Million Week 2019: Arlington Million Preview

The centerpiece of the summer meet at Arlington is the Arlington Million: the world’s first million-dollar Thoroughbred race when it was inaugurated in 1981.  Its first running is commemorated with a statue overlooking the paddock at Arlington Park: a replica of the tight photo finish that went to John Henry over The Bart.

Ten horses, including current turf route division leader BRICKS AND MORTAR and last year’s Arlington Million winner ROBERT BRUCE, have entered the Arlington Million.  That includes Aidan O’Brien trainee MAGIC WAND, who is cross-entered between the Million and the Beverly D. Stakes (G1).

The victor’s spoils also include a Win and You’re In berth to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). To date, one horse has swept that Arlington Million – Breeders’ Cup Turf double: Little Mike, in 2014.  However, one other horse won a Breeders’ Cup race after his Million triumph; Steinlen (1989) ended his championship campaign that year with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

ROBERT BRUCE wins the 2018 Arlington Million over stablemate Almanaar; he returns for a repeat bid this year.

Horse Racing Radio Network will cover the Arlington Million, the Beverly D, the Secretariat, as well as the Fourstardave (G1) and Saratoga Special (G2) from Saratoga, in an audio broadcast that runs from 3:30pm-6:30pm CDT.  This will stream on its website and on Sirius/XM 156.

This is just one of five stakes races on Arlington Million Day; once all stakes previews are posted, we will have a separate page with links to all of our previews and analysis for Saturday at Arlington.

Selections are made for turf only.  This piece is also published, in a slightly modified form, at the ThoroFan Handicapper’s Corner.

Saturday, August 10 – Arlington Park

Race 11: Arlington Million (G1), three-year-olds and up, one and one quarter miles on the turf, post time 6:12pm CST

Taking time off to heal and grow has paid rich dividends for BRICKS AND MORTAR, who returned from an extended layoff to win an allowance at Gulfstream in December, and in four starts since has emerged as the best American turf horse in training.  The jump from that allowance win to the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) proved to be the right move, as he finished devastatingly well to finish two and a half lengths clear of second-place MAGIC WAND.    One can only imagine that he was not fully tightened for the Muniz (G2), which he won by only a nose, and perhaps closer to the pace than he would have liked to be.  However, he was back to his devastating self in both the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill and the Manhattan (G1) at Belmont.

The Manhattan is particularly worth noting since he left ROBERT BRUCE, who he will face again today, a length and a half behind him, going a mile and a quarter.  They’ll meet again going a mile and a quarter in the Arlington Million, and though ROBERT BRUCE is a true mile and a quarter horse and a lover of firm footing, BRICKS AND MORTAR beat him comprehensively enough that it’s hard to imagine him turning the tables.  And, in terms of pace?  BRICKS AND MORTAR is adaptable enough that it doesn’t look to be a problem.  Yes, he makes his best runs late, but he doesn’t have to drop back to the clouds, and should even get something honest in front of him, given that HUNTING HORN probably goes, and BANDUA and CATCHO EN DIE will not likely be too far back.  All in all, often times the best horse just wins, and BRICKS AND MORTAR is the best horse.

The most intriguing of the new faces is the French shipper: lightly-raced four-year-old INTELLOGENT.  There are questions, of course, since he has not raced since May, has not raced outside of France, and he wasn’t facing the Enables and Crystal Oceans of the world last out in the Prix d’Ispahan (G1).  But?  INTELLOGENT finished well outside in that Prix d’Ispahan, suggesting he can get an advantageous trip from the 9 gate.  He is already a Group 1 winner over firm turf, having won the Prix Jean Prat (G1) last year.  That was at a mile, but he was beaten less than a length in the Prix du Jockey Club (G1) last year, going a mile and five sixteenths. None of his European riders make the trip: but instead, he picks up rider Florent Geroux, who is both familiar with the Arlington course as well as well proven under the heat and pressure of Million Day.  If he was going to pick up an American-based rider, no one spells confidence on a big day at Arlington quite like Florent Geroux.

I had some questions seeing INTELLOGENT out training on Tuesday morning — it wasn’t that he was lethargic, but perhaps the exact opposite.  He was hot, this coiled spring worth of energy that looked like it could go off at any time.  Returning to the track on Wednesday morning to train, he was still hot, but not quite as hot as he was on Tuesday, and looked better acclimated.  He is a powerful horse, but Wednesday morning he no longer looked on the brink of losing control of that power.  That’s a good thing, still several days out.  Beating BRICKS AND MORTAR still looks like a tough task, but INTELLOGENT has the most upside among the ones who are here to try.

The other two major contenders, ROBERT BRUCE and MAGIC WAND, are solid horses in their own right, but already have tables to turn on BRICKS AND MORTAR. Preferred between the pair is ROBERT BRUCE.  He won the Million last year and is likely to get firm ground again this year, something that plays in his favour.  This is his perfect distance.  In terms of pace, he likely gets the jump on BRICKS AND MORTAR; it wasn’t enough last out in the Manhattan, and if that foe is on the top of his game it probably will not be enough again, but ROBERT BRUCE has some upside making his third start of the year, and should find the picture.  As for MAGIC WAND?  This is certainly the right class for her, a step below the likes of Enable and Crystal Ocean.  But, she hasn’t won since the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot 2018.  She gets her share of underneath finishes at this kind of level, but that seems to be her more likely ceiling again, assuming she runs in the Million and not the Beverly D.



Longshot:  Among the longer shots in the Arlington Million, it makes sense to look at one in improving form with the upside to improve further: specifically, #6 THE GREAT DAY (12/1).  Though BANDUA beat him last out in the Arlington Handicap (G3), it showed that he can handle the Arlington turf course in broad, sweeping Lane 5.  And, with HUNTING HORN and CATCHO EN DIE in the picture, THE GREAT DAY should have more to chase than he did in the Arlington Handicap.  Though the Arlington Million is a stiff rise in class from that race, the Arnaud Delacour trainee has shown in his last two starts that he has made the transition from Argentina to the United States well.  The extra sixteenth of a mile should suit THE GREAT DAY well, given his strong ten-furlong form in Argentina, and he should be coming on well at the end.  If you’re looking for a longshot to sweeten the exotics, look at him.


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