A field of 11 is set for the 30th running of the Arlington Million (gr. IT) Aug. 18 at Arlington Park, with Phipps Stable's Boisterous installed as the 4-1 morning line favorite.
Boisterous, a 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, drew post 2 in the evenly-matched field. Jose Lezcano takes the riding assignment. Boisterous is coming off a runner-up finish in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) as the favorite July 14, losing by a neck to front-running Rahystrada.
Rahystrada, trained by Byron Hughes, drew the rail for the Arlington Million and is listed at 8-1 on the morning line with Julien Leparoux aboard.
Other well-fancied runners in this year's Arlington Million lineup are the European invaders Crackerjack King (5-1), Treasure Beach (6-1), Afsare (6-1), and Colombian (8-1), as well as American grade I winner Little Mike (6-1).
Treasure Beach won last year's Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) as a 3-year-old on the Arlington Million program.
There are six American-based runners in the field this year and five from Europe to tackle the Arlington Million over 1 1/4 miles on the turf. All carry 126 pounds. The race is the featured 11th on a 12-race "International Festival of Racing" program with an expected post of 5:44 p.m. CDT, promising the winner a guaranteed berth into the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park.
Boisterous was fanned six wide in Arlington Handicap and closed much ground in the final eighth of a mile to just miss to Rahystrada last time. He was third in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at 10 furlongs on a firm inner turf course at Belmont Park prior to that. He won the Fort Marcy (gr. IIIT) over a yielding Belmont turf in May.
"A little bit of give would help," McGaughey said. "It was hard in the Manhattan, and (Boisterous) finished fast, but he doesn't have quite the same kick when it's hard. It doesn't have to be soft, but we want a little bit of give."
The course is unlikely to be rated as soft come Saturday afternoon, but forecasted rain for mid-week could give the turf that "give" McGaughey wants. The trainer said he would not attend this year's Arlington Million and will instead remain at Saratoga where he will start Point of Entry in the Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT). He said he would like new jockey Lezcano to have Boisterous, a two-time winner from four starts at 10 furlongs, closer to the pace than in his previous start.
Winner of the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) last November, Boisterous is seeking his first grade I victory. Out of the Cox's Ridge mare Emanating, he has seven wins from 18 starts and earnings of $546,390.
Pegged at 6-1 is Priscilla Vaccarezza’s Little Mike, who won the 1 1/8-mile Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) on Kentucky Derby Day May 5 at Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans. Front-running Little Mike was most recently third in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) at Betfair Hollywood Park June 30. Eclipse Award-winning rider Ramon Dominguez is named to ride the lifetime winner of 10 of 14 starts on grass.
Little Mike is making his first start at 10 furlongs.
"Every time you ask a horse to do something for the first time you have to cross your fingers a little bit," Romans said. "But I think if you look at his form, his two best races are a mile and an eighth, and nobody thought he would ever go that far. And so maybe with a little different pace scenario he can stretch that speed and maybe even be at his best."
Irish-bred Crackerjack King, trained by Marco Botti, leads the European contingent based on the morning line. The 4-year-old son of Shamardal has won seven of nine lifetime starts but disappointed in his last start in the Coral-Eclipse (Eng-I) at Sandown Park July 7, finishing fifth behind the victorious Nathaniel.
Before that, Crackerjack King captured Italy’s Premio Presidente della Repubblica (ITY-I) at Capannelle on May 13. He also won the Italian Derby (ITY-II) last year. Colm O'Donoghue will ride Crackerjack King for the first time.
British-bred Afsare, trained by Luca Cumani for Obaid Al Maktoum, ran second to Crackerjack King in the Premio Presidente della Repubblica. The 5-year-old Dubawi gelding is coming off a second-place effort as the favorite in the Sky Bet York Stakes (Eng-II) July 28. Kieran Fallon has the call.
Treasure Beach, trained by Aidan O'Brien, won last year's Secretariat over a yielding Arlington course by a neck but has lost six in a row since. Treasure Beach was fourth in the Ballyroan Stakes (IRE-III) Aug. 9 on a yielding course at Leopardstown.
Jamie Spencer is to ride the son of Galileo. Spencer won last year's Arlington Million aboard 2011 champion male turf horse Cape Blanco for Treasure Beach's connections. O'Brien also won the Arlington Million in 2005 with Powerscourt.
Trainer John Gosden, who won the 2010 Arlington Million with Debussy for Her Royal Highness Princess Haya of Jordan, is back again with Irish-bred Colombian for the same owner. William Buick rides the 4-year-old colt by Azamour , a group III winner at Sandown Park in April. Colombian comes off an eighth-place finish in the Prince of Wales Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot June 20.
Eight-year-old Rahystrada makes his third start in the Arlington Million, having finished fourth in 2010 and fifth last year. The rail post was a detriment for Robert Courtney Jr.'s gelded son of Rahy last year and could be a problem again.
Rahystrada loves the Arlington turf course, however, winning his other three starts over the layout. He is a 13-time winner of more than $1.1 million during a 38-race career. Trainer Byron Hughes tabbed Julien Leparoux to ride.
Completing the Arlington Million field is Wigmore Hall (12-1), fourth in last year's Arlington Million, to be ridden by Hayley Turner; Willcox Inn (12-1), James Graham; Vertiformer (20-1), Jeffrey Sanchez; and Cherokee Lord (30-1), Francisco Torres up.
Lael Stable and All In Stable’s 4-year-old Willcox Inn has won three of four starts on the Arlington turf.
$1 Million Arlington Million (gr. IT, Race 11, approximate post 5:44 p.m. CDT), 3YO & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Rahystrada (KY), J. Leparoux, B Hughes, 8/1
2. Boisterous (KY), J. Lezcano, C McGaughey III, 4/1
3. Afsare (GB), K. Fallon, L Cumani, 6/1
4. Little Mike (FL), R. Dominguez, D Romans, 6/1
5. Colombian (IRE), W. Buick, J Gosden, 8/1
6. Treasure Beach (GB), J. Spencer, A O'Brien, 6/1
7. Willcox Inn (KY), J. Graham, M Stidham, 12/1
8. Wigmore Hall (IRE), H. Turner, M Bell, 12/1
9. Crackerjack King (IRE), C. O'Donoghue, M Botti, 5/1
10. Cherokee Lord (KY), F. Torres, C Livesay, 30/1
11. Vertiformer (KY), J. Sanchez, W Catalano, 20/1