Arlington Million 2022 Entries: Churchill Downs runs historic race under Twin Spires

Storied Arlington Park, that palace in Chicago, closed last year ... Owners Churchill Downs Inc. will host a Saturday card honoring the famed race. Here is a Horse-by-Horse Guide after the draw!
Storied Arlington Park, that palace in Chicago, closed last year ... Owners Churchill Downs Inc. will host a Saturday card honoring the famed race. Here is a Horse-by-Horse Guide after the draw!

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Race 11: 1 1/8th (Turf) Arlington Million (G1), Purse $1 Million, 3+ (Saturday)

For nearly 40 years, the focal point at Arlington International Race Course just outside Chicago was the “Arlington Million.” In 1981, America’s celebrated turf horse, John Henry, won by the slimmest of margins over The Bart in what at the time was the world’s richest race. There had never been a purse that high. Flashforward to 2022 … after a COVID cancellation a couple years back, and the official “closing” of the beautiful track by owner Churchill Downs Inc. (it was sold to the Chicago Bears), it has been an emotional time. Celebrating the past provides some solace. Despite the issues with the new Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill, it is good to see what has become known as simply, “The Million,” restored. With track announcer John Dooley’s final call, Hugh Robertson’s Two Emmys went wire-to-wire, joining a bevy of champions to the club. Despite the switch in venue, we will never forget John Henry, Manila, Chester House, The Tin Man, Gio Ponti, Little Mike, a number of Chad Brown runners, and of course, the Chicago legend … The Pizza Man. Without international participation, the storied race goes on (not at 1¼, but 1 1/8th), even if Arlington Park does not.

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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#1 Set Piece (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

The venerable Juddmonte homebred ships back from Saratoga after finishing off-the-board in the G3 Forbidden Apple S. The son of the great Dansili (GB) certainly likes the Matt Winn at Churchill (5/4-0-0), but that was the “Old Course,” not this new one. Whatever the case, what we know is that he is classy, and trainer Brad Cox will have him ready to fire on Saturday. Probably the biggest challenge for regular jockey Florent Geroux (who has been out at Del Mar for their Meet), is to modulate his mount’s pace. He does most of his running from the back the pack, and he has not contested this distance in over a year. Normally a short price on the board, expect for that to be the case again. A player to be sure …

Grade: B+

 

#2 Sacred Life (Jky: M. Franco/Trn: C. Brown):

Here is one of Chad Brown’s older turfers, and with over $823k in earnings to his name, he certainly knows how to bring home the bacon. Michael Dubb and Madaket have owned some good ones over the years, and this competitor is no exception. Winning a Grade 1 like this would really push him over the top. A ridgling by Siyouni (FR), his ’22 campaign was full of tough foes. The Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) was a race that he encountered major traffic trouble—ending up 6th. However, keep in mind, he was only 2¼-lengths behind Colonel Liam. A feast-or-famine-type runner, what Manny Franco needs to do is keep towards the middle of the course. There is nothing like a horse that exhibits a furious turn-of-foot … it is a gamble backing a style like this … but Chad Brown is famous for invading races, and taking the prize. His name is emblazoned across a good many “Millions.”

Grade: B

 

#3 Field Pass (Jky: R. Gutierrez/Trn: M. Maker):

One of a pair of Mike Maker runners that are showing up near the trainer’s Kentucky base of operations ... Owned by Three Diamonds, this son of Lemon Drop Kid has raced all over the map. Name a course, and he has probably traversed the turf there. He comes back to Churchill Downs in good form after running against stablemate, Megacity #5 down at Lone Star Park in the Texas Turf Classic S. $300k. He won that hot afternoon after his shipping partner was DQ-ed. Frankly, it was an odd situation. That wasn’t a particularly tough field, but what we do know moving forward is that he can show-up on any given Saturday. He has battled the likes of Brown’s Sacred Life #2 on many occasions, and won the Grade 2 Seabiscuit H. at Del Mar against him last November. If he has his best fastball, then he can be a formidable opponent. Yet another entry that likes to sit back and make a giant run … should be a tough task for a jockey like Reylu Gutierrez, whose penchant on the turf is to hustle his mount off early.

Grade: B-

 

#4 Smooth Like Strait (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: M. McCarthy):

If you happen to be a fan of the sire Midnight Lute, and you like a turfer that goes to the lead early … in an attempt to control the pace … then, this 5-yr-old horse is your pick. One of Mike McCarthy’s steady hoofs, he has amassed quite a record over the years (21/7-8-3). His trainer has shipped him outside of his SoCal base; however, it is a fact that his greatest rate of success has come in that part of the world. HOF jockey John Velazquez takes over the riding duties from Umberto Rispoli and most recently, Flavien Prat. His last race, the Shoemaker M. (G1), was disappointing, as he gave way at the top of the lane to Count Again. This is an interesting move to send him to Churchill, stretching him out to a distance that he rarely attempts. The Cannon homebred will need to put his best foot forward, and let’s face it, if the fractions are even remotely stiff, then he is going to have a time of it fending off the crowd that will be bearing down on him. Probably too much to ask … even with a HOF rider aboard, as accomplished as Johnny V.

Grade: B

 

#5 Megacity (Jky: G. Corrales/Trn: M. Maker):

A former member of the Tomlinson Barn, we have a gelding by City Zip that is looking to improve that effort against his stablemate Field Pass #3 down at Lone Star Park in the Texas Turf Classic $300k. Joe Rocco’s mount fouled his sporting rival in deep stretch, and missed out on what was probably his greatest stakes score to-date. Michael Dubb’s claim with Mike Maker appears to be paying off, and wouldn’t it be a coup if this 7-yr-old could win a purse like this one. The KY-based trainer is making a rider switch to Gerardo Corrales, and that means they are getting an aggressive grass jockey who knows how to forwardly place his mount. If you are looking for a price play in "The Million,” then this will be a strong candidate. He will be out “early” to challenge McCarthy’s ace. This should make for an interesting early development.

Grade: C+

 

#6 Santin (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: B. Walsh):

Even though most pundits thought that Churchill Downs’ Turf Classic (G1) came up a little light on talent, the best horse that day was clearly Brendan Walsh’s Godolphin homebred by Distorted Humor. I was all-in on the colt that afternoon, and he did not disappoint, giving me the payoff of the day … no, I didn’t have Rich Strike. This turf route specialist has everything that you are looking for … nice pedigree … superb stable … a solid conditioner … and Tyler Gaffalione back in the irons … He is lightly-raced when compared to the others that are drawn-in here, with only 7 starts to his credit. Other than the Manhattan S. (G1), he always comes to play. I am willing to give him a pass on that one, since it was wild and wooly in the end. His rating is excellent, and with a moderate pace to run into, he has the ability to swoop in and grab the lead just before the wire. Clearly, he likes this new Matt Winn …

Grade: A-

 

#7 Admission Office (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: B. Lynch):

Trainer Brian Lynch once again brings his son of Point of Entry to Churchill, a racetrack where the 7-yr-old has enjoyed some success. With Dynaformer in his background, we know this deep turf router likes the green and all its glory. I remember the 1st time I watched him at Keeneland, and he did not disappoint. Since then, Lynch has challenged him to compete in some of the toughest races in the grass division. He has raced against Zulu Alpha, Magic Wand, Aquaphobia, Casa Creed, stablemate Phantom Currency, and more recently, Channel Maker and Soldier Rising. He might not quite have the Grade 1 class that is necessary to rival some of these runners, but you can bet he is going to be ready to run from off-the-pace. Jockey Brian Hernandez will get the call on Saturday, as Lynch is trying something new that doesn’t include John Velazquez or Julien Leparoux. Maybe this will be the Grade 1 victory that Lynch’s horse is missing … hmm …

Grade: B-

 

#8 Cavalry Charge (Jky: D. Cohen/Trn: D. Stewart):

West Point Thoroughbreds and their excellent chief, Terry Finely, have had a busy week at the Saratoga Sale. They dropped some cash on one newbie in particular, but in this spot, they are looking to notch a Grade 1 victory. This gelding by Honor Code, trained by Dallas Stewart, is just as unpredictable as his conditioner. Sometimes he puts in a strong showing … for instance the Fair Grounds (G3) comes to mind … while other times, he looks bewildered and out of sorts … like in the Turf Classic (G1) and Louisville (G3). Here is a chance for him to flip the script, and declare a major victory. David Cohen, who hardly ever has the opportunity to ride on the turf (based primarily at Oaklawn), will be aboard for the 3rd time in-a-row. His mount has faced Santin #7 and Cellist #9, that pair that will sandwich him in the gate. At this point, a worthy goal might be to just hit-the-board. Good to be realistic …

Grade: C+

 

#9 Cellist (Jky: C. Lanerie/Trn: R. Arnold):

A Calumet homebred, Rusty Arnold is going to try and shoot-the-moon with this turfer. The son of Big Blue Kitten is established some premier class in NYRA’s “Turf Triple” last year, but since then, he has not really competed against a group like this one. Sure, the Tampa Bay (G3) and the Louisville (G3) were expansive fields, and Julien Leparoux wrangled a win by a head in that last one. I am not exactly sure what the issue was last time out at Colonial Downs in that “Non-G,” but whatever happened, it wasn’t a quality result. Arnold brings him back to a track where he is 2/2, so that is something. Corey Lanerie, his new rider, is going to have his work cutout for him on Saturday. This mount of his is a budding talent, but he might need more experience before he can celebrate in the winner’s circle … a Grade 1 victory to his credit. More time needed …

Grade: C+

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Join us Saturday for all of our Churchill Downs selections! Should be a great set of races from under the Twin Spires! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!

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