2015 Arlington Million Preview

This piece is jointly submitted to Handicapper’s Corner at Thorofan.

For one week a year, the beleaguered Illinois Racing circuit puts aside its struggles and anguishes and gets down on one of the best parties – and race days –  of the year.  That same circuit becomes the epicenter of the racing world when it’s Arlington Million week.  The race this year drew a bumper field of thirteen.  The Arlington Million became an instant classic when John Henry bested The Bart by an inch in the first running in 1981 before a packed grandstand and eventual statue.  The Million’s ten furlong trip makes it a convergent race for the mile category and the longer turf races.  In fact, the winner of this race gets a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf.  Little Mike (2012) turned the double of winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf after winning the Arlington Million.  Steinlen (1989) did a similar double – Mile and instead of Turf in the fall.

Little Mike shows the field his heels and wires the 2012 Arlington Million. Video courtesy Youtube,

Chicago-based WGN-TV will televise the Arlington Million as part of a one-hour live telecast airing from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm CT. Such program can be also seen through WGN’s live free stream. Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will be broadcasting live from Arlington on Million Day from 3:30pm-6:00pm CT.  This broadcast will include coverage of the Secretariat (GI), the Beverly D (GI), and the Arlington Million (GI) from Arlington, as well as the Adirondack (GII) and the Fourstardave (GII) from Saratoga.  Coverage can be heard on Sirius 93, as well as streaming on the HRRN website.

All races are scheduled for Saturday August 15. Selections are “turf only”. At publish time the rail will be set to sixty-two feet from zero.

Arlington International — Race 10 — G1 Arlington Million — One and one-quarter miles on turf — post time 5:48 pm CT

When speaking with Richard Papiese, one half of the Midwest Thoroughbreds charge that sends out THE PIZZA MAN at Wednesday’s Arlington Million draw, Papiese dipped into the hackneyed book of horse racing idioms by saying he wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone.  But he feels the same strong feeling here that he got with Work All Week in the fall.  All that happened last fall was Work All Week won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.  But while heebie-jeebies is not an accepted form of handicapping rigor, what is accepted are other things like third off the layoff.  THE PIZZA MAN goes third off the layoff after starting his 2015 in a salty listed mile category stakes at Churchill.  He defended his Stars and Stripes title last month in a soft-paced G3 event on Million Preview Day.  Now he goes to ten furlongs.  While it’s a strange pattern on the surface, this is what the connections want and this is the same path Hardest Core took to Arlington Million glory.  This is THE PIZZA MAN’s home turf, as he won last year’s Stars & Stripes and American St. Leger both.  Pacewise, a false pace could develop where SHINING COPPER goes out for the lead on a suicide mission to set up BIG BLUE KITTEN (but setting up others in the field, too) and THE PIZZA MAN gets in front of the second flank.  That could play out in a field with a lot of closers and few desiring to be pace presences.  It may be cheesy to take an Illinois-bred in an Illinois-based graded stakes race, but THE PIZZA MAN – even if the locals bet him down – won’t be the usual odds on.  Europeans often take to Arlington’s turf like ducks to water.  Of them, MAVERICK WAVE may loom biggest.  Trainer John Gosden pulled the upset out of his hat with Debussy in the Million five years back and shocked the world once upon a time with Raven’s Pass.  Ergo, Gosden trainees shipping over deserve a hard look. Especially ones that won at ten and a half panels last time, as MAVERICK WAVE did that at Chester in a Group 3 in Britain.  Nine of thirteen in the money overseas and a Group Three winner, he’ll get first time lasix in his American debut.  MAVERICK WAVE does also appear to be tactical enough based on his European races. While he led last out, he’s shown he can pull back if the pace quickens.  BIG BLUE KITTEN has done little wrong in his 2015 as he won first off the layoff in the G3 Fort Marcy then engaged in two standoffs with SLUMBER in a pair of Grade Ones – the Manhattan and United Nations.  Both him and SLUMBER traded spots as 1-2 in the Manhattan was 2-1 in the United Nations.  This year’s Million is round three.  A trump card in BIG BLUE KITTEN’s favor is that he was second in last year’s G1 Pattison Canadian International.  That’s meaningful as Woodbine form often translates well to Arlington’s weeds.  Ken Ramsey owns BIG BLUE KITTEN – who won this race two years back.  BIG BLUE KITTEN’s rabbit, SHINING COPPER is in the field to aid him.


#7 THE PIZZA MAN (10/1)



Longshot: If ever a runner were bred for ten furlongs on the turf, it would be one by Tiznow out of a Chester House mare.  Tiznow is a fine distance and turf influence, Chester House won a Million. #3 BOOKRUNNER (15/1) owns that pedigree, and that could be useful to have go a mile and a quarter for the first time.  A winner at first asking at nine and a half, BOOKRUNNER’s only real clunker of a race came in career start three last Spring in the English 2,000 Guineas.  Perhaps an English classic in career start three is a bridge too far, and removing that race gives you a runner that’s always been in the superfecta and beat a next-out winner two back.  BOOKRUNNER will also get first time lasix in the Arlington Million as well.


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