The traditional G1 turf triple of Secretariat-Beverly D.-Arlington Million that highlights the Arlington International Festival of Racing received a new addition last year. That addition returns again. The American St. Leger is a race modeled after the St. Leger Stakes in Great Britain. It's a stakes designed for marathon runners, like its UK counterpart at about 1 3/4 miles.
Precedent for putting a marathon race with the Arlington Million existed before the creation of the American St. Leger. In 2010, Arlington Park extended the Stars & Stripes to thirteen furlongs (1 5/8 miles) and put it on the Festival card. Once again, the American St. Leger had a local race feeding into it, the G3 Stars & Stripes on Preview Day a month prior being the steppingstone.
Like the G1s that follow it on the card, this race is on the grass. As it's the second running, the race is ineligible for grading from the American Graded Stakes Committee. It will carry a purse of $400,000.
Arlington International-- Race 7 -- American St. Leger Stakes -- 1 11/16 miles on turf-- post time 3:52pm 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. Three-and-up types will see the starter.
DANDINO appears a solid choice in this field, as he's got an impressive resume at a mile and a half outside of America. Since foreign courses are usually undulating, that's extra distance and today's distance should be in his scope. He's also been recently in the same zip code as quality Europeans like Red Cadeaux (Dubai World Cup runner up) and Joshua Tree (won G1 Canadian International),. Trainer M. Botti won the first iteration of this race last year with Jakkalberry and he returns with the solid morning line favorite.
DARK COVE exits a victory in the local prep, the G3 Stars and Stripes at a mile and a half. Think the Ramseys that own him made a smart move putting him here rather than cutting back to the ten furlongs of the Million. DARK COVE set a course record on Preview Day last out. For him, the extra distance could be an issue. But the rider switch to Rosario is no fuss. Neither is the presence of IOYA BIGTIME, who likely will set the pace and, being that he's off form, fall backward and set it up for the closers. WIGMORE HALL is back for the fourth consecutive Arlington International Festival. Runner-up in the 2010 Secretariat, fourth in the 2011 Million, and seventh in last year's Million, he won't find the shipping foreign to him. However, he's stayed around and collected some checks at Woodbine (won last year's G1 Northern Dancer, the feeder to the Canadian International) and Woodbine form often holds well at Arlington. With DARK COVE scratching out of the race, WIGMORE HALL moves up a peg and NAJJAAR is used instead. He was fourth in the Arlington Handicap last out and two back chased around DARK COVE in the G3 Louisville. He's gotten fresh life on the grass this year, and rider switch to Graham (the top call rider for hot trainer Dan Pietz) shows solid connections.
#4 DANDINO (9/5)
#1 DARK COVE (3/1)
#8 WIGMORE HALL (7/2)
#7 NAJJAAR (6/1)
Longshot: One for the home team as #5 SUNTRACER (8/1) was second in the Stars and Stripes to DARK COVE last out with his stablemate setting him up. He's a one-run closer, but this race appears to be a two-speed number with OJOS DE HIELO and IOYA BIGTIME likely to make the early pace, and setting it up. Last time J. Leparoux rode in a catch mount, and this time he picks up E. Castro, and switch is meaningful for a stable that's been cold all meet (nine percent winners) but perhaps due to warm up. What goes down must go up, no?
Updated to include the scratch of DARK COVE.