It’s Arlington Million Day and I am pleased to be there at the track that sits just NW of the city in Arlington Heights, IL. So far this week the buzz surrounding the international affair has been about the Man O’ War Stakes rematch between 2009 Million Champ Gio Ponti and the Irish Bred Cape Blanco. I agree with the draw these two bring to the race but I’m not ready to declare this a two-horse race just yet. Most analysis this week has also seemed to be pointing to the age factor in the Arlington Million; in particular it’s been Gio Ponti that seems to have “lost his edge”.
Sure 6 yrs old is getting up there in age but in today’s world of racing where horses are retired too young, it’s premature to rule out Gio Ponti today based solely on age. 2009 was a fantastic year for him and his victory in the Arlington Million that year was a championship caliber performance. However, I won’t argue that he’s the same horse in 2011 and that he will be able to match his 4 yr old form but I do think that the field has yet to match his ’09 form either. Gio’s win that year capped a four race win streak, all Grade 1 victories. All and all with Gio’s checkered past and experience, I expect him to be right there down the stretch and will not be surprised if he becomes only the 2nd horse to have ever won the Arlington Million twice.
The morning line favorite comes in with the clear advantage over Gio Ponti because of his win over him in the Man O’War last month at Belmont. That along with his age is what sets him up as the odds on choice to win this afternoon. It’s pretty common for European horses to come into form towards the end of their 3 yr old campaign or even more so at age 4. Cape Blanco had yet to hit the board in 2011 (4th place twice & 1 6th place finish) until he came over to the states and ran on the Belmont grass. He looked like a horse that found it and his win was impressive because Gio Ponti was bidding hard to get by him in the stretch but wasn’t able to score.
So between these two, it’s all about who can find their winning form but there are other horses in the field that they will have to beat as well.
Cape Blanco isn’t the only horse to have taken down Gio Ponti. Mission Approved did it when he won the Grade 1 Manhattan in June. After that notable upset at 21-1 odds, he also stayed put at Belmont and returned for the Man O’ War. But it wasn’t his day, as he missed the board and finished 4th. Even though he’s coming in as the 3rd choice on the ML odds, a win today would be a bit of surprise for me. His win in the Manhattan was a wire to wire bid so expect him to head to the front today and again try to hang on down the stretch.
Tajaaweed comes into today off a win at Arlington Park last time out. Winning the G3 Arlington Handicap was a huge bump for this colt as it was his first ever Graded Stakes win and first since an AlwOc in May of ’10. He ran 6th in last year’s Million but I don’t expect much more this year. Another horse coming in off a win that also raced in last year’s Million is Rahystrada. Last year he ran 4th and his win last time out was in the Colonial Turf Club. Again, I don’t expect any surprises from this 7 yr old gelding even though he’s been progressing with age as of late.
The live longshot honors goes to Zack Hall. There’s always a lesser known European entered in the Million and this year, he is that horse. Bred in France, he ships over for his first race on U.S. soil and takes a stab a shorter distance than he’s been running in Europe so far this year.
Picks: I’ll have to admit the Secretariat Stakes and Beverly D. Stakes are more attracting to me from a bettors stand point but you can still count on me playing the Million. For an across the board play I’ll be giving Wigmore Hall a good look, especially if his odds stay close to where he’s at on the ML. Maybe it’s cause I ‘m going to be there today and I would like to see a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since John Henry did it in 1984, but I’m taking Gio Ponti to return to the winners circle at the Arlington Million for the 2nd time in his career.
Grade 1 $1,000,000 Arlington Million | 3 yr olds & up | 1 ¼ Mile | Turf PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
- Rahystrada S. Russell B. Hughes 12-1
- Tajaaweed J. Graham D. Peitz 12-1
- Dean’s Kitten J. Leparoux M. Maker 30-1
- Zack Hall C. Soumillon M. Delzangles 10-1
- Gio Ponti R. Dominguez C. Clement 2-1
- Proceed Bee C. Emigh S. Becker 50-1
- Cape Blanco J. Spencer A. O’Brien 9-5
- Mission Approved J. Espinoza N. Chatterpaul 6-1
- Wigmore Hall H. Turner M. Bell 8-1
- General Perfect G. Gomez G. Thompson 50-1
The turf condition is listed as: Good and as of 11:00 AM there are no program changes to report for today’s featured Arlington Million. Good luck to all horses and their connections at the chance to bring home the Million. It’s going to be great day on the grass at Arlington Park.
Written by: Litttle Brink, Chicago, IL