Florida-bred Little Mike will defend his Arlington Million crown on Saturday against a stellar international field.
The Dale Romans-trained son of Spanish Steps has not finished better than 4th in three Grade 1 events in 2013, but he has reportedly been training forwardly for this test.
The Arlington Million field features the winners of Group 1 races on four continents. Despite the return of Little Mike, it is a star on the rise, Yvonne Jacques’ multiple Grade 2-winning Grandeur, who is listed as the 7-2 Arlington Million morning line favorite. The son of Verglaswon two Grade 2 stakes while wintering in the United States last year. In his last race, the Jeremy Noseda-trained charge ran impeccably to finish second in a salty renewal of the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes.
Hunter’s Light, from the globally powerful Godolphin Stable, invades in an attempt to win his third Grade/Group 1 on as many continents. In the last year, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained 10-furlong specialist won the Group 1 Premio Roma in Italy on the grass and the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 in the UAE on the all-weather – both 10-furlong races. He enters off a third-place finish in another 10-furlong Group 1, the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis at Munich. Three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore has the call.
Indy Point, a winner of three Argentinian Group 1 races, made his North American debut in the July 24 Wickerr Stakes at Del Mar last out. Indy Point won that race impressively by a widening 1¼ lengths. A son of Indygo Shiner, GusMay-Fer’s Indy Point is trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, a conditioner with an enviable record of 8-1-3-2 in the Arlington Million.
In 2012, Indy Point won two-thirds of the Argentinian Triple Crown, including a victory in the Group 1 Gran Premio Jockey Club over a left-handed grassy 10 furlongs, in which he sped home in 1:58.25. Hall of Famer and two-time Million winner Gary Stevens has the ride.
South African Group I victor The Apache looks to return to the form that earned him a victory in the 2011 Group I Champions Cup on his native continent and an excellent runner-up finish two races back in the Group I Dubai Duty Free. The Mike de Kock trainee will be ridden by two-time French champion jockey Christophe Soumillon and comes off what appeared to be a fitness-building fourth-place finish in the York Stakes.
Two horses who have yet to claim Grade/Group 1 glory, but figure to garner significant respect are Windy Hill Farm’s lightning-fast multi-surface performer Nates Mineshaft and Robert E. Courtney, Jr.’s three-time Grade 3 Arlington Handicap winner Rahystrada. The latter (Rosie Napravnik aboard) finished in a dead-heat for third in last year’s Million for trainer Byron “Scooter” Hughes and will be the first horse to compete in the race four times. Nates Mineshaft (E. T. Baird), once considered one of the best dirt horses in America, has been reinvented on the grass and looks to be rounding back into top shape for trainer Anne P. Smith.
The Arlington Million provides the winner an automatic starting position in the Breeders’ Cup Turf as part of the “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, is one of three Grade 1 stakes races on the card that comprises Arlington’s International Festival of Racing.