Arlington Million XXIX – signature event of the 2011 Chicago Thoroughbred racing season – will go to the post late in the afternoon on that second Saturday in August, preceded by the 22nd running of the Grade I Beverly D. for the world’s best grass-favoring fillies and mares.
On this Fourth of July Monday, one significant salvo in advance of the Arlington Million will occur approximately five and a half hours to the south of Chicago in Louisville, Ky., where Churchill Downs will host the 21st running of the Grade II Firecracker Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at one mile over the Matt Winn turf course.
Sullimar Stable’s Get Stormy, hero of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day as the traditional first stepping stone toward the Arlington Million, has been assigned the top impost of 123 pounds in the Firecracker ‘Cap. The 5-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic previously captured Keeneland’s Grade I Maker’s Mark Mile April 15.
Estrorace’s Workin for Hops, winner of the first two legs of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple last year before running third in the 2010 Secretariat, gets the Firecracker’s next high weight of 120 pounds The Mike Stidham trainee, second to Get Stormy in the Maker’s Mark Mile, most recently captured Arlington’s Grade III Hanshin Cup over the Polytrack May 21.
Tom McCarthy’s General Quarters, winner of the 2010 Woodford Reserve, but seventh in last summer’s Arlington Million, gets 119 pounds in the Firecracker and completed an easy maintenance move Tuesday morning over the Louisville lawn in advance of the Firecracker.
However, this Saturday, at Monmouth Park on the Jersey Shore, a field of 10, including four Grade I or Group I winners, will contest the 57th renewal of the Grade I United Nations Stakes, always a significant Arlington Million preview. Among those entered is Flying Zee Stable et al.’s Belle Watling, a Chilean-bred mare who is nominated to the Arlington Million as well as the Beverly D. Only one mare, Allen Paulson Estrapade in 1986, has ever won the Arlington Million previously.
Also, Hollywood Park will run its 67th renewal of the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on Saturday, an Arlington Million prep race for 3-year-olds and up that will be contested over the Los Angeles lawn.
Equilete Stable’s Victor’s Cry, winner of the Shoemaker Mile last year as a longshot, will try for his second win in a row in Saturday’s edition. The 6-year-old ridgling finished fifth in the Group I Dubai Duty Free in his previous start on March 26.
One week from Saturday on July 9 at Arlington Park, the suburban oval hosts Million Preview Day, offering the Grade III Arlington Handicap as the local preview of the Arlington Million, the Grade III Modesty Handicap for fillies and mares as a designed prep for the Beverly D. and the Grade II American Derby for sophomores as the middle jewel of the Mid-America Triple, which concludes with the Secretariat Stakes.
All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, no disappointment as the choice of the fans in the $100,000 Arlington Classic May 28 as the first leg of the Triple, breezed a bullet five furlongs in 59.60 over the Arlington Polytrack on Sunday in advance of the American Derby.
Although Arlington-based trainer Chris Block has elected to run Lothenbach Stable’s Mister Marti Gras in Churchill’s Firecracker rather than the Arlington Handicap, he has Team Block’s Never Retreat and Team Block and Rich Ege’s Askbut I Won’ttell penciled in for the Modesty ‘Cap and Team Block’s Suntracer slated for the American Derby.
Never Retreat, winner of Keeneland’s Grade II Jenny Wiley April 16, breezed a bullet three-quarters in 1:17 over Arlington’s grass course rated “good” on Sunday while the dogs were up. Suntracer, second to Willcox Inn in the Arlington Classic, breezed the same distance over the same ground in 1:17.40.
Irish-bred Burj Alzain, owned by Asaad Al Banwan and trained by British-based trainer Gerard Butler, breezed six furlongs over that same ground in 1:20 flat in an anticipated American Derby start.
Askbut I Won’ttell breezed five furlongs over the main track at Churchill Downs on Monday in 1:00.60.
In an added Modesty Handicap update, Daily Racing Form has reported that Bart Evans’ Wasted Tears, six-length heroine of Lone Star’s Grade III Ouija Board Stakes May 30, will be shipped to Arlington later this week in advance of the Beverly D.’s local prep.