Encompassing many countries and continents over the yeas, the 1 1/4-mile fixture continues to flourish despite environmental turmoil in a struggling state racing scene. Seven top class horses—including five group I winners and two other stakes victors hailing from Ireland, England, France, America, and Canada—are set to test the deep waters of one of the world's most competitive and unpredictable racing events.
If all seven start, the field would match the smallest in Arlington Million history.
Leading the $1 million quest in 2014 is Magician, who has yet to completely return to the form that saw him run down The Fugue last November at Santa Anita Park. A son of Galileo who races for Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith, the Aidan O'Brien trainee nevertheless has shown improvement with noteworthy runner-up performances in two group I races this spring—the Tattersalls Gold Cup in May and the prestigious Prince of Wales's Stakes in June.
Exiting a poor sixth-place finish in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot in which he did not care for the ground, the 4-year-old colt could appreciate a return to faster American grass. He also gets a seven-pound lift in weight assignment from his last run, and a flat course like he raced upon last fall. Regular rider Joseph O'Brien has the call.
Defending his Arlington Million crown is Real Solution, a homebred son of top turf sire Kitten's Joy and the adjudged victor of last year's Million following the disqualification of South African contender The Apache. This year, after a slow start to his season, the Chad Brown trainee vigorously returned to form with a visibly pleasing win in the Knob Creek Manhattan Stakes (gr. IT), the same race in which he finished third en route to Arlington glory in 2013. Javier Castellano has the call on the leading American hope.
One of interest is Smoking Sun, owned by the Niarchos Family of Greece and trained in France by internationally renowned conditioner Pascal Bary. The Smart Strike 5-year-old comes off arguably the best race of his career—a solid second in the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup over Kranji's flat and left-handed course.
Smoking Sun recorded his last win three races back in the group II Prix d'Harcourt at Longchamp over the same 1 1/4-miles distance at which he has thrived for most of his 14-race career. It is also worth noting that the muscular dark bay has targeted the Million since early in the season. Bary—who won the 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Arlington with Domedriver—has enlisted the services of regular rider Stephane Pasquier.
Sam-Son Farm's reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Up With the Birds was a classic winner last year as a sophomore in his native land and a grade I winner in last fall's Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park. A horse who needs to be raced into shape, the Malcolm Pierce-trained son of Stormy Atlantic has been slow to return to form in 2014, but did so in a big way last out in the Nijinsky Stakes (Can-IIT) at Woodbine. He annihilated six quality foes in a cracking 1:45.74, getting his last eighth in just under 12 seconds while under a hand ride. Regular partner Eurico Da Silva will make the trip for the mount in what will be the capable 4-year-old colt's toughest race to date.
Few horses have passports stamped more than the Andrew Balding-trained England-based Side Glance. A durable and dogged performer, Side Glance was a fine third in last year's Million after waiting for room in upper stretch. A group I winner in Australia, the dark brown 7-year-old son of Passing Glance has competed in five countries on four different continents in the last year and seems to travel with aplomb for his owner, the Qatari royal family's Pearl Bloodstock. Jamie Spencer, who piloted Side Glance to a two-length loss in 2013, has the return call.
While it is rare that a horse-for-course is not based at said establishment, there is rarely one as welcome to the Arlington's betting public as Donegal Stable's Finnegans Wake. A robustly built son of 2005 Million winner Powerscourt, the bay Dale Romans trainee has raced three times at the Chicagoland oval and rewarded his supporters with a win, a second, and a solid fourth-place finish at odds of 5-1, 8-1, and 28-1.
Included in that tally was a narrow victory in last month's Million course and distance prep—the Arlington Handicap (gr. III)—in which he stalked an easy pace and outkicked his rivals to win in a blanket finish. International superstar jockey Ryan Moore has picked up the mount and will be the Arlington-loving contestant's seventh different jockey in as many starts since a fourth-place finish in last year's Million.
Rounding out the Million field is Andrew Bentley Stable's Hardest Core, a promising son of Hard Spun who has been untouchable in two starts—an allowance race and a minor stakes—since being purchased at the Keeneland November sale after eight starts with Kiaran McLaughlin. Subsequently switched to trainer Edward Graham, the mid-Atlantic-based son of Hard Spun survived a horrific accident while being gelded soon after the purchase. The 4-year-old bay's owners will have regular rider Eriluis Vaz in the irons.
As part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series, the Arlington Million grants the winner an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Turf, with pre-entry and entry fees waived plus a travel stipend to the race to be held Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
WGN-TV will televise the Arlington Million live in an hour-long broadcast that begins at 5 p.m. CDT. HorseRacingTV and the Horse Racing Radio Network will broadcast the race as well.
The Arlington Million is the centerpiece of Arlington's International Festival of Racing which also includes the $750,000 Beverly D. (gr. IT), the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), and the $400,000 American St. Leger. The Arlington Million is part of a 50-cent Pick 4 wager with a $200,000 guaranteed pool as well as part of a 50-cent Pick 5 wager with a $100,000 guaranteed pool with a takeout rate of 15%.