The traditional G1 turf triple of Secretariat-Beverly D.-Arlington Million that highlights the Arlington International Festival of Racing received a new addition this year. The American St. Leger joins the fold this year, a race modeled after the St. Leger Stakes in Great Britain. It's a stakes designed for marathon runners, like its UK counterpart.
But it's not the first time Arlington placed a marathon race on the Million Day program. In 2010, Arlington Park extended the Stars & Stripes to thirteen furlongs (1 5/8 miles) and put it on the Festival card. This time around, the race attracted a strong foreign-based contingent and also had a local race feeding into it, the Stars & Stripes on Preview Day being the steppingstone.
Like the G1s that follow it on the card, this race is on the grass. As it's the initial running, the race is ineligible for grading from the American Graded Stakes Committee. For its first showing, it will carry a purse of $400,000.
Arlington Park -- Race 7 -- American St. Leger Stakes -- 1 11/16 miles on grass -- post time 3:14 pm CT
It's a mile race and a 5 1/2 furlong turf sprint together; a long run down the backstretch, around the far turn the first time, under the finish line, and one more lap around. The handicapping strategy is simple: Pick a foreign-based horse. Races of this length are rare in American racing, pedigrees equipped to handle it and true stayers at the distance equally as infrequent.
So which horse from Europe?
Let's go to with ZUIDER ZEE, who collected some minor awards at races in excess of two miles, last time out during a listed stakes at Royal Ascot and two back in a British G3 at Sandown. He's got two career wins, but both are at a mile and a half. John Gosden trains, William Buick rides, and the pair are quality human components over in Europe. He's been in the trifecta half of the time, but mostly over distances at a mile and a half or longer. Gosden usually comes over to the US with quality, let's respect him. Morning line favorite JAKKALBERRY was fifth in a G2 at Royal Ascot going 1 1/2 miles last out. He's danced the international big turf dances: Hong Kong Vase, Dubai Sheema Classic, Royal Ascot. Had a solid year last year in Italy, but I like his third three back in a G3 during the Dubai Carnival at 1 3/4 miles, where he was behind a next out winner. Even more like his third two back in the Sheema Classic. He won't be facing the mega stars like Sea Moon and St. Nicholas Abbey. LAKE DROP makes the first start in the barn of trainer H. G. Motion. This is a Team Valor acquisition, and they've gone this route before to snag turf talent. Thirteen of sixteen in the money, but they're in listed stakes in Italy. Did win a G3 in Italy last time at a mile and a half.
#10 ZUIDER ZEE (5/1)
#8 JAKKALBERRY (9/5)
#5 LAKE DROP (8/1)
Longshot: Euros take kindly to the Arlington Park turf, and let's use another one here. Think the locals are varying degrees of throw-outs, so let's see what else went through customs. How about #12 BRIDGE OF GOLD (15/1), who has a third three back and a second four back, both at a mile and a half? Was eased last time going 2 1/2 miles at Ascot and will be cutting back in distance today. His 1 1/2 miles races hold up against others based on Timeforms.