Mr. D. Stakes 2021 Entries: The Last Arlington Million Draws ...

The final 'Arlington Million,' now the Mr. D. Stakes, is here ... Check out our preview below, and get ready for one last go at what was once one of North America's greatest races.
The final "Arlington Million," now the Mr. D. Stakes, is here ... Check out our preview below, and get ready for one last go at what was once one of North America's greatest races.

Race 9: 1¼ (Turf), Mr. D. Stakes (G1), Purse $600k, 3+ (Saturday)

The focal point at Arlington International Race Course was for 38 years known as the “Arlington Million.” In 1981, America’s celebrated turf horse, John Henry, won by the slimmest of margins over The Bart. Flashforward to 2021 … after a COVID cancellation last year … the name change to the Mr. D. Stakes … plus, the purse reduction to $600k … add the impending closure after September and the sale of the property by Churchill Downs Inc. … it is an era of what many consider, a disappointment. Celebrating the past, and enjoying what is left, might be the only option.

As for the “renaming,” it honors the longtime Arlington Park owner Dick Duchossois, who just turned 100-years-old in 2021. The Grade 1 “Mister D” will be run over the traditional 1¼ on the Arlington turf, and standing with the current entrants are a bevy of champions waiting to welcome the final member of the club. Joining the likes of 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, will make for a quite a conclusion to one of the most storied races in North American history. Track announcer of 21 years, John G. Dooley will take us home with what is sure to be a great call!

Now, let’s find out about this field…

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#1 Strong Tide (Jky: J. Felix/Trn: M. Lauer):

Michael and Penny Lauer team up in an attempt to take on some barns with some much more accomplished entries than this one. There is little doubt that trainer and owner want to see this Indiana bred succeed, especially since they have entered their colt in some tough spots. He contested the Louisville (G3) against Arklow, the Belmont Gold Cup (G2) vs. Baron Samedi (GB), and the Schuster Memorial 85k with Monarchs Glen (GB) … all were losses. Even with local Chicago rider Julio Felix on board, it Is going to be a big ask in here. The son of English Channel will be up against it … too much to do against Aidan O’Brien and Chad Brown.

Grade: C

 

#2 Glynn County (Jky: J. Leparoux/Trn: Mike Maker):

Trainer Mike Maker continues to set records, and compete at the highest levels across meets from Saratoga to Del Mar. His impressive work will not let up, and you can take it to the bank that when he enters … he expects to win. This colt out of Kitten’s Joy looked strong back at Keeneland, coming off the bench to win a nice ALLW81k event on the grass at 1 1/8th. After a couple of rides on the beleaguered Churchill Matt Winn Turf Course, Maker tried him in the UN (G1) at Monmouth. The fierce competition was too much for him, and he didn’t have the mustard when it counted. Three Diamonds invests in solid grass routers, so expect this one to be a sleeper that will be overlooked by bettors. I like the choice of Julien Leparoux, who has experience coming into a major race like this one. Maker is an expert conditioner, and this one is bred to win …

Grade: B

 

#3 Domestic Spending (GB) (Jky: F. Prat/Trn: C. Brown):

The last time Chad Brown’s elite router lost a race was way back in 2020 at Saratoga. Since then, the 4-yr-old Klaravich powerhouse has marched through the competition. The son of Kingman (GB) won at Saratoga, won at Del Mar, scored by a nose at Churchill, and dominated at Belmont. Jockey Flavien Prat, who took over the KS mount in 2021 has merged perfectly with his style, and the pair are a potent combination. To put it plainly, if this team is as sharp as they can be, the last “Arlington Million” is theirs. As one of the only turf horses on the NTRA Top 10 Poll, he is a deserving “favorite,” and just as fit as ever. The real question for Brown is can he get him 1 more race before they ship to the Breeders’ Cup, where they will take on the “best of the best” in the Turf … Stay tuned for an answer from flagship “KS.” In the meantime, this one can and should win the final signature race at Arlington. It is his to lose …

Grade: A+

 

#4 Two Emmys (Jky: J. Graham/Trn: H. Robertson):

Trainer Hugh Robertson’s gelding out of English Channel is one of the many alums that were part of the Grade III Arlington dating back to 17 July. His 5-yr-old was clearly the pace that day, and had it not been for Bizzie Channel #8, who made a rail move late, he probably would have had the prize in the end. Tough deal when you are an “engine type” because if the timing is too hot, then you are going to not have enough for the end. What is odd about that race is the early fractions were not particularly fast … maybe the #8 was just “best.” That sometimes happens. Now, with James Graham at the controls, standing in for E.T. Baird, perhaps he can get this one on the lead and outlast them all. One horse … to rule them all! It won’t be easy … considering the company, but Robertson (who is 3/6 in “Graded Stakes” in 2021) will do his best. Even if it is futile …

Grade: C+

 

#5 Zulu Alpha (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: M. Maker):

The veteran of many foreign wars over the years comes to Arlington for the 4th time … It has been a piece since the son of Street Cry won on the turf though. Still, he is a pro, through and through, and always a legitimate threat. With 36 starts and 12 wins, coupled with earnings in excess of $2.2 Million, those that are pining for the old dominant days hope he is ready for the 2nd start of 2021. The first was an 8th place finish in the Arlington (G3), where he showed little in the speed department. Perhaps he needed one … The distance of 1¼ shouldn’t be much of a problem because it is not far off from what he is used to. I am a little concerned about his fitness, and ability to exhibit that stellar turn-of-foot, that has made him so famous. Mike Maker’s ability is without question, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this wonderful Thoroughbred had at least one more in him. It might not be in this spot … but it is coming. Mike Hui has to be tickled to be in a race like this one … last gasp and all … plus, he gets Luis Saez, who is fabulous on the green. That could make a huge difference.

Grade: B

 

#6 Another Mystery (Jky: J. Lopez/Trn: C. Block):

Team Block is out in force with this true boxcar-priced entry … no mystery here that this horse will be double digits on the tote. Trainer Chris Block’s 5-yr-old is one of those well-bred types who has some impressive pedigree lines. When you see Temple City and Dynaformer coupled with Ioya and Lord at War (ARG), that is a potent combination. Looking back through his form he was in the barn of Mike McCarthy, which put him in some of SoCal’s best summer/fall grass races in 2020. That kind of class will assist against some formidable foes in here. The real challenge for jockey Jose Lopez is can he get to know this runner quickly enough to know his tendencies? I am more than just a little bit skeptical. 3rd place in the Arlington (G3) was perfectly adequate against the #8, but it will not do in “The Million.”  

Grade: C+

 

#7 Space Traveller (GB) (Jky: D. Tudhope/Trn: B. Walsh):

The folks at Clipper Logistics got a heck of a deal on this runner, who is making his U.S. debut for Brendan Walsh in “The Million.” He is the new trainer, but the former charge for Richard Fahey was tackling some tough company over the summer with mixed results. Honestly, about the only semblance of stability is that Dan Tudhope comes along for the ride, and at least he has some knowledge of what this runner can do. Last out, in the Sussex S. (G1), at massive odds, he finished 6th out of 9, and that was about as good as he could do. Walsh has an international arm, as well as, a strong stable at home … that speaks to his versatility. If you are wanting to take a chance with what is sure to be a long shot, then this is your play. Unfortunately, it will not be mine …

Grade: C+

 

#8 Bizzee Channel (Jky: J. Loveberry/Trn: L. Rivelli):

The win by The Pizza Man in 2015 was an exceedingly special event in the lore of Chicago racing … wouldn’t it be something if the final edition in the historically significant career of this race was won by an Illinois-based conditioner. It would go into the books near the top of the annals, and enter the realm of lore. Larry Rivelli is that hope, and he springs eternal by doing what every leading trainer would do in his own balliwick … just win! His gelding out of English Channel (yes, another one), is looking sharp, and could be an interesting play outside of the favorites. He clearly loves the course, and has a pair of wins on the card in an OC62.5k and in the Arlington (G3). That last score was superb, and I must commend Jareth Loveberry; he is just a joy to watch at Arlington. I hope he gets his shot at the bigtime because he deserves it. This one will be my sleeper pick, and who doesn’t want to root for a hometown here!

Grade: A-

 

#9 Armory (Jky: R. Moore/Trn: A. O’Brien):

Aidan O’Brien and Ballydoyle are names synonymous with steadfast runners and a competitive edge. For the last go in the truncated “Million,” the Irish-based conditioner is back with this colt out of one of the most prodigious sires in the turf world—Galileo. Now deceased, his legacy will live on, as his offspring continue to build on the legend. Coolmore bred this 4-yr-old, and that means he should be well prepared for a major go in this once celebrated turf event. O’Brien has had this one racing up against some stern-looking foes in places like The Curragh in Ireland, and at Chester, Ascot, and York in the UK … I thought the fact that he was up against stablemate Love and Audarya (the BC Champ from last year), speaks to his strength. That was only a race with 6 entries, but still, the class was undeniable. If jockey Ryan Moore can find the right seem, then his mount could be in contention in the end. An O’Brien win in this spot would be bittersweet, especially considering the history and spectacle …

Grade: B+

 

#10 Big Dreaming (Jky: A. Beschizza/Trn: W. Catalano):

I was speaking of the Chicago faithful when it comes to Rivelli, but the “Catman” also commeth, in local favorite Wayne Catalano. It wouldn’t be a finale at Arlington in its biggest race without him. He sends this one who is aptly named. The crafty Adam Beschizza arrives from riding at Ellis Park, and his grass work can be inspiring at times. I am still looking for him to breakout and win a riding title at some point … maybe the Fair Grounds or dare we say Keeneland? His mount has ability, and the homebred from Frank Calabrese’s midst is trying to climb the class ladder. Nothing easy about this move upwards … and dreams would really come true, if this colt out of Declaration of War (which generally like the turf) could saunter home 1st. Winning by a neck at Ellis simply will not do, as it will take a game effort at Arlington in “The Million.”

Grade: B-

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It’s Million Day … from storied Arlington! One last time, enjoy what the Chicago landmark has to offer!

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