For those who want a sneak peek of possible international Breeders’ Cup raiders, Arlington’s International Festival of Racing in mid-August is always a good start. As is usual these days, Aidan O’Brien has a strong contingent in Chicago this weekend for the three Grade 1 turf races but he isn’t the only European trainer with horses here.
Want to know about some international contenders? Read below to see some of the horses who earned a new stamp on their passport this week.
Four-year-old Century Dream is an interesting runner in this year’s Arlington Million. He won two of his first three starts this year but followed that up with off-the-board finishes in his next two. But that is just the surface of his race record in 2018. He didn’t hit the board in his last two races but he lost them by a combined 4 ¼ lengths. If he had just a little more luck in June, he’d be coming into this race as a Grade 1 winner after finishing fourth in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes by just three-quarters of a length to Accidental Agent at Royal Ascot. One major worry here is that his only bad beat this year was at 1 ¼ miles – the same distance as the Million – when he finished 11th of 12. However, that was his first start back after a layoff and he did win at the distance in his final start last year so he should be able to get the distance though he’s an unknown at this level.
Deauville should probably have his own permanent stall at Arlington Park. This is his third try in the race with the 5-year-old finishing third in both previous editions. Deauville is a hard horse to figure out. He looked extremely promising as a 3-year-old when winning the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and finishing third in the 2016 Million, but since last year’s Million has been very hit or miss. He was 11th in his two races after the 2017 Million then finished second in his first race in 2018. But he lost two races after that by a combined 10 ¼ lengths before finishing second by a neck in a Group 3. While Deauville has had success in this race in the past, it is concerning that his best performances over the past year have come in Group 3 events when he’s also regularly been competing at the Group 1 level.
After finishing fourth to Europe’s best 3-year-old Alpha Centauri, Nyaleti is taking her talents to the U.S. and they are quite considerable. The 3-year-old won the Group 2 German 1,000 Guineas – a German classic race – two starts ago on top of winning two other stakes races in her career as an interesting addition to this race. In another twist to her U.S. connection, she finished sixth in a race won by Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski in her first race of the year, just 4 ¼ lengths behind the colt. The Beverly D. is a tough ask for her but if she wins it, she’ll be the first 3-year-old – and first European based runner - since Euro Charline in 2014 to win the race.
Athena returns to the U.S. for her first start since the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks for another Grade 1 attempt. The filly has come a long way since breaking her maiden less than three months ago. She placed in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes in Ireland on July 1 before winning the Belmont Oaks just six days later. She’s had over a month off and is coming into this race much fresher than she was in the Oaks, which could be scary for her competition if she performs to that level. Surprisingly, even though he’s had many runners in the race throughout the years, her trainer Aidan O’Brien has never won it.
Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien last visited Arlington Park as a jockey when riding Magician to a second place finish in 2014. This year, he returns to the track as a trainer with Ming. A lightly raced 3-year-old with just four starts, Ming has been impressive in three of them with a combined winning margin of 7 ½ lengths. That fourth race is what may stop him up here. The gelding’s only graded stakes start saw him finish sixth by seven lengths, but that was his first start since being gelded so it’s possible he needed the race. This won’t be easy for the gelding but if he pulls it off, he’ll provide his trainer with a Grade 1 victory in a third different country in only two years of training.
One of two Aidan O’Brien trainees in this race, Lucius Tiberius has an interesting record. It’s unusual for an O’Brien trainee to wait nine starts to step up to graded stakes company like this guy is doing but he comes into it off back-to-back wins. He did finish third in his only stakes try two months ago but that winner has gone on to place in multiple graded stakes since then while the second-place horse has won a graded stakes in that time as well. This is a big step up for the Camelot colt but O’Brien doesn’t ship them aboard to turf races unless he thinks they have a good shot to win.