Let’s face it, between mid-July and early-September, not much happens in racing to make us lift our head from Saratoga and Del Mar. If you’re anything like me, your computer desktop is littered with past performances from two tracks. Saratoga and Del Mar. Del Mar and Saratoga. Repeat.
But Arlington Million weekend comes at a great time, right between the Whitney and Pacific Classic, and the fine folks in Chicago do such a great job building a phenomenal card that you can’t help but take note. I certainly do.
The winner’s list races like the Arlington Million and Beverly D. is a showcase of the top horses in horse racing’s last three-plus decades. John Henry, Manila, The Tin Man, Gio Ponti, Sulamani and Paradise Creek have won the ‘Million, while the Beverly D. boasts a winner’s list that includes Flawlessly, Possibly Perfect, Dank, Stacelita and Heat Haze.
Plus, Arlington has bolstered its wager menu for this year’s Million card. Here are just some of the highlights:
- $300K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (Races 9 - 12)
- 15% Takeout, $150K Guaranteed Late Pick 5 (Races 8 - 12)
- $100K Guaranteed Pick 3 (Races 9 - 11)
- 15% Takeout Jackpot Pick 6 (Races 7 - 12)
- 15% Takeout 20-cent Jackpot Super Hi-5 (Race 12)
And if you bet the Million with Xpressbet, you can cash in on our 1 Million Point Late Pick 4 Split. To win your share of the Points, simply register for the contest (that’s the easy part) and hit the Late Pick 4 (that’s a little tougher). Everyone that hits wins an equal split.
To help get your Pick 4 started, and to introduce you to some of Saturday’s key players, here is my recommended Late Pick 4 ticket:
Race 9 (5:48PM ET) – Secretariat Stakes (Gr 1, $400K)
The kickoff leg of the Late Pick 4 is the Grade 1 Secretariat for three-year-olds and I’m going to single right off the bat:
- #9 ANALYZE IT (Brown/Ortiz) - 2/1 - Why not sink or swim early? There’s nobody else I really like in this spot and if Analyze It loses, I’m comfortable going down with the ship. It’s a bit concerning that he’s lost two races in a row in remarkably similar fashion – by stalking the early pace set by Catholic Boy, passing that rival (with ease) and then having Catholic Boy re-rally and pass him late. Seriously, they’re the same race. Check them out here (Belmont Derby) and here (Pennine Ridge). Good news, though. Catholic Boy is staying at Saratoga to race in the Travers.
#13 HUNTING HORN (7/2) is really the only logical ‘other’ horse but he was handled by Analyze It (by 1 ¾-lengths) in the Belmont Derby and drew a difficult post. By the way, my colleague Jeremy Plonk handicapped the Secretariat as the Xpressbet Race of the Week and he made an interesting case for #2 PLATINUM WARRIOR (10/1).
Race 10 (6:25PM ET) – Beverly D. Stakes (Gr 1, $600K)
It’s hard to find a race that fits a trainer much more than the Beverly D. fits Chad Brown. He’s won this race four times (including the last three editions) and just once has he send a horse to Chicago for this race and gone home with an ‘L.’ And that horse finished second. Talk about dominance. He’s got four horses in this year’s Beverly D. and the safe play might just be use them all. Here are the horses I’m using:
- #3 SISTERCHARLIE (IRE) (Brown/Velazquez) - 9/5 - She’s a ‘must use,’ but isn’t quite a single at a low price. She won the G1 Diana at Saratoga on July 21 with a furious rally, and she also won the G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April.
- #7 FOURSTAR CROOK (Brown/Ortiz Jr.) - 9/2 - She’s been a worthy adversary to SISTERCHARLIE this year, having defeated her (albeit while getting a better trip) in the G2 New York Stakes in June and having finished behind her in the G1 Jenny Wiley.
- #9 ATHENA (IRE) (O'Brien/Moore) - 3/1 - I think she’s a terrible singular bet, having just taken advantage of a mediocre three-year-old crop of fillies when winning the G1 Belmont Oaks. And she was 10/1 that day! This field is much tougher and deeper. But she gets a weight break (6 pounds) from her older rivals and Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore are among the best in the world for a reason.
- #4 DONA BRUJA (ARG) (Correas/Valdivia Jr.) - 6/1 - I went back and forth on this filly a bunch. I’ve been a fan since she came to the States and she could’ve easily won this last year when beaten just ½-length by Dacita. Since then, she’s undergone a stylistic change, switching from a closer to a front-runner. That will give her an edge in here, as most of her Beverly D. rivals want to close from far off the pace.
On larger tickets, I could make a case for a third Brown-trainee, INFLEXIBILITY (8/1), but she’s not quite for me here as she’s never even won a graded race. #1 DADDYS LIL DARLING chased Fourstar Crook and Sistercharlie in the New York Stakes and always seems to get into the picture late. #2 NYALETI (15/1) is the ‘other’ European. She won the Group 2 German 1,000 Guineas in May and was beaten 12-lengths by the remarkable Alpha Centauri in a Group 1 at Newmarket in July.
Race 11 (7:08PM ET) – Arlington Million XXXVI (G1, $1,000,000)
This year’s Arlington Million is as good of a betting race as it gets. Top quality horses are entered from top to bottom and, most importantly, they’re all remarkably evenly matched. Picking a winner won’t be easy, but should be of benefit to your Xpressbet bankroll. I’m going to go a little deeper in my Pick 4 with that in mind. Here are the horses I’m using:
- #11 OSCAR PERFORMANCE (Lynch/Ortiz) - 3/1 - He showed a new level of versatility last out, sitting midpack before uncorking a furious rally to set a track record (1:31.23) while winning the G3 Poker Stakes last out at Belmont. And track records at Belmont aren’t easy to come by. Previously this was a horse that needed to lead, so this change in tactics will suit him well. He won last year’s G1 Secretariat Stakes over this course and distance, so he’s familiar with the surroundings.
- #8 MONEY MULTIPLIER (Brown/Velazquez) - 6/1 - There’s no way I’m betting against Money Multiplier, who just keeps performing at a top level. He’s battled the likes of Flintshire, Highland Reel, Beach Patrol, Ectot and Heart to Heart in his career and never seems to flinch. Johnny V should use his superior tactical speed to his advantage and have him in striking distance as they turn for home.
- #10 ROBERT BRUCE (CHI) (Brown/Ortiz Jr.) - 9/2 - I think the ML is a bit short on this horse, but he had a horrendous trip in the G1 Manhattan and note the jockey upgrade from Tyler Gaffalione to Irad Ortiz Jr. Nothing against Tyler - he's incredibly talented - but Irad is among the best in the game.
- #5 CENTURY DREAM (IRE) (Crisford/Buick) - 12/1 - The European contingent for this year’s Million isn’t deep, but I’d almost feel remiss if I didn’t include one in my plans. He won a G3 race at Epsom in June and missed in the G1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot by less than a length. Distance is a worry – he’s been most effective racing around a mile – but Simon Crisford is talented and William Buick is a top-class rider.
Ultimately, betting is a numbers game and I’d love to be able to include the G1 Manhattan winner, #2 SPRING QUALITY (8/1), or Chad Brown’s #3 ALMANAAR (5/1), but unfortunately, picking ‘em all costs money! I’m comfortable tossing Aidan O’Brien’s #9 DEAUVILLE (6/1). He’s just allergic to winning. He’s finished third in this race twice, but doesn’t seem like a threat to win it.
Race 12 (7:51PM ET) – Pucker Up Stakes (Grade 3, $100K)
Sophomore fillies lead the way in the nightcap, and I’m going to include four of them on my ticket. I’d have probably gone shorter, but this is a big field and the favorite drew poorly:
- #13 BEYOND BLAME (Cox/Geroux) - 3/1 - She won the G3 Regret at Churchill as the lukewarm favorite and she should perform well here. Problem is, the 13 post is a burden and there isn’t a huge gap between her and some of the others.
- #1 DARK ARTIST (Cibelli/McCarthy) - 9/2 - If anyone ‘won’ the draw, it’s Dark Artist. She has tactical speed and got the rail. If Trevor McCarthy doesn’t hustle her out of there to a forward position into the first turn, I’ll be disappointed. She’s won three straight turf races and, if all goes according to plan, ‘racing luck’ won’t factor her in her decision.
- #6 A.A. AZULA'S ARCH (Attard/Murrill) - 6/1 - She chased the talented Got Stormy (who has won three straight stakes) up at Woodbine and there's no shame in finishing second to that one.
- #12 SMART SHOT (Arnold/Beschizza) - 15/1 - On the turf, I love to bet horses who are riding win streaks. Horses can’t read a condition book and don’t know the difference between a G1 and an allowance. But when they’re in good form and confident, they can outrun their odds. Smart Shot has won two in a row and appears poised to take a step forward here. Just look at how nicely she progressed from her maiden breaking win to her allowance win.
Race 9: 9
Race 10: 3, 4, 7, 9
Race 11: 5, 8, 10, 11
Race 12: 1, 6, 12, 13
Ticket Cost: $32 for 50-cents