The big meeting Stateside this week takes place at Arlington Park in Chicago on Saturday, where the 36th running of the Arlington Million heads up a trio of Grade 1 races that all have a strong European challenge. Nine times the prize has fallen the way of a European-based horse, most recently Mondialiste for David O’Meara two years ago.
On Timeform ratings, Century Dream looks the strongest of the challengers from this side of the Atlantic. After starting life last year in handicaps off a mark of 86, Simon Crisford’s colt has worked his way through the ranks, proving he belongs at this level with a fine fourth-place finish in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot in June. His most recent effort back there in the Group 2 Summer Mile can be forgiven as he probably did a bit too much too soon.
Third in this race for the last two years, Deauville once again represents Aidan O’Brien, though he doesn’t seem quite the same force he once was. Last year looked to provide a good opportunity, but he disappointed a little with his finishing effort having looked the winner over a furlong out. His best run this year came first time out at Newmarket when second to Forest Ranger in the Group 3 Earl Of Sefton, but he hasn’t really gone on from there.
The third and final European runner is Circus Couture, who ran a fine race to finish third behind Settle For Bay in the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot on just his second start for Jane Chapple-Hyam. That effort just about matched the best of his Italian form, where he was a proven Group performer. The waters are deeper here, however, and he’ll more than likely need a career best.
The home team is headed by last year’s Secretariat Stakes winner Oscar Performance, who looked as good as ever when winning a Grade 3 at Belmont on his comeback in June. Probably a bit stretched by a mile and a half when disappointing twice towards the end of last season, this ten-furlong trip looks ideal for him. As ever in the top American turf races, Chad Brown is strongly represented, with Almanaar and Robert Bruce looking the best of his three runners. Almanaar had been off well over a year when taking an allowance optional claimer at Belmont in June, but is a proven Grade 1 performer at his best, and he would be the preferred of the two.
In conclusion, Oscar Performance and Almanaar set the standard amongst the home team, but this may well fall the way of Century Dream, who has an upwardly-mobile profile, and looks to have been underestimated in the betting given that his Timeform rating is right up to the level needed to win this contest. His current price of 13/2 looks fair enough, and with 2010 winning jockey William Buick in the plate, as well as a handy draw in stall 5, he looks to have plenty in his favour.
The Beverly D and the Secretariat, the supporting Grade 1 contests, both look competitive, but Aidan O’Brien appears to hold a strong hand and it would be no surprise were he to win both. Athena has fair claims of following up her Belmont Oaks win in the Beverly D, but those looking for a bet could do much worse than side with Hunting Horn in the Secretariat. He does have to reverse Belmont Derby form with Analyze It, but that run came just 16 days after Hunting Horn’s big Royal Ascot effort, and he may just have found the race coming too soon. His wide draw isn’t ideal, but Ryan Moore is a master at overcoming such problems, and Hunting Horn is taken to provide his trainer with a fifth Secretariat win.
Back Hunting Horn in the Secretariat (21:48 BST)
Back Century Dream in the Arlington Million (23:08 BST)