Silver Max will look to cement his standing atop the three-year-old turf division when he lines up for the Grade 1, $500,000 Secretariat Stakes, one of four premier turf stakes races on Saturday's International Festival of Racing program at Arlington Park. Installed as the 9-5 favorite on the morning line, Silver Max could face a stiff domestic challenge from the likes of Summer Front, Cozzetti and Finnegans Wake, and must also overcome a couple of quality European invaders in Bayrir and Daddy Long Legs.
The Dale Romans-trained colt will bring a six-race winning streak into the 1 3/16-mile affair, leading wire to wire every time. The bay son of Badge of Silver cleared a distance hurdle when posting a comfortable one-length decision in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at 10 furlongs last out and recorded an impressive tally in the Arlington Classic over the local course three back. Silver Max's other stakes wins this season came in the Grade 2 American Turf, Grade 3 Transylvania and Oliver. Robby Albarado retains the assignment on the speedster, who will break from the far outside in the eight-horse field.
Summer Front merits serious respect. Unbeaten in five turf starts, his only career setbacks came when his connections tried to gauge his Triple Crown potential on dirt and Polytrack this spring. The War Front colt is decidedly better on turf, posting nice stakes wins at Saratoga and Belmont Park in his last two outings, and the Christophe Clement charge figures to be stalking the pace in midpack before offering his best. Saratoga's leading rider, Ramon Dominguez, who has been up in all seven lifetime starts, will travel to Chicago for the mount.
Romans will also be represented by upset candidates Cozzetti and Finnegans Wake. Cozzetti was on the Triple Crown scene earlier this year, recording a third in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby and a fourth in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby prior to a seventh in the Preakness Stakes, but the gray Cozzene colt possesses a turf pedigree and exits a career-best performance in the grassy, Grade 3 American Derby, registering his first career stakes victory in the local Secretariat prep. Shaun Bridgmohan sticks with the late runner. Finnegans Wake, a deep-closing son of Powerscourt, appears to be on the improve for Romans, recording a good-looking turf allowance win at Churchill Downs prior to a respectable third in the Virginia Derby. His connections are hoping for a little more pace Saturday, and Finnegans Wake will receive a rider switch to Jose Lezcano.
Bayrir, a lightly-raced but extremely promising French-based colt from the barn of Alain de Royer-Dupre, looks dangerous. The bay son of Medicean did not make his career debut until May 14, winning easily at first asking, and earned his first stakes victory two starts later in Prix Ridgeway at Saint-Cloud on June 24. Bayrir exits a comfortable 1 1/2-length score in the Group 2 Prix Eugene Adam at Maisons-Laffitte on July 22, and regular rider Christophe Lemaire will guide the once-beaten sophomore. Daddy Lone Legs was a Group 2-winning juvenile for his Ballydoyle connections and opened 2012 with a 1 1/4-length tally in the Group 2 U.A.E. Derby at Meydan. The Aidan O'Brien trainee wound up trailing in the Kentucky Derby next out and will look to rebound from a fourth in the Group 1 Irish Two Thousand Guineas last time. Colm O'Donoghue rides.
American Derby runner-up All Stormy and multiple Grade 3-placed Handsome Mike complete the Secretariat line-up.
Twelve horses were entered for the inaugural running of the $400,000 American St. Leger, the first of four races in the International Festival of Racing, and the Marco Botti-trained Jakkalberry will be the horse to beat in the marathon 1 11/16-mile event. An Italian highweight and Group 1 winner, Jakkalberry has been facing far superior competition in his last two starts, finishing third to Cirrus Des Aigles and St. Nicholas Abbey in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic prior to a fifth behind the winning Sea Moon in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last out. He is listed as the 9-5 choice on the morning line with O' Donoghue.
Lake Drop, who exits a Group 3 win in Italy, will make his U.S. bow for new trainer Graham Motion. Zuider Zee, stakes-placed in both England and France, invades for trainer John Gosden, and multiple Group 3-placed distance specialist Bridge of Gold has shipped from England for conditioner Mikael Magnusson.
The American contingent is led by Ioya Bigtime and Suntracer, the first- and third-place finishers in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes at Arlington on July 14. Vertiformer, who exits a fourth in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap for Wayne Catalano, is cross-entered to both the Arlington Million and American St. Leger.