Run at 1 ¼ miles on turf, the $1 million, Grade 1 Arlington Million Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse Aug. 10 is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
The Arlington Million always comes up interesting, typically with a group of horses from all over the world, and this year is no different. With that theme in play we’re going to break up this week’s Five Questions into “teams” to take a deeper dive into this race.
1. Team Chad Brown
It’s hard to argue that this race does not go through the Chad Brown pair of Robert Bruce (#1), winner of the 2018 Arlington Million, and this year’s morning-line favorite Bricks and Mortar (#3). Both runners certainly are capable in their own right, starting with Bricks and Mortar coming into this race on a five-race winning streak, including three Grade 1 wins. His current form makes him a legit contender and it is tough to make a strong case against him as he fits on class and speed. Those elements have allowed him to consistently work out favorable trips and it’s tough to see him against it when considering pace for the Arlington Million. Robert Bruce will look to be the first repeat winner of the Arlington Million coming off his win in this race a year ago (John Henry won the Million in 1981 and 1984). Robert Bruce’s form coming into this race is similar to last season, even though he has not won since that race. Something to keep in mind with him is course condition. He is one that really moves up on a firm turf course, and following the 2018 Million he caught three softer turf courses up until his most recent start at Belmont Park in the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes in which he ran a strong, closing second behind Bricks and Mortar.
2. Team Aidan O’Brien
European trainer Aidan O’Brien is expected to send out of a pair of Arlington Million runners in Hunting Horn (#5) and Magic Wand (#2) — a 4-year-old filly who is cross-entered in the Beverly D. Stakes — both with class and seeking to find their top form and the winner’s circle, something that has eluded both of them this season. They both enter this race coming out of a premier Group 1 race at Ascot in which they faced two of the best horses in Europe, Enable and Crystal Ocean, just two weeks ago. The turnaround is relatively quick though not overly concerning given the connections. Magic Wand has run well off this type of short rest (10 days) when finishing second in the Group 1 Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes back in June. She could move up on a firmer course and with Lasix added, and Magic Wand will reunite with Wayne Lordan, a rider who is familiar with her and twice has ridden her in North American races. She will need to show more than her most recent Ascot race, in which she faded badly to finish 11th without much excuse after tracking the pace. Stablemate Hunting Horn comes out of that same Ascot race and ran a sneaky-good race in there. He chased close to the pace of that first flight, and then stayed on well all things considered when finishing fifth. The turf course condition Saturday could be just what Hunting Horn needs: getting firmer ground than he usually races on in Europe. He has some tactical speed and seems capable of being a threat on the front end. It also worth noting that jockey Ryan Moore will be taking over this afternoon and should be able to exercise a more realistic pace than his most recent local appearance in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes earlier this year at Belmont Park.
3. Team Arlington
The local prep race for the Arlington Million is the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, which was contested on July 13 on this turf course at 1 3/16 miles, and three horses out of that race, including winner Bandua (#10), will compete in the Million. Bandua was able to sit a perfect, tracking trip — a stress-free position behind the lone pacesetter — and took first run at the leader using that advantage to hold clear to the finish line. He will step up in class off that win but has not yet been able to transfer his form to this Grade 1 level. Distance is also a factor for him with this 1 ¼-mile race. The Great Day (#6) is the most intriguing horse to come out of the Arlington Handicap. He finished a good second that afternoon and visually looks to have upside off that effort. This will be his third start of the form cycle and he has been improving with each race. The Arlington Million seems to be the target race his connections have been pointing to and should have him at his peak Saturday afternoon. Whether that is good enough remains to be seen, but The Great Day should give an honest account and run his race. Closing out the trifecta from the Arlington Handicap is third-place finisher Captivating Moon (#8), who could see a similar result here with a spot rounding out the top three probably the ceiling for him. He comes in a bit short on both class and speed, and lacking any early speed he is at the mercy of the pace to make his late run, a late run that is consistent and expected here as well.
4. Team Europe
This group is certainly not representative of the entire continent, however it does present a couple of new faces in this field coming in for their respected connections. Andrew Baldingwill send out Pivoine (#7) taking a big step up in class out of recent races in the handicap division. The more fancied Intellogent (#9) will receive the full North American treatment picking up the services of local rider Florent Geroux plus the addition of Lasix and blinkers for this start. He has had some starting-gate issues this year and perhaps the addition of blinkers will clear that up. Intellogent comes in fresh for this race and looking for his first win in 2019. Intellogent shows some back class in Group 1 races last year, and distance-wise he seems to have the stamina based on review of his recent starts.
5. Field of 10 is set, who will win “Win and You’re In” the Arlington Million on Saturday @Arlington_Park?
Team Chad Brown has the pair to beat with returning champion Robert Bruce and top older turf male Bricks and Mortar in top form coming into this race. On value alone, Robert Bruce looks to be a wagering key. While it will take a lot to beat this pair, I’m expecting good efforts from Hunting Horn, The Great Day, and Intellogent.
Next week, Five Questions returns with the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic, the signature race from the summer meet at Del Mar. Good luck to everyone involved this weekend!
Good luck this weekend. Any questions can be sent in on Twitter @EmilyOptixEQ.