Betting Intelligence: Arlington Million Day

August 11th, 2023

From well-bred maiden prospects to well-traveled turf campaigners, compelling racing is in store on Arlington Million Day. Here are some horses to consider on the terrific card at Colonial Downs, including a mini-version of an international scouting report on Romagna Mia in the Beverly D. (G1).

Race 2 – 1 1/16-mile turf maiden for 2yo fillies

#4 Beyond Oscar (5-1) is a half-sister to Bricks and Mortar, the 2019 Horse of the Year who’s on my list of the best Arlington Million (G1) winners. By turf star Oscar Performance (who was pulled up in the 2018 Million), Beyond Oscar was an excellent second in her debut at Horseshoe Indianapolis. The George Strawbridge Jr. homebred did not break well and found herself well behind early, but rallied to miss by a nose to a more experienced rival.

Subsequently sold to Gary Barber for $150,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s July Horses of Racing Age Sale, Beyond Oscar makes her first start for Mark Casse here. Interestingly, she picks up Javier Castellano. Her stablemate #3 The Myth (7-2) gets Antonio Gallardo. A half to last year’s Jessamine (G2) winner Delight, The Myth was a distant third in the Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies S. to future Queen Mary (G2) heroine Crimson Advocate.

Race 3 – 1 1/8-mile turf maiden for 3yos and up, fillies and mares

Pedigree handicappers will have a field day with this maiden, featuring half-sisters to several notables. #1 Heavenly Appointed (5-2) is a half to Grade 1 winner Karlovy Vary (herself the dam of Mean Mary and Bye Bye Melvin); #4 Determined First (8-1) is a half to Canadian champion Say the Word and Rideforthecause; and #5 Heckled (6-5) is a half to millionaire Pixelate, from the immediate family of recent Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) victress Wet Paint.

#3 Friendship Road (8-1), a Quality Road half-sister to Grade 1 winner and $3 million-earner Olympiad, has piqued my curiosity. The Shug McGaughey trainee hasn’t shown a lot in six starts so far, but only one of those attempts came on turf. As a daughter of Tokyo Time, herself Grade 3-placed on turf, Friendship Road could have more to offer on the surface.

But the angle that interests me most is that Friendship Road arrives from Fair Hill, the scene of rejuvenation for other McGaughey runners. Her freshening since March 3, and the restorative properties of Fair Hill, might make a meaningful difference. Friendship Road’s five-furlong bullet move on Aug. 5 is another potential hint worth taking.

Race 4 – 1 1/16-mile turf maiden for 3yos and up

McGaughey has a more obvious Quality Road in the next maiden, #3 Integration (3-1), a $700,000 son of 2016 Del Mar Oaks (G1) winner Harmonize. But he’s not the only one with pedigree intrigue.

Although #1 Utah Beach (9-2) and #6 Raise High (10-1) are from barns not exactly known for first-out prowess, both are training forwardly. Utah Beach, an English Channel half-brother to Grade 3 scorer Real Story and fellow sophomore stakes winner My Afleet, represents the trainer/jockey tandem of Ignacio Correas and Vincent Cheminaud. The Vicky Oliver-trained Raise High is a stoutly bred son of Noble Mission (brother of the phenom Frankel) and German stakes vixen Beiramar, so it’s encouraging that his works have revealed a bit more speed than expected.

Race 8 – Secretariat (G2)

#1 Silver Knott (3-1), the established class of the field, should get the best set-up since his near-miss in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Yet I’ve always thought he had the vibe of a colt wanting to go farther than a mile. Thus his 2000 Guineas (G1) flop was entirely forgivable, especially on unsuitably soft going. So was his slow-starting third in a Pennine Ridge (G2) that was controlled by the pacesetting Kalik. Stepping up to 1 1/4 miles in the Belmont Derby (G1) figured to suit, but he retreated to fifth. I’m not convinced that definitively proved his failure to stay, since he was more forwardly placed, and he might prefer hold-up tactics.

With Jamie Spencer aboard at Colonial, and no shortage of pace on tap, he’s likely to get that sit-and-wait trip. If trainer Charlie Appleby is right about cutting back to a mile, the Godolphin flagbearer likely wins. In any event, I’d like to see the son of the stamina-laden mare God Given get another chance going longer.

If my hypothesis about Silver Knott’s optimal distance is onto something, this race could be a bit trickier. #5 Northern Invader (8-1), on the other hand, is tailor-made for these conditions. Granted, this assessment is based entirely on his last-out maiden win at Belmont, but it was an eight-length demolition job in good time for Cherie DeVaux. And he’s by a hot sire in Collected.

Race 9 – Beverly D. (G1)

Argentine champion #5 Didia (3-1) makes a lot of sense in the marquee race that has been her objective. Between her proficiency over the course (2-for-2 at Colonial last summer) and her sparkling current form, the Correas trainee is a top threat to add a U.S. Grade 1 to her resume. I’d give her the edge over the other principals, #1 Fev Rover (2-1) and #6 Gina Romantica (5-1), whose credentials need no belaboring.

As a long-suffering fan of #4 Mise en Scene (8-1), I was relieved to see her finally regain the winning thread when adding blinkers last out. This is a much stiffer task than that Saratoga allowance, but the Brendan Walsh pupil has back class from Europe, and she wasn’t disgraced when sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Can the well-bred Siyouni filly put it all together at a higher level at last, or at least go close?

Recent import #3 Romagna Mia (4-1) would be an underlay at her morning line price, but chances are that her odds will drift on raceday. The Team Valor runner brings some sneaky form into her American premiere for Graham Motion.

Romagna Mia scored her signature win in last fall’s Premio Lydia Tesio (G2) at Rome’s Capannelle, where she rallied to deny defending champion Sopran Basilea by a neck. Sopran Basiliea herself joined Motion this season and made a mark stateside, closing for second in the Gallorette (G3) to next-out Diana (G1) winner Whitebeam, and then capturing the Robert G. Dick Memorial (G3). Sadly, Sopran Basilea sustained a fatal injury when fourth in last week’s Glens Falls (G2).

Romagna Mia’s ensuing record is less appealing, but the Beverly D. conditions arguably fit her better than her races of late. All of her wins have come on good ground, in this general distance range. Thus 1 3/16 miles on a firm course could help her deliver an effort comparable to her win over Sopran Basilea.

Sold for about $527,042 at Arqana last December, Romagna Mia was transferred to up-and-coming French trainer Jerome Reynier. He also trains Team Valor’s Facteur Cheval, who just finished a fine second to superstar Paddington in the Sussex (G1) at Glorious Goodwood.

In her first start for her new connections, Romagna Mia traveled to Qatar to take on an international field of males, and try about 1 1/2 miles, in the Feb. 18 H. H. The Amir Trophy. She was trapped on the inside behind a wall of horses, got out belatedly, and finished with interest in eighth behind classy Hong Konger Russian Emperor. Romagna Mia was just a couple of lengths behind Aidan O’Brien stalwart Broome, who was fifth.

Back down in trip upon her return to France, Romagna Mia caught a very soft course in the Prix Allez France (G3) and wound up sixth in a slowly-run race that suited forward types. The second and third later won major races at a mile; runner-up Mqse de Sevigne recently landed the Prix Rothschild (G1), and third Rogue Millennium upset the Duke of Cambridge (G2) at Royal Ascot.

Romagna Mia was then last of six as a 28-1 longshot in the Prix Corrida (G2), but the opposition was formidable. The victorious Above the Curve and beaten favorite Nashwa are both Group 1 celebrities who competed in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. In her latest, Romagna Mia fared better in the listed Prix de la Pepiniere, taking up a closer stalking position before getting outkicked in a more respectable fourth. Obviously more is required here, so the whole question is how much she’ll move forward in American conditions.

Race 10 – Arlington Million (G1)

At the risk of oversimplifying a competitive race, I keep focusing on the top two from the June 17 Monmouth (G3). #8 Catnip (8-1) edged #2 Never Explain (6-1) that day, but my suspicion is that it was a tale of trips. Never Explain was forced into a premature move, while Catnip pounced later. Switch the tactics, and maybe Never Explain packs a stronger punch, as he did previously in his course-record Dinner Party (G3).

On the other hand, Catnip can claim possible advantages in the rematch. Both have placed over 1 3/8 miles in the interim, and should appreciate turning back to 1 1/4 miles. But Catnip’s second in the United Nations (G1) came on July 22. Never Explain wheels back on shorter rest, from a third in the Bowling Green (G2) on July 30. Catnip has had time to post a work in between, firing a bullet half on Aug. 5. The Michael Stidham trainee also has experience over the course, as a Colonial maiden winner before tiring to sixth in the 2022 Virginia Derby (G3). As a son of Kitten’s Joy, and half-brother to millionaire Princess Grace, Catnip is just scratching the surface.

Never Explain is a year older, but still a progressive type with upside, compared to the pretty exposed divisional mainstays making up the bulk of the field. An exception could be comebacker #9 Adhamo (10-1), who has just one stateside season under his belt for Chad Brown.