-record time. She attempted stakes company back at Newmarket in the Montrose Fillies’ S., checking in a couple of lengths astern in fourth.
Plans called for Awesometank to open her sophomore campaign in another listed event, the Michael Seely Memorial at York, but she refused to load into the gate. So the dark bay was rerouted to a Chelmsford handicap to start 2018, and there was no miscue this time. Finding her preferred style as a front runner, she held sway by daylight in the Polytrack mile.
Awesometank was ready for a stakes test now, and she wired last summer’s Coral Distaff at Sandown.
Awesometank repels a multitude of challengers as the William Haggas trained daughter of Intense Focus wins her fourth race from her last five runs to land her first pattern-class prize pic.twitter.com/rEMRXKeyy5
Stepping up to a Group 3 event over the same track and mile trip in the Atalanta (G3), she was runner-up to class-dropping Veracious, who was coming off Group 1 placings to Alpha Centauri and Wild Illusion. (Veracious recently earned a top-level win in the Falmouth [G1] at Newmarket’s July Festival).
Dispatched to ParisLongchamp last September for the Prix Bertrand de Tarragon (G3), Awesometank had to play second fiddle again, this time to My Sister Nat – a younger half-sister to Sistercharlie. Adding merit to her effort was the fact that she was held up off the pace while trying about nine furlongs for the first time.
Awesometank’s progressive profile made her the slight favorite versus older males in the Darley (G3) at Newmarket. She threw in the worst race of her life in a long-way last.
In her first two outings this season, Awesometank resumed her upward march. She justified favoritism back at a mile in her own division in Goodwood’s Conqueror S. Stalking and pouncing, she just held on from Anna Nerium.
Awesometank gamely holds off Anna Nerium in the Conqueror Stakes.
The two renewed rivalry in the Princess Elizabeth (G3) at Epsom on Derby Day, June 1, and Anna Nerium – with experience over that unique track – got the better of her. Awesometank salvaged second from old foe Veracious, who looked all at sea on the camber.
Pitched in against males in Ascot’s Summer Mile (G2) last out, Awesometank set a rollicking pace and paid the price when retreating to seventh of eight.
Awesometank’s tactical speed can be a plus, if she avoids a costly battle with Sistercharlie’s pacemaker, Thais. The Beverly D. distance is also a question mark, but American conditions don’t put as much of a premium on stamina, and her second at ParisLongchamp last year is encouraging.
Four European shippers are entered in the Arlington Million (G1)
Four European shippers are entered in Saturday’s 37th running of the Arlington Million (G1) – Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand, who is cross-entered to the Beverly D. (G1), and stablemate Hunting Horn; Intellogent from France; and British-based Pivoine.
While Intellogent and Pivoine are venturing abroad for the first time, the O’Brien entrants are familiar to fans on this side of the pond. Magic Wand is on her fourth transatlantic mission and Hunting Horn on his sixth.
Before diving into the details, an historical note. Internationals had more success in the first decade or so of this millennium, winning six Millions between 2001-13. That tally arguably should have been eight, if not for the disqualifications of Powerscourt (2004) and The Apache (2013). Powerscourt gained revenge in 2005, giving O’Brien his first of two Millions, followed by Cape Blanco (2011).
The trend has reversed in the past five editions, with four American-based winners and only British shipper Mondialiste (2016) intervening.
Ryan Moore is named to ride Hunting Horn, and Wayne Lordan is listed aboard Magic Wand in both the Million and Beverly D. With plans to be determined for Magic Wand, we’ll treat the Ballydoyle pair together since their races overlap. And even if she does opt for the Beverly D., the unified treatment also offers more context for Hunting Horn. We’ll concentrate on their efforts this campaign considering they’ve been covered in this space previously (see links to past scouting reports).
Hunting Horn, a Camelot colt and “nephew” of High Chaparral, was also covered in scouting reports last summer prior to his third in the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) and his flop at this track and trip in the Secretariat (G1), where he succumbed to a pace battle from an outside post. He was included in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) scouting report as well, but unsurprisingly was no match for Enable while serving as stablemate Magical’s wingman. Hunting Horn made the trek to Gulfstream with Magic Wand for Pegasus World Cup Day, but ran in the W.L. McKnight (G3) on the undercard, endured a checkered passage, and showed belated interest in third.
Unlike Magic Wand who wasn’t seen again until Dubai World Cup night, Hunting Horn shipped to Qatar in February for the H.H. The Amir Trophy and placed third. That form isn’t the deepest but at least the victorious French King has come back to take a pair of German Group 2s.
Hunting Horn and Magic Wand were reunited in the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), and neither delivered their best in a race where O’Brien tends to underperform. Magic Wand faded tamely in fifth, edged by Hunting Horn in the photo for fourth.
Both were back on form, however, in the May 11 Man o’ War (G1) at Belmont. Pacemaker Hunting Horn nearly pulled off the coup until compounding in the 11th furlong. He could be dangerous if adopting the same brazen tactic going a furlong shorter here, although Bandua might not let him get away.
Magic Wand rallied for a close third, finally finding firm ground stateside. Still, the bare form with Channel Maker and Arklow indicates she needs to find more versus the leading U.S. turf male.
The stablemates went their separate ways at Royal Ascot. Magic Wand was compromised by soft ground in the listed Wolferton S., but placed a game second to Addeybb. The form has worked out as Wolferton third Elarqam has gone on to win his next two, recently gaining vengeance upon Addeybb in the July 27 York (G2).
In contrast, Hunting Horn faced a far stiffer task as Magical’s pacemaker in the Prince of Wales’s (G1). Yet he stayed on for a creditable fourth to Crystal Ocean, Magical, and Waldgeist. Among those behind Hunting Horn were two subsequent winners at Glorious Goodwood – Deirdre, the Japanese classic victress who just upset the Nassau (G1), and Desert Encounter, last year’s Canadian International (G1) hero who snapped his losing skid in the Glorious (G3).
Magic Wand reverted to distaff company, for the first time since the Breeders’ Cup, when wheeling back in the June 28 Pretty Polly (G1) at the Curragh. Although putting away familiar rival Wild Illusion, she could not fend off the hit-or-miss sophomore Iridessa who was carrying 12 fewer pounds. Magic Wand had no problem conceding that weight to the other sophomore, her dual classic-placed stablemate Pink Dogwood, the third-placer as the favorite.
Meanwhile, Hunting Horn stayed on pacemaker duty for Magical in the Eclipse (G1), retreating to sixth behind Enable and his hard-trying stablemate. With Magical on holiday for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1), it was Magic Wand joining Hunting Horn back at Ascot. Magic Wand was burned up chasing another O’Brien rabbit and wound up a tailed-off last, but the stalking Hunting Horn was a decent fifth to Enable. Magic Wand’s effort is a toss in the circumstances, especially since it smacks of giving her something to do ahead of Arlington.
Note that Magic Wand won’t get as much of a weight concession as in her last two stateside appearances. She has to carry 123 pounds compared to 116 in the Man o’ War (eight pounds fewer than Channel Maker) and a feathery 112 in the Pegasus. Bricks and Mortar, who gave her 12 pounds there, only has to spot her three here. Better ground helps, but that’s still quite a gap for her to bridge.
Also, for all of her admirable Grade/Group 1 placings, including last fall’s Prix Vermeille (G1) and Prix de l’Opera (G1), Magic Wand’s signature win remains her last, the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot more than a year ago. Hunting Horn likewise brings a losing streak dating back to 2018 Royal Ascot, when he scored his lone stakes victory in the Hampton Court (G3).
Trainer Fabrice Chappet, who developed Uni and Precieuse before Chad Brown got them, sends out the only European Group 1 winner in action on Million Day. By the Galileo stallion Intello and descending from a deep German family, Intellogent has been competing in marquee events at home, beat Hunting Horn in their only prior meeting, and sports collateral form through another Ballydoyle notable.
Showing resolve to prevail in his debut as a juvenile at left-handed Saint-Cloud, Intellogent was on the French classic trail at three. Fiona Carmichael’s chestnut appeared in the midst of a winning rally as the favorite in the 2018 Prix Omnium II, only to have front-running Francesco Bere fight back to score by a half-length. Intellogent was overturned again in a ParisLongchamp conditions race, finishing third by the same margin, and subsequently didn’t take up his engagement in the French 2000 Guineas (G1).
A switch to Chantilly, and better ground, helped him lift his game. Up to about nine furlongs for the Prix de Guiche (G3), Intellogent closed from well off the pace and outbattled Patascoy and favored Glorious Journey to the line.
Intellogent could not get the better of Patascoy in their French Derby (G1) rematch, perhaps thanks to the combination of soft going over 10 1/2 furlongs. Intellogent loomed in the stretch before settling for a close fourth, beaten a length by the victorious Study of Man and only a couple of heads way from runner-up Patascoy in a blanket finish. Hunting Horn checked in two further spots adrift in sixth.
Intellogent rebounded on the cutback to a metric mile in the Prix Jean Prat (G1) at Deauville, quickening well to strike the front, and doing enough to see off the stands’ rail-hugging Cascadian that he probably couldn’t even see.
Although last year’s milers weren’t a vintage group overall, it’s worth mentioning that the third-placer in the Prat, O’Brien’s Gustav Klimt, serves as a useful yardstick. Gustav Klimt was runner-up in the 2018 St James’s Palace (G1), third in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) and Haydock Sprint Cup (G1), a troubled fourth in the Prix de la Foret (G1), and ninth (but beaten only 3 1/2 lengths) in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Intellogent was put in his place when he ventured outside of his division and into deeper Group 1 waters at a mile. Sixth to the superb Alpha Centauri in the Prix Jacques le Marois (G1), he was wrapped up on when 10th of 11 in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp (G1).
Stretching back out as a four-year-old, Intellogent resurfaced with a distant third to Godolphin’s vaunted Ghaiyyath in the about 1 1/4-mile Prix d’Harcourt (G2) April 7. He suffered an even worse loss in the Prix Ganay (G1), a double-digit last behind Waldgeist, Study of Man, and Ghaiyyath.
The addition of cheekpieces made Intellogent much more competitive in his latest, the May 26 Prix d’Ispahan (G1). Closing from the rear to snare fourth to Zabeel Prince and Study of Man, he bested Wild Illusion who presumably needed that comeback run.
Intellogent figures to enjoy 1 1/4 miles in American conditions, and he’s coming off his best performance since last summer. Florent Geroux picks up the mount.
Although a handicapper with class questions, Pivoine has a profile roughly similar to Fanciful Angel who finished a half-length second in the 2017 Million at odds of 73-1. But Pivoine brings a more enticing pedigree as a Ballymacoll Stud-bred by Redoute’s Choice from the family of 2013 Melbourne Cup (G1) hero Fiorente and multiple English highweight Islington, an Eclipse Award winner in light of her 2003 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) victory.
Pivoine was on the upswing for his original trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, when he was cataloged in the 2017 Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale as one phase of the Ballymacoll dispersal. Then a sophomore coming off scores at Kempton and Doncaster, he commanded 340,000 guineas ($471,383).
The new recruit for King Power Racing was transferred to trainer Andrew Balding, whose Side Glance twice finished third in the Arlington Million (2013-14). Balding’s major North American scores have come at Woodbine, the 2003 Canadian International (G1) with Phoenix Reach and more recently the 2017 E.P. Taylor (G1) with Blond Me.
Pivoine stuck to handicaps in 2018, winning twice from seven outings. Both came on good-to-firm in the vicinity of 1 1/4 miles. After dominating a Class 3 handicap at Sandown last summer, he took three tries to break through in a Class 2. Pivoine responded to blinkers to achieve that goal in a handicap during York’s prestigious Ebor meeting, but ended the season with a 10th (of 33) in the famed Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, where he shouldered 135 pounds as one of the top weights. One spot ahead of him in ninth was Danceteria, who’s gone on to finish fourth to Enable in the Eclipse and just landed a German Group 1 on July 28.
While Pivoine can’t match that rise up the ranks, he wasn’t disgraced when sixth to Crystal Ocean in the April 26 Gordon Richards (G3) – note that the fifth-placer, Trais Fluors, later edged Intellogent when they were third and fourth, respectively, in the d’Ispahan. Pivoine pursued Crystal Ocean again in the 1 1/2-mile Al Rayyan (aka Aston Park) (G3) at Newbury but didn’t make much more of an impression in fourth.
After a forgettable run in Royal Ascot’s Duke of Edinburgh, Pivoine struck a new career high when returning to York for the John Smith’s Diamond Jubilee Cup. The five-year-old sprang a 14-1 upset in the lucrative handicap, again proving he’s at his best at around 10 furlongs on good-to-firm. He’s also two-for-two at York, implying Arlington could be congenial for him as well.
💎🏆 The John Smith’s Diamond Jubilee Cup goes to Pivoine! 🏆💎
The Andrew Balding trained gelding wins in decisive style in the hands of @rob_hornby18
Horse of the Year candidate Bricks and Mortar remains the one to beat in next Saturday’s Arlington Million (G1). That long-range forecast was reinforced by the pre-entries submitted Friday for all three Grade 1s on Million Day.
The anchor of a formidable Arlington team for trainer Chad Brown, Bricks and Mortar is joined by stablemate Robert Bruce, the defending Million champion. Robert Bruce, who topped the Brown exacta a year ago, aims to become the first back-to-back Million winner. But the pecking order is established after Bricks and Mortar defeated Robert Bruce in the Manhattan H. (G1) on Belmont Day, extending his winning streak to five.
Bricks and Mortar’s rise to the top began in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park, where he comfortably dispatched Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand. A rematch could be in the offing as the Ballydoyle filly is pre-entered in the Million, with a cross-entry in the $600,000 Beverly D. (G1).
O’Brien also has Hunting Horn earmarked for the Million. The presumptive pacemaker almost stole the May 11 Man o’ War (G1) in their last stateside trip, until swamped late in fourth. In their latest, the stablemates were predictably no match for Enable and Crystal Ocean in the July 27 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot, but Hunting Horn fared better in fifth as Magic Wand was a tailed-off last.
The Million’s other international pre-entries are the Fabrice Chappet-trained Intellogent, the 2018 Prix Jean Prat (G1) winner who was most recently fourth in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1), and English handicapper Pivoine from the Andrew Balding yard. We’ll dive into the internationals in next week’s scouting reports.
The respective top three from the Arlington H. (G3) on Million Preview Day – course record-setter Bandua and rallying place-getters The Great Day and Captivating Moon – are slated to renew rivalry in the track’s signature event. Rounding out the 10-horse list is Catcho En Die, who was promoted to third in last year’s Million but has since gone off form.
The 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), so it’s fitting that its sister race, the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D., is likewise part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series for the Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Brown again has the one to beat in reigning champion Sistercharlie, who bids to make history as the first two-time Beverly D. winner. Only the second Beverly D. heroine to capture the Filly & Mare Turf (after Dank in 2013), Sistercharlie arrives off a repeat score in the Diana (G1). The Eclipse Award winner brings along pacemaker Thais, who held third in last year’s Beverly D. to round out a Brown trifecta. Brown’s Competitionofideas, enduring seconditis after a trio of near-misses, will also appreciate a dedicated front runner.
O’Brien, yet to win the Beverly D., calls upon dual classic-placed Fleeting as well as the cross-entered Magic Wand. Fleeting has to buck history as just one sophomore filly has managed to beat her elders here, Euro Charline (2014), but she sports placings in the Oaks (G1), Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot, and most recently the Irish Oaks (G1).
British trainer William Haggas has the other international pre-entrant, Awesometank, a multiple Group 3-placed stakes winner who exits a seventh versus males in Ascot’s Summer Mile (G2). Ironically, one of her placings came in last September’s Prix Bertrand de Tarragon (G3) to My Sister Nat, a younger half-sibling to Sistercharlie.
The only domestic runners willing to brave the Brown battalion are a pair of also-rans from the course-and-distance Modesty (G3), Remember Daisy and Oh So Terrible. Remember Daisy deserves extra credit for her fourth-place effort, considering she stumbled at the break and found herself out of position in a tactical race.
Brown and O’Brien will square off in the $500,000 Secretariat (G1) as well, over its newly shortened distance of one mile. O’Brien has had greater success in the three-year-old feature, scoring four victories in its former guise as a 1 1/4-mile test. Compare that tally to his *two in the Million (with an asterisk since Powerscourt was disqualified in 2004, or else O’Brien would have had three) and his shut-out in the Beverly D.
In contrast, Brown has captured the Secretariat just once, compared to three Millions and five runnings of the Beverly D. (including the past four in a row). The reconfiguration might enhance his Secretariat prospects.
Brown’s Fog of War and Valid Point bring different profiles. Fog of War shaped as a budding star when landing the 2018 Summer (G1), only to miss the rest of his juvenile campaign with an injury. The War Front colt could be rounding back into top form in this third start off the layoff. Valid Point, unraced at two, has won both of his outings this term to stamp himself a threat in his stakes debut.
O’Brien has pre-entered Never No More, last seen upending a less-than-cranked Madhmoon in Leopardstown’s 2000 Guineas Trial back on April 6, and the well-traveled Van Beethoven, who would get some class relief following unplaced efforts in a pair of mile classics and the St James’s Palace (G1).
American Derby (G3) hero Faraway Kitten, and the dead-heat runners-up The Last Zip and Crafty Daddy, are on course for a rematch. Woodhaven S. winner Clint Maroon, fourth in the Manila (where Fog of War was runner-up), makes his first start for Wayne Catalano. Godolphin’s course-and-distance allowance winner Journeyman, a son of Animal Kingdom and Tout Charmant; Churchill Downs allowance romper Ry’s the Guy; and Bizzee Channel, second to Faraway Kitten in the Mystic Lake Derby two back, complete the 11 pre-entries.
The fields for the Arlington Million, Beverly D., and Secretariat will be finalized on Tuesday.