Living in Chicago, it’s only fitting that the Weekend Handicapping will start with the Arlington Million. The race will cover 1 ¼ miles over the turf and is rated a Grade 1. There is a field of 10 and some interesting match ups with this field. We have the rematch of Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti from the ManoWar at Belmont. Two more invaders, Zack Hall and Wigmore Hall trying to duplicate Cape Blanco’s efforts and three hard knocking horses (Tajaaweed, Rahystrada and Mission Approved) wanting to make their own statement in this race. With all that said, let’s try to make some sense of it …
1. #7 Cape Blanco: Comes to the US with a respectable resume, and his first time out scores an impressive 2 length victory in the ManoWar over Gio Ponti (the favorite) and Mission Approved. He is a lightly raced 4YO, great pedigree for the turf and has won 7 of 13 lifetime. The key question is, can he duplicate that effort or did he catch the field napping at Belmont? One race doesn't make a career, but he is off to an impressive start.
2. #5 Gio Ponti: I’m placing him here out of respect for his great career. Not sure if he is rounding into form or is the 6YO beginning to lose a step to the younger horses. We could argue the Manhattan (losing to Mission Approved) was the result of the trip to Dubai and then the ManoWar was a bounce off that effort. He has had two nice works, and if the speed in this race falters he definitely can pick this field apart. After Saturday, I think we will get a clear picture which direction Gio Ponti is headed. He is my sentimental favorite. Would enjoy watching him mow this field down.
3. #8 Mission Approved: This wasn’t easy. I could easily argue Tajaaweed or even Dean’s Kitten here, but Mission Approved has shown he can run with these two. Beating Gio Ponti at this distance wire to wire two back and has the top turf Beyer (104) over the last two races. Cutting back in distance and his ability to go all the way from the gate makes him an attractive selection. He has Cape Blanco on his inside and how well he gets to the front will dictate if he will carry the day.
Dark Horses: Not sure you can call Tajaaweed and Dean’s Kitten dark horses. That label really applies to Zack Hall and Wigmore Hall. Of the two, Tajaaweed seems ready to break through at the G1 level. Last out won impressively in the Arlington Handicap (G3) by 1 ½ and seems prepped perfectly for this one. Going to play the jockey angle here too, Graham wins over 16% on turf and has ridden Tajaaweed very well the last two times. Lastly , Tajaaweed has been in the money 4 of 5 times at Arlington with 2 wins.
“Bombs Away”: It’s not really fair to call #1 Rahystrada a bomber in this race. He has won 2 of 3 here at Arlington, has raced well all over the country, and has a sharpshooter jockey in Sheldon Russell. Add improving Beyers (100 – 102) and he can rate off the pace or sit back and close. This versatility makes him dangerous. The last time I called a horse dangerous was Downhill Diva and she won at Del Mar. He is hard to pass up. This race is part of the Sovereign Handicap Challenge, I am participating in it and will make him my selection based on value.
The race has plenty of front end speed, some versatile horses that can rate and several strong closers. Does the US standard bearer have one left in him? Do we give it away to the overseas invaders or does one of the upstarts steal the Million? As a horserace lover, going to go with Gio Ponti showing he still has it.
Selections: 5 – 7 – 8
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