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By Anil Mukhi | 10 Aug 2018 |

Anil Mukhi

The very first Arlington Million was run on August 30th, 1981, and won by that admirable gelding, John Henry, who blended an iron will with a sturdy constitution. Contested at Chicago's famous Arlington Park, the race was not run in 1998 and 1999 due to the closure of the racetrack.  Thus this will be its 36th renewal, which is down for decision this Saturday, August 11th, as the eleventh race on a long card that includes the Beverly D. Stakes and the Secretariat Stakes, all on turf. Post time for the Million is 6:08 p.m. Central Time (4:38 a.m. on Sunday, August 12th, in India).

As usual, the sizeable prize money on offer during the afternoon has lured a number of international contenders. First of three consecutive Grade 1s is the $400,000-added Secretariat Stakes (10 fur.) for three-year-olds at 4:48 p.m. (3:18 a.m. on Sunday, August 12th, in India). Ireland's Aidan O'Brien invariably fields a runner here and has been rewarded on four occasions in the past, most recently with Highland Reel in 2015. His candidate here is the unlucky Hunting Horn (by Camelot) with Ryan Moore up, who has drawn the 13th spot in the starting stalls, widest of all. Last seen in the Belmont Derby Invitational, where he was third, he squares off against Analyze It (by Point Of Entry), who was one slot ahead of him there. Provided his hard race in that event has not taken a toll, the latter should prevail.

The spotlight next shifts to the distaff set with nine fillies and mares set to face the starter in the $600,000-added Beverly D. Stakes (9-1/2 fur.). Here Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore have a more likely candidate as they team up with Athena (by Camelot), a very impressive winner of the Belmont Oaks Invitational four weeks ago when your correspondent was present. Quoted at 3 to 1 on the morning line, this likeable sort comes up against the extremely consistent favorite, the 9 to 5 Sistercharlie (by Myboycharlie), one of four Chad Brown representatives here. Interestingly this one is the mount of Johnny Velazquez and the trainer’s usual “go to” riders Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Joel Rosario are partnering his other runners Fourstar Crook (by Freud) at 11 to 2 and Inflexibility (by Scat Daddy) at 14 to 1.

Silvestre De Sousa is vying for the jockeys’ title in England and it’s unlikely he would have made the trip to the US – missing potential winners in England on a Saturday that features the Shergar Cup – unless he fancied the chances of his mount, Nyaleti (by Arch) in this spot. The Mark Johnston trainee, winner earlier this season of the German 1000 Guineas, is stretching out an additional furlong.

That brings us to the $1,000,000-added feature, the Arlington Million XXXVI (10 fur.), for which 11 will line up. Chad Brown, who won last year with Beach Patrol, again arrives well-armed, this time with a trio of weapons. Of these, Shadwell Stables Almanaar (by Dubawi) is aiming to complete a hat-trick while Robert Bruce (by Fast Company) was part of a blanket finish in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes, but neither has the credentials of Oscar Performance (by Kitten’s Joy), winner of 7 of his 12 starts.

Schooled by Brian Lynch for Amerman Racing, the home-bred won last year’s Secretariat Stakes over course and distance and has his usual pilot at the controls in the shape of Jose Ortiz, presently leading the jockeys table in North America from 1,309 rivals. That means the four-year-old ticks all the boxes and ought to annex the rich prize. Aidan O’Brien has sent Deauville (by Galileo), who has logged many air miles but not earned a winning bracket since May 2017.

Either way, a fascinating afternoon's sport is on the horizon and it's a pity for prospective viewers in India that it will all take place in the early hours of the morning. But then those who miss this particular slice of racing action have the opportunity some 15 hours later (7:50 p.m. IST on Sunday) to view a top class event at Deauville in France.

This is the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard Jacques le Marois (1600 m., Gr.1), a prominent highlight of the summer for milers. Named for the former president of the Societe des Courses, the race has often drawn the very best performers around and its scroll of honour includes the likes of Lyphard, Irish River, Lear Fan, Miesque, Dubai Millennium, Dubawi, Goldikova and Kingman, all illustrious contributors to the progress of the Thoroughbred.

Amongst its eleven acceptors this year is the highest-rated three-year-old in Europe, the Niarchos Family’s grey filly Alpha Centauri (by Mastercraftsman), who is aiming to uphold the family tradition by emulating her grandam, East Of The Moon and third dam, the afore-mentioned Miesque, both previous winners of this race (for good measure, Miesque’s grandson Whipper, and her half-sister’s daughter Six Perfections have also won it in the past). With Colm O’Donoghue up, Alpha Centauri has every chance of giving trainer Jessica Harrington her first ever Deauville winner. As mentioned in these columns earlier, the filly’s older half-brother Tenth Star (by Dansili) stands at the Mebajeona Stud in Punjab.

Another lady trainer, Eve Johnson-Houghton, shelters the shock Royal Ascot winner Accidental Agent (by Delegator), who could well be involved in the finish should he replicate that performance. Regular rider Charlie Bishop has been entrusted with the assignment. The Irish 2000 Guineas winner Romanised (by Holy Roman Emperor) weakened all too tamely last time out at Royal Ascot and deserves another chance to show that his Curragh effort was not a freaky one.

With previous experience on the track, Recoletos is a son of former winner Whipper, so can be said to be bred for the job. Former champion Olivier Peslier, three times successful previously in guiding his mount to the winner’s circle in this race, partners the four-year-old who has won more often than he has lost. Carlos Laffon-Parias will saddle the home-bred for S.a.r.l. Darpat.

Of course every runner has some semblance of a chance but the only others of the remaining seven that realistically need a mention are: With You (by Dansili), already a Group 1 winner over course and distance just a couple of weeks ago when snaring the Prix Rothschild, from the stable of Freddie Head; Godolphin’s lightly raced Cascadian (by New Approach), who has never been out of one-two in five public appearances; and the progressive Intellogent (by Intello), like With You a Group 1 winner over course and distance in the Qatar Prix Jean Prat winner last month.