• Beverly D.: Royal Ascot Winner Duntle Could Be Daunting
• Secretariat: Jack Milton and Java’s War Poised and Proven
• American St. Leger: Twilight Eclipse Could Blot Out Euros
Now that all the major prep races have been completed, there is an exciting buzz about who could be coming this year to the most prestigious turf event in America aside from the Breeders’ Cup.
Some new hats have been thrown into the ring in the last week, including that of globetrotter Side Glance, recent Argentinian import (to California) Indy Point and the improving Guest of Honour.
Side Glance is a winner of seven of 27 lifetime and in excess of $1 million in earnings. Last out, the Pearl Bloodstock-owned son of Passing Glance was seventh of 11 in one of the classiest international races of 2013, June’s Group I Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting. Previous to that, the Andrew Balding-trained gelding was a good fourth to Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup. A multiple Group stakes winner, Side Glance’s best Group I performance was a third in the 2012 Queen Anne Stakes behind the incomparable Frankel.
The most interesting new addition to the list of probables is Indy Point, a winner of three Argentinian Group I races who made his American debut a winning one in the restricted Wickerr Stakes – a race that has been won by Grade I winners Colonel John, Bertrando, Special Ring, Touch of the Blues, Becrux, Slew of Damascus and last year by Suggestive Boy. A son of Arlington Classic runner-up Indygo Shiner, GusMay-Fer’s Indy Point is trained by the highly able hands of Richard Mandella, a conditioner with an enviable record of 8-1-3-2 in the Arlington Million. In 2012, Indy Point won two-thirds of the Argentinian Triple Crown, including a victory in the Group I Gran Premio Jockey Club over a left-handed grassy 10 furlongs, in which he sped home in a zippy 1:58.25.
Guest of Honour earned his way to the Million with a fine third in the Group II Summer Mile Stakes – the same race in which Mull of Killough (confirmed for the Million) finished second. A son of Cape Cross – the same sire of world champions Sea the Stars and Ouija Board – Guest of Honour is trained by Marco Botti, who also plans to bring probable American St. Leger favorite Dandino. Owned by Giuliano Manfredini, the bay colt has never finished worse than fifth in his career and has not finished more than a length and a half behind in any of his four 2013 losses.
On the local front, a salty one-mile Arlington allowance race produced a solid return to the winner’s circle for multiple graded stakes winner Nates Mineshaft. Given a vigorous hand ride by E. T. Baird for trainer Anne P. Smith and local owners Windy Hill Farm, the ridgeling not only proved he is approaching a return to the form that saw him placed in the upper echelon of American older horses in 2012, but he also displayed an affinity for a new surface. The allowance was only his second try on the grass and first attempt in three years. He has been stabled at Arlington since mid-May.
These four new shooters join a diverse group of horses from around the globe that may compete for the $1,000,000 purse on Aug. 17. Headlining those being aimed toward the race are defending champion and multiple Grade I winner Little Mike, Italian Group I winner Vedelago, UAE Group I winner Hunter’s Light and South African Group I winner The Apache. Add to those the Group/Grade 1-placed Optimizer, Rahystrada, Real Solution, Grandeur, Asfare and Finnegan’s Wake, as well as highly regarded Group/Grade winners Skyring and Mull of Killough, and you have a remarkable field developing for Arlington’s marquee event. It is also worth noting that Grade I United Nations Stakes winner Big Blue Kitten is currently listed as possible, while dual Grade I winner Wigmore Hall is also on the fence as he is also being strongly considered for the American St. Leger in lieu of the Million on the same International Festival of Racing card.
ROYAL ASCOT WINNER DUNTLE COULD BE DAUNTING
The most exciting news for the Beverly D. Stakes is that Flaxman Stable’s Duntle is being considered for a trans-Atlantic trip after her exemplary runner-up finish to the streaking Elusive Kate in this past weekend’s Group I Prix Rothschild at Deauville Racecourse, according to the Internaitonal Racing Bureau. A daughter of Danehill Dancer, the long-striding chestnut filly won the Group I Matron Stakes last fall in the middle of a five-race winning streak that was ended when she ran into four-time Group I winner Elusive Kate. Trained by David Wachman, Duntle is owned by the Niarchos Family, who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Domedriver when it was held at Arlington in 2002.
Duntle’s best run this year was in the Group II Duke of Cambridge Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting. In that race she defeated James Wigan’s Dank, who is also under consideration for the Beverly D. Dank, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, is a two-time Group winner this year (in three starts) and came within three-quarters of a length of Duntle in their June meeting. The Duke of Cambridge, raced over a rigorous one-mile course, produced Joviality in 2012, who subsequently finished third in the Beverly D.
If the two European ‘D’s bring their rivalry over to the Beverly D., they will probably be greeted by Glen Hill Farm’s 2012 Beverly D. runner-up Marketing Mix, highly regarded fellow Europeans Gifted Girl (England) and Sarkiyla (France), and North American graded winners Ausus, La Tia, Solid Appeal, Somali Lemonade and Starformer. On the fence at this time from Europe are Moment in Time from the barn of defending Beverly D.-winning trainer David Simcock, as well as the Andrew Balding-trained Stirring Ballad.
JACK MILTON AND JAVA’S WAR POISED AND PROVEN
If you are looking for a horse on the verge of a breakout performance in the Secretariat Stakes, then your horse could be Jack Milton. Well regarded from day one by leading national trainer and 2009 Secretariat winner Todd Pletcher, Jack Milton has only had five starts – all in 2013 - and has never finished worse than third. By rising stallion star War Front, Jack Milton is owned by Gary Barber and won the Grade III Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland in only his third start in April. He followed that with a good third – beaten only three-quarters of a length – in the inaugural $500,000 Penn Mile behind Rydilluc, and then lost a heartbreaking three-horse photo last out in the Grade II Virginia Derby. After proving he can go the distance in the latter, he will be a very tough customer Aug. 17.
Grade I winner Java’s War, who won the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes impressively before running poorly in both the Grade I Kentucky Derby and Grade II Swaps Stakes, brings proven class and turf prowess into the Secretariat for trainer Kenny McPeek. As a juvenile, the son of juvenile champion War Pass out of a daughter of English and French champion Rainbow Quest won the grassy Sunday Silence Stakes at a mile. As a sophomore, as he has spent most of the year running with the best of his generation on dirt – including a second to Verrazano in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby in March to commence his season. The Secretariat would be a return to conditions many believe are much more to the Charles Fipke homebred’s liking.
If Java’s War and Jack Milton make their respective ways into the Secretariat starting gate, they may be greeted by a quartet of Europeans, including Group II UAE Derby winner Lines of Battle, UAE Derby runner-up Elleval, Irish Group II winner First Cornerstone and the well regarded French colt Visiyani from the same connections who took down last year’s Secretariat with Bayrir – trainer Alain de Royer-Dupré and His Highness the Aga Khan. Among the fellow North Americans ready to possibly challenge them are the streaking Canadian speedster Five Iron, recent Grade III American Derby victor Infinite Magic and consummate bridesmaid Admiral’s Kitten – second in three consecutive graded stakes photo finishes on the grass.
TWILIGHT ECLIPSE COULD BLOT OUT THE EUROS
For an event in only its second year, the American St. Leger is shaping up to be a phenomenal competition with a true America vs. Europe feel to it. With the Europeans taking down the inaugural edition in 2012, they have not shied away from attempting to repeat that result this year, even going as far as producing a contender from the exact same connections – owners Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock and trainer Marco Botti – in Dandino. Also under consideration for Europe is Khalid Khalifa al Nabooda’s multiple Grade 1-winning international traveler Joshua Tree, as well as the favorably regarded duo of Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s No Heretic and The Originals’ Mister Impatience. The latter is very intriguing considering he is a 3-year-old who would be going a marathon distance in the St. Leger – something alien to American racing in modern times.
Despite American racing’s lack of prowess for marathons, one would be doltish to count the Americans out this year – thanks to the powerful duo of Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Dark Cove and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Twilight Eclipse. Dark Cove, who is also under consideration for the Million, should be greatly supported at the windows after three straight 12-furlong turf wins over three different tracks – all graded stakes – including the local prep, the Grade III Stars and Stripes Stakes.
Twilight Eclipse will pique a lot of bettors’ interests, as well, considering his two breakout performances in his short 10-race career have come at his only attempts at grass marathons. Though not disgraced last out in a hard-trying second in the 11-furlong Grade I Man o’ War Stakes, the Tom Albertrani-trained son of Purim is superior with more real estate. In December, as a sophomore, he defeated his elders in the Grade II W. L. McKnight Handicap at Calder Race Course and then came back four months and two starts later to win the Grade II Pan American Stakes in the same dominating fashion – this time by four lengths over 2012 American St. Leger runner-up Ioya Bigtime. Twilight Eclipse has the speed figures (including three times running a 113 or higher Equibase Speed Figure), class and upward momentum to be a major player if his connections enter him in the St. Leger.
Joining the powerful Europeans and aforementioned American duo could also possibly be two-time Grade I winner Wigmore Hall, Midwest Thoroughbreds’ reigning Illinois Champion 3-Year-Old The Pizza Man, Shadwell Stable’s multiple graded stakes-placed Najjaar and Team Block’s multiple local stakes winner Suntracer. Wigmore Hall has done his best running in 12-furlong events, including twice taking the Grade I Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack in Canada after competing in the International Festival of Racing. Now with a patient-then-menacing late-running style that seems to have developed with age, Mark Hawtin’s Wigmore Hall may be a tough horse to beat at the St. Leger’s conditions.