Before we get into the “five questions” this week for the Arlington Million, I want to recap last Saturday’s Whitney Stakes at Saratoga. First off, I give credit to Diversify and congratulate him on a well-deserved win. That said, the weather played a significant factor, creating both a wet racetrack and a massive delay to the start of the race. Considering those extreme external factors, the race results and individual performances can be taken with a grain of salt going forward.
The Arlington Million always comes up interesting, drawing a group of horses from all over the world. This year is no different and features truly a diverse group of horses. Horses in this field of 10 (Divisidero was entered but will run at Saratoga) began their racing careers in six different countries. Literally, it’s a world-class event.
Here are five questions worth considering when analyzing this year's Million field:
Oscar Performance (Arlington Park/Coady Photography)
1. “Much more worried about form than post position re: Oscar Performance in the Arlington Million. There is a really long run to the first turn going 10f on that turf course” – @C_ryran
Regarding Oscar Performance’s trip, I agree with Ryan. He has tactical speed and is the quickest early, so establishing position should not be any issue as far as his outside post is concerned. It is an interesting question regarding form. He has been aided in many of his wins with perfect trips, perfect rides and/or the right flow (pace) for his running style. He sat off horses in his comeback race, the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont Park. There was other speed in the race and jockey Jose Ortiz was smart to not engage early and stalk instead. That option is less likely in this race. The two other horses that should be forwardly placed in the Million are Catcho En Die and Deauville. Neither possesses the same type of early speed as Oscar Performance. Considering the projected pace scenario, he could fall into another nice trip. It could be similar to the one he received on this card last year in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes, which he won. There is nothing in his current form cycle that suggests he is going the wrong way, nor are there or any other overwhelming negatives.
This is less of a question than an observation by Marcus Hersh, but it brings up a point that’s always worth considering on Million Day: which horses will appreciate some give in the ground. It is important to keep in mind that even though there are course ratings designed to give general guidelines about condition, no two turf courses with same rating are truly the same. Century Dream seems to run over any type of course. Oscar Performance won nicely over a yielding course, but two of his worst performances were on courses labeled good. If weather is a factor, and also considering that this is one of the last races on the card, I would pay more attention to how the course is playing and upgrade or downgrade horses based on prior results from Saturday. Factors to consider are: running style preferences; favoring horses that win from on or off the pace; and horses that win coming from inside or outside. You should also consider which jockeys best take advantage of these factors. Watch the races, make notes, and adjust accordingly to the factors in play.
3. “The Chad Brown Turf Festival is at Arlington Park this weekend. He came. He saw. He conquered?” – @RichEng4ProPick
One of the top U.S.-based trainers, Chad Brown, sends a contingent of live horses to Chicago for the racing festival this weekend. In the Arlington Million, he will send out three: Almanaar, Money Multiplier, and Robert Bruce. Almanaar returned from injury last out in an allowance at Belmont and, without the prettiest of trips, absolutely dominated the field. Jockey Joel Rosario had so much horse in the late running, it was scary. This horse was pointed to the Arlington Million last year and came up with an injury, and he was unable to campaign much in 2017. He has yet to race beyond 1 1/8 miles since shipping to the U.S., and his lack of experience could pose some concern. But there is a ton of class with this horse, and his connections are picking up right where they left off with him. Money Multiplier is the most workmanlike of the trio. He has multiple graded stakes wins, but has yet to win at this top Grade 1 level. Distance is a non-issue with Money Multiplier, but class is an issue. Robert Bruce was transferred to Chad Brown after a perfect record in his native Chile, including multiple Group 1 wins. He was heavily backed last out in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park as the second betting choice in a field of 13. That race replay is worth going back to watch. Those who supported him in the Manhattan will have a hard time not playing him back in the Million, after all the trouble he encountered. He was arguably best that day, and the sixth-place finish does not do him justice.
Deauville has participated in this race each of the last two years. Last year, he went off as the betting favorite, and disappointed his backers by finishing third. From purely a trip perspective, he had no excuse in the 2017 Million. He saved ground, was covered up, took the lead in the stretch and then lacked a closing kick, getting run down by rivals near the wire. He put forth a similar effort in his most recent race, the Group 3 ICON Meld Stakes at Leopardstown in Ireland on July 19. After Deauville made an easy lead and gained the advantage near the wire, a 14-1 rival was able to wear him down in the final strides. His recent form is spotty, and his last win was in early 2017. Taking a contrarian perspective, he is coming into this race with recent races and should be fit. He has to show up in here, and show up with his best. From a value perspective he will not be one of the post-time favorites, and he’s likely to be longer than his morning line of 6-1. So keepers of the faith will be rewarded if he’s able to produce a win.
This is a very contentious race, and I could see about half of the field winning, but I am going with team Sudamerica and Robert Bruce. As someone that watches races, his Manhattan is a complete playback-type trip. He has class, a favorable running style, solid speed figures, and capable connections. Century Dream is interesting at a bit of a price. He is in good form and his record in left-hand races adds to the appeal. Those two will anchor my play, with Almanaar, Deauville, and Oscar Performance as the others that merit consideration.