For some handicappers and racing fans, the field for the 37th running of the Grade 1, $1-million Arlington Million is divided into two groups – Bricks and Mortar and everyone else. Bricks and Mortar is the definitive leader in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf division in North America, having won six straight races going back to December of last year, five of those being graded stakes. Nine horses are entered to try to break his streak. Leading that group is Robert Bruce, winner of the 2018 Million, who finished second in the Manhattan and like Bricks and Mortar calls the barn of North American leading trainer Chad Brown home. A quartet of European imports is among the rest, led by the filly Magic Wand, winner of $1.7 million in her career, some of that earned when second behind Bricks and Mortar in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in January. Her stablemate, also from the barn of Aidan O'Brien, is Hunting Horn, who finished fourth in the Man o' War Stakes when last racing in North America in May.
Intellogent won the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat Stakes last summer so fits at the level. He enters the race off a fourth of nine effort in the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan Stakes in France. The last of the imports is Pivoine, who has won six of 19 career starts but none have come in graded or group stakes. Catcho En Die won the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Stakes on the Arlington Park grass 13 months ago but is winless in four races since then. The Great Day is making his third start in North America after importing from his native Argentina and most recently finished second in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap. That race was won by Bandua, who aside from Hunting Horn, appears to be the type who wants to lead early or run second in the early stages of this race. Captivating Moon rounds out the field, whose best finish in a stakes race of any kind came when second in the 2018 Grade 2 American Derby last summer at Arlington Park.
Overview: Knowing it is highly likely Bricks and Mortar will be the prohibitive betting favorite at post time for the Arlington Million, I'll start with Intellogent as my top contender in the race. A four year old who has only raced 11 times, Intellogent ran the best race of his career when last seen finishing fourth of nine in the Prix d'Ispahan in May. That effort earned him a career-best 122 Equibase Speed Figure, which is identical to the career-best figure Bricks and Mortar earned in the Manhattan Stakes in June. Intellogent also proved himself at the top level last July when winning the Prix Jean Prat in France. Adding blinkers and Lasix for his North American debut, Intellogent also gets the services of jockey Florent Geroux. Per STATS Race Lens, in the last six months Geroux is red hot in turf races, winning 27 of 136 races for a 20 percent strike rate with a median win payoff of $7.40 and a flat bet profit on his starts returning $2.66 for every $2 wagered. Considering this colt opens at 12 to 1 odds, those numbers can be improved upon.
Per STATS Race Lens, another factor in favor of a big effort by Intellogent is the fact that over the past year, horses making their first start in North America in graded stakes, in turf routes, who are adding Lasix for the first time have won 10 of 69 races. That 14 percent win percentage may not seem like a lot, but with four of those winners going to post at odds of 8 to 1 or greater, this angle shows a flat bet profit of 39 percent, or $2.78 for every $2 wagered.
There's not much which needs to be said about Bricks and Mortar as his nine for 11 career record and $4.3 million in earnings speak for themselves. Since turning five this year, he's reeled off four straight graded stakes victories, three in Grade 1 races including the Manhattan Stakes when last seen in June. Not only that but Bricks and Mortar has improved his figure in three straight races, from 109 in the Muniz Memorial Handicap in March to 116 in the Turf Classic Invitational in May to 122 in the Manhattan. Jockey Irad Ortiz has been aboard for all the wins on the current six race skein and rides again the Million. As such, it would be imprudent to consider Bricks and Mortar anything less than the one to beat.
Robert Bruce won all six races he ran in his native Chile, including four straight Group 1 stakes, one of which was contested at the distance of the Million. Following time off to acclimate to U.S. racing, Robert Bruce won the Fort Marcy Stakes in his North American debut in May of 2018 and two races later he won the Arlington Million with a strong 118 figure. Since then, however, Robert Bruce has managed just a pair of runner-up efforts in four races. Both those second place finishes came in Grade 1 races, the most recent when behind Bricks and Mortar in the Manhattan in June. Last year Robert Bruce finished sixth in the Manhattan but was beaten just one length in a blanket finish, so his second place effort in that same race this year bodes well for his chances to take a big step forward and perhaps win the Million for the second year in a row.
The rest of the Arlington Million field (with best representative figure): Bandua (106), Captivating Moon (107), Catcho En Die (116), Hunting Horn (119), Magic Wand (119), Pivoine (109) and The Great Day (105).
Bricks and Mortar