Priscilla Vaccarezza's 2012 Arlington Million winner Little Mike will defend his crown Aug. 17 at Arlington Park, but faces a stiff challenge in a 13-horse field that includes the winners of Group/Grade 1 races on four other continents.
The Dale Romans-trained 6-year-old son of Spanish Steps is a three-time Grade 1 winner who capped his 2012 campaign with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf. He has not finished better than fourth in three Grade/Group 1 events in 2013, including a disappointing trip to Dubai last time out. But the gelding has been training forwardly for his confident connections.
Little Mike has earned $3.1 million with a 12-2-1 record from 24 starts. He was fourth last time in the July 6 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, his first U.S.start of the season after finishing 11th on Tapeta in the March 30 Dubai Duty Free. Last year, Little Mike sped off to a wire-to-wire Million score under Ramon Dominguez from the 4 hole. This year, Joel Rosario rides from post 11 at morning line odds of 5-2.
A star on the rise is listed as the 7-2 favorite on the Million morning line: Yvonne Jacques' multiple Grade 2-winning Grandeur, a son of Verglas who will be ridden by William Buick from the far outside.
ARLINGTON MILLION DRAW
Grandeur won the Hollywood Turf Cup and Twilight Derby 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, three-quarters of a length behind Mukhadram -- one of the best middle distance horses in Europe -- and 4 ¼ lengths ahead of fellow Million entrant The Apache.
The Apache looks to return to the form that earned him a victory in the 2011 Champions Cup on his native continent and an excellent runner-up finish two races back in the Dubai Duty Free. The Mike de Kock-trained The Apache will be ridden by two-time French champion jockey Christophe Soumillon from post 10, and comes off what appeared to be a fitness-building fourth-place finish in the York Stakes.
Hunter's Light, from the globally powerful Godolphin Stable, invades in an attempt to win his third grade/group I on as many continents. In the last year, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained 10-furlong specialist won the group I Premio Roma in Italy on the grass and the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 in the UAE on the all-weather track -- both 10-furlong events. He enters off a third-place finish in another 10-furlong group I, the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis, at Munich. Three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore has the call from post 3 at morning line odds of 8-1.
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, winning impressively by a widening 1 ¼ 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 Argentina 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 will ride from the 7 hole at 9-2.
Two local horses who have yet to claim Grade 1 glory are Windy Hill Farm's multi-surface performer Nates Mineshaft and Robert E. Courtney, Jr.'s three-time Arlington Handicap winner Rahystrada. The latter finished in a dead-heat for third in last year's Million for trainer Byron "Scooter" Hughes and would be the first horse to compete in the race four times. Rosie Napravnik has the call from post 12 on Rahystrada, while E.T. Baird will pilot Nates Mineshaft, who looks to be rounding back into top shape, from the 4 hole for trainer Anne P. Smith.
The most intriguing longshot may be Giuliano Manfredini's lightly raced Guest of Honour, who earned his way to the Million with a fine third in the Group 2 Summer Mile Stakes, the same race in which fellow Million entrant Mull of Killough finished second. A son of Cape Cross -- the sire of world champions Sea the Stars and Ouija Board -- Guest of Honour is trained by Marco Botti and will be ridden by Martin Haley from post 9.
Invictus' Mull of Killough, a 7-year-old gelding, was a good fifth, beating Hunter's Light, in the Singapore Airlines International Cup prior to the Summer Mile. A return to that form would make the Jane Chapple-Hyam trainee competitive here. He breaks from post 8 under Jamie O'Brien.
A series of stellar entrants rounds out a distinguished renewal of the Million.
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey's Real Solution, a grade I-placed son of 2004 Secretariat Stakes winner Kitten's Joy , looks to give trainer Chad Brown and jockey Alan Garcia their first Million win from the rail.
Donegal Racing's Finnegans Wake, a son of 2005 Million victor Powerscourt, returns to Arlington for the first time since running arguably his best race when runner-up in last year's Secretariat. Dale Romans trains and Robby Albarado, winner of the 2007 Million, rides from post 2.
Pearl Bloodstock's 6-year-old gelding campaigner Side Glance, a seven-time Group/Grade 1 performer who finished third to Frankel in 2012 at Royal Ascot and fourth -- defeating Hunter's Light -- in this year's Dubai World Cup. He attempts to return to winning form for trainer Andrew Balding and jockey Jamie Spencer from the 6 hole.
Lastly, Niall Racing's Temeraine, an improving 4-year-old gelding trained by Tom Proctor, can give Eddie Castro an upset win in his first Million ride from post 5.
All runners carry 126 pounds. Mull of Killough, The Apache, and Grandeur race without Lasix.
The Arlington Million provides the winner an automatic starting position in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Turf as part of the "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup Challenge Series,. It is one of three grade I stakes races on the card that comprises Arlington's International Festival of Racing. The others are the 24th running of the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes for filly and mare turf stars, and the $500,000 Secretariat for sophomore grass runners. Also a part of the Festival is the second edition of the $400,000 American St. Leger for marathon turf runners at a mile and eleven-sixteenths.