The Arlington Million (gr. IT) Saturday at Arlington Park could easily be mistaken for an all-star game, with group and graded stakes-caliber runners filling every post and Kitten's Joy and European shipper Powerscourt highlighting the field.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Kitten's Joy
had his final tune up for the Arlington Million Tuesday when he went five furlongs in 1:04.23, a time that was hindered due to a flock of geese resting on Saratoga's Oklahoma training track, causing the son of El Prado
to be pulled up rounding the turn.
The Arlington Million will be just the second start of the year for Kitten's Joy. He scored an easy length win in the July 4 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs after undergoing knee surgery to remove chips from his left knee following a second-place effort in last year's John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). He had returned to training earlier in the year at Gulfstream Park, but the colt's progress was halted when trainer Dale Romans' barn was placed under quarantine because of cases of strangles at the Florida track.
"He's been really strong in his training this year," said Romans during a National Thoroughbred Racing Association teleconference Tuesday. "He's grown a lot during his time off, and I believe he's gotten stronger. I think he's training better this year than he did last year."
Last year, Romans brought Kitten's Joy to Arlington where he dazzled by winning the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), contested at the same 10-furlong distance as the Million, in 1:59.65, .43 seconds faster than the Million.
Kitten's Joy, who is listed at 6-5 on the morning line, will have the services of jockey Edgar Prado and the pair will break from post one.
While the connections of Kitten's Joy have fond memories of Arlington's 2004 International Festival of Racing, those associated with Powerscourt
can be forgiven if their memories aren't so pleasant.
Last year Powerscourt, a group I-winning son of Saddler's Wells, came charging home an apparent 1 1/2-length winner in 2:00.08 for owner Susan Magnier, trainer Aidan O'Brien, and jockey Jamie Spencer, only to be disqualified and placed fourth after a review showed Powerscourt lugging in sharply and impeding the progress of two runners. Kicken Kris was moved up to first.
Powerscourt enters the Million looking for his first win of the year. Most recently, he finished second in the Daily Record Scottish Derby (Scot-II) at Ayr. He was fourth in the Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) at York and fifth in the Dubai Water Front Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I).
Powerscourt, who is listed at 6-1 on the morning line, will break from post nine under jockey Kieren Fallon.
Another runner not to be overlooked is the Ron McAnally-trained Sweet Return
The son of Elmaamul enters the Million off back-to-back grade I wins in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) and the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT).
Sweet Return has been a consistent runner for Red Oak Stable all year. He began the year with a third-place effort in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) and was second in the Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) before finishing fourth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I).
Alex Solis gets the call aboard Sweet Return, who is listed at 5-1 on the morning line. The pair will break from post seven.
Trainer Graham Motion opted to enter Better Talk Now in both the Million and Saratoga's Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT), which will also be contested Saturday. The possibility that Better Talk Now would run in the Million intensified Thursday when Motion named 2004 Eclipse Award-winning rider John Velazquez to ride, after Ramon Dominguez had been originally named.
The field for Saturday's Arlington Million (gr. IT) includes:
1-- Kitten's Joy (Edgar Prado, 6-5)
2-- Touch of Land (Patrick Valenzuela, 12-1)
3-- Good Reward (Jerry Bailey, 10-1)
4-- Fourty Niners Son (Corey Nakatani, 12-1)
5-- Whilly (Felipe Martinez, 15-1)
6-- Better Talk Now (John Velazquez, 6-1)
7-- Sweet Return (Alex Solis, 5-1)
8-- Alost (Frederic Spanu, 50-1)
9-- Powerscourt (Kieren Fallon, 6-1)
10-- Cool Conductor (Cornelio Velasquez, 10-1)