With the Grade III Arlington Handicap looming as Chicago’s designed local preview for the Arlington Million, the field for the Million’s July 14 prep race was beginning to take shape.
One of the more fascinating possibilities for the Arlington Handicap is Lael Stable and All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, very familiar to Arlington fans for winning the prestigious Arlington Classic and Grade II American Derby last year during his sophomore season as the first two legs of the Mid-America Triple. Although third in 2011 Grade I Secretariat Stakes, the Mike Stidham trainee went on to win the Grade III Hawthorne Derby near the conclusion of his 3-year-old year.
Although he has yet to make his first start as a 4-year-old, Willcox Inn has posted four works in June – the most recent being a five-furlong breeze in 59.60 on June 30.
Trainer Barclay Tagg has expressed interest in running Joyce Young and Gerald McManis’s Sky Blazer in the Arlington Handicap. Fourth in Saratoga’s Grade III Saranac late last summer, the 4-year-old son of Sky Mesa was also fifth in Belmont’s Grade I Jamaica Handicap one month later. In his most recent trip to the post, Sky Blazer was a 4 1/4-length winner at 1 1/16-miles over Belmont’s Long Island lawn in an allowance and $75,000 optional claiming test May 19.
The final designed prep for the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes as the Arlington Million’s sister race also run Aug. 18 is the Grade III Modesty Handicap as part of Million Preview Day.
Easily the headline attraction among the Modesty’s probable starters is Stone Farm et al.’s Upperline, winner of the Grade III Arlington Oaks two years ago as well as this season’s Grade III Arlington Matron May 26. Trained by Mike Stidham, Upperline finished fifth in last year’s Beverly D.
Also being considered as strong possibilities for the Modesty are Robert Zoellner’s She’s All In, Catesby Clay’s Bizzy Caroline and Frank Calabrese’ Romacaca.
She’s All In, trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, was the 8 3/4-length heroine of Hawthorne’s Grade III Sixty Sails Handicap April 21 after finishing second in the Grade III Azeri at Oaklawn Park last March 17.
Bizzy Caroline, conditioned by Ken McPeek, won Churchill’s Grade III Regret Stakes last year and was second in Keeneland’s Grade III Valley View and Churchill’s Grade II Mrs. Revere Stakes last fall.
Romacaca, trained by Danny Miller, won Monmouth’s Grade III Matchmaker and finished third in Saratoga’s Grade II Ballston Spa last summer before finishing second in Gulfstream’s Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf and fifth in Gulfstream’s Grade II Honey Fox last winter.
Dale Romans, leading trainer at the recently-concluded Churchill spring meeting, has a plethora of stakes-winning sophomores this year – among them Donegal Racing’s Dullahan and Mark Bacon’s Silver Max. Both of those are being considered for the Grade III American Derby on Million Preview Day as the middle jewel of the Mid-America Triple and precursor to the Grade I Secretariat Stakes as the Triple’s final leg on Aug. 18.
Dullahan won Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity last fall and that same central Kentucky oval’s Grade I Blue Grass this spring before running third in the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
Silver Max won Churchill’s Grade II American Turf on Kentucky Oaks Day this spring and then journeyed to Chicago to take down the Arlington Classic as the first leg of the Triple.
Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas is interested in sending Bluegrass Hall’s Skyring to the American Derby. The sophomore son of 2006 Secretariat runner-up English Channel won Pimlico’s $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes on Preakness Day.
The Grade III Stars and Stripes Stakes is scheduled for Million Preview Day this season and becomes a designed prep race for Arlington’s inaugural running of the $400,000 American St. Leger on Arlington Million Day.
Riverdee Stable’s Eagle Poise and Hiram Polk Jr. and David Richardson’s Harrods Creek, second and third respectively a length and a half apart in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap April 22, are both being considered for the July 14 Stars and Stripes.