Arlington Million Day Pick 4 Analysis

7- American St. Leger, 13.5f

In contrast to previous runnings of this marathon, where runners like Jakkalberry and Dandino seemed like obvious singles, this year’s wide open affair is a race to spread deep to open the Pick 4 sequence. With only three graded winners in the field and a European contingent that leaves a lot to be desired, this appears to be a race to take a stab at a price shot in outright bets. CALVADOS hasn’t won since moving over from Argentina in 2013, but has endured troublesome trips in his last two. He was arguably best when 3rd in his last, the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes run at 12f over this course, having to steady twice and closing well in the stretch; a step forward from that effort combined with the added distance here could find him in the winner’s circle at a nice price. He would need to improve on his career high Racing Post Rating of 109, but that figure is competitive enough here to take a chance that the extra ground will provide the needed improvement. The angle here is that his three best career races have all come at 12f on firmer turf, and that the extra 1.5f provides an element of mystery at an attractive price for a horse that has had time to familiarize himself with the Arlington turf course; bombs away.  Of the Euros, LUCKY SPEED seems to possess the most back class, having won a Group 1 race at 12f in Germany in 2013 (113 RPR), although with only one start this year and a 365-day hiatus from hitting the board, it’s fair to question what kind of form the five year old will bring across the pond. A duplication of that effort probably makes him the horse to beat, but with only one 2015 start, there are question marks, although he has looked a picture of health over the track this week. His sire/damsire average winning distance numbers of 9.2/10.4 dominate this field so he should have no trouble with this amount of ground.  PANAMA HAT rounds out the Euro shippers, exiting a 12f Stakes win in Ireland, and interestingly shows the highest Racing Post Rating in the field (116). Having run three prior races at 14f, he shows solid foundation for distance but is still looking for a win against top company; could be heading in the right direction but he is not yet Group placed in Europe. Tactically, he stands to receive a ground saving trip near the lead from his inside post. Of the graded winners, favored HYPER, an eight year old son of Victory Gallop, was most recently seen when 3rd in the 12f Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes, his third start following an 18 month layoff. He shows a Grade 2 win at 10f from 2013, has raced against top company since his return, including a 3rd place run in the Grade 1 Man O’War off the layoff, and has won at 13f before in open stakes company. He holds a significant BRIS Prime Power advantage over the rest of the field as well as the highest last out BRIS speed figure and Late Pace figure and merits inclusion in multi-race wagers on those angles, but is worth beating for the top line in outright bets at this price in such a wide open race.

XTRA LUCK exited allowance company to win the Grade 3 Louisville at 12f, and was last seen fourth over this track at the same distance after tracking the pace. Having lost a bit of ground in his last two towards the finish though, it’s fair to wonder how much he will relish the added ground. CRUCERO surprised at 23-1 in the Grade 3 marathon San Juan Capistrano (14f) in his last but ships east for the first time following that career effort and lands in a tough spot.  The rapidly improving ROMAN APPROVAL set an easy pace in the Stars and Stripes in his first attempt at the 12f distance before just missing at the wire, but he could have a bit more pace pressure today. The added distance here remains a concern for the front-runner who will be making just his second graded start, especially with pedigree numbers like 6.7/6.4 for average winning distance in a race twice that long. HIGHBALL, 5th in last year’s Secretariat but unraced beyond 10f seems in an odd spot here, while AZ RIDGE and ALPHA KITALPHA also appear relative outsiders based on class.

Picks:

1) Calvados 8-1

2) Lucky Speed 5-1

3) Panama Hat 10-1

4) Hyper 7-2

8- Secretariat, 10f

Never worse than 2nd in six career starts including a win last out in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby at this distance, favored FORCE THE PASS will take a lot of beating. After closing with authority when victorious in his prior race, the Penn Mile, he then showed versatility while rating just two lengths behind a slow pace in the 10f Belmont Derby and pulled away to win easily. The 92 Beyer earned in that effort tops the field and with the defection of Divisidero, he appears a significant cut above the rest of the Americans.  The two classiest colts in the field make the trip from Europe where they faced off in June two races back. HIGHLAND REEL merits respect on the Aidan O’Brien connection alone. Son of Galileo is Group 1 placed over soft turf and a Group 3 winner over good turf at distances beyond this one, and boasts the highest Racing Post Rating in the field (116). He is the lone Euro shipper receiving first time Lasix and comes from the same connections as last year’s winner Adelaide; watch out on the cutback from 12f to 10f. WAR DISPATCH, who finished just behind him in the aforementioned Group 1 race, has never missed the board in seven career starts, and he is also a Group 3 winner and Group 2 placed abroad over soft turf and shows competitive figures (112 RPR). A more tactical runner, we feel he stands a good chance to turn the tables this time in a race somewhat devoid of pace as he switches to an American surface, and may be a bit more suited to this particular distance. While all three turf starts this year have come over ground rated “soft”, he shows two wins at the distance over polytrack, and that angle may translate well.  Another Euro invader worth a look is GOLDSTREAM, who is unbeaten in five career starts, including a Group 2 in Italy at 10.5f over good turf. In a small field without any confirmed pace presence, he figures to be forwardly placed as well coming out of the #3 Post, but has a three month layoff to contend with and class questions abound relative to the other two shippers.

CRITTENDEN has been improving steadily since switching to turf and ran on well when 2nd by a neck in the local prep for this, the 9f American Derby, but would need a big step forward in figures to hit the board here. GRANNY’S KITTEN is a bit of a tactical mystery, having shown speed three back when winning an 8.5f allowance. He was within a length of the top pick two back when 3rd in the Penn Mile, but faltered in his last when stretching out to this distance.

Picks:

1) Force The Pass 2-1

2) War Dispatch 4-1

3) Highland Reel 5-2

4) Goldstream 9-2

9- Beverly D, 9.5f

This year’s salty edition of the Beverly D returns the winner and runner-up from last year’s race.  STEPHANIE’S KITTEN arguably got the worse trip of the two last year, squeezed back 11 lengths off a slow pace before closing like a freight train to just miss the winner’s circle. She came back to win the Grade 1 Flower Bowl following that effort while running much closer to the lead, and then again sat too far behind soft fractions when 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup. In her final bow at Arlington, she is the sentimental favorite to turn the tables, as she exits two off the board finishes where she didn’t miss by much, and now stretches back out to a more ideal distance in her third start off the layoff; this could be the time to get some actual value on her following those efforts as the pundits jump off her recent form. If the pattern continues, the fact she was somehow 15 lengths off the lead in her last and closed to miss by only 2.75 may lead her connections to again give specific instructions to keep her closer to the lead. A field high Beyer of 99 and a competitive Racing Post Rating (114) should stand up well against this group as long as she doesn’t lose touch with the pacesetters. Three year-old Euro shipper and daughter of Galileo WEDDING VOW comes in for Aidan O’Brien, gets first time Lasix and should vie for favoritism following a runner-up finish in the 10f Group 1 Nassau Stakes (113 RPR) last out and a win in Group 2 company in the 9f Kilboy Estate Stakes two back, the same race Dank had won before her 2013 victory here. While she must be respected on her current form, she has a lot to prove against this group at these odds as she tries to become just the second three year old winner of this event, but that does mean she will be in receipt of six pounds from the field. Defending champion EURO CHARLINE received a dream trip in last year’s race but nonetheless must be respected on form. She’s only raced twice this year and hasn’t won since last year’s score over this track, so she may not be as sharp coming into this as she was last year, when she had five evenly spaced races under her belt, but her top Racing Post Rating of 115 is the highest in the field. However, no runner has ever won this race twice, and she may be a bit of an underlay here against a deeper field than she met last year. SECRET GESTURE is Group 1 placed across the pond and returns to the US for the first time since a respectable 5th place finish at the Breeders’ Cup, only 3/4 of a length behind the top selection. Since then, she was an impressive Group 2 winner at 10.5 at York and looms dangerous here as well from close to the pace if she breaks well from her less than ideal post.

CARLA BIANCA appears a bit less credentialed on paper but does enter off a Group 3 win at 9f where she defeated Million entrant Elleval, and can work out a good trip near the lead from the middle of the field. There is a lone speed angle that could be attractive should it materialize, but it is hard to get past the eight lengths that separated her and WEDDING VOW three races back. MANGO DIVA took a big step forward when 2nd in the Modesty, the local prep for this race, and could be sitting on a big improvement in her third start on American turf, but would need to move forward in terms of figures (93 Beyer, 105 RPR). The mare who defeated her in the 8.5f Gallorette, WATSTHECHANCES, faces a step up in class here as she stretches out but closed sharply in her last two and should appreciate the added ground, but with so many other closers in this field she also would need to improve upon her prior efforts.  LOTS O’ LEX and MAID ON A MISSION will try to take this field all the way around and should ensure an honest pace but would need to improve massively to hang on for a spot on the board, while LACY ships in from Germany off the layoff and could be a bit off the form that saw her Group 1 placed last fall.

Picks:

1) Stephanie’s Kitten 7-2

2) Wedding Vow 4-1

3) Euro Charline 5-2

4) Secret Gesture 9-2

10- Arlington Million, 10f

The main event of the day presents a fascinating handicapping puzzle in terms of race shape. Flamboyant owner Ken Ramsey has entered SHINING COPPER as an obvious rabbit for his favored BIG BLUE KITTEN, a deep closer who has been more successful over his career at the 12f distance than at 10f. That strategy worked well last out at a slightly longer distance than this, although it deserves mention that the rabbit held on gamely and only missed the winner’s circle by 1.75 lengths and gets to cut back here. With several confirmed closers in the field, one might think the rabbit factor will play into the hands of a pace meltdown. However, we will play contrarian here, as perhaps the transparency of this strategy will prevent any of the other front-runners from engaging in a suicidal pace duel, and they’ll instead sit back in the second flight ready to make first run. In that event, Euro import MAVERICK WAVE seems like an intriguing proposition. From the John Gosden barn, which shocked this event in 2010 with 11-1 shot Debussy, the four-year old son of Elusive Quality exits a Group 3 win at 10.5f over soft going where he earned a 114 Racing Post Rating that seems to fit here. As with any Euro shipper that has won over soft turf there are question marks, but there are also reasons to believe he’ll handle the firmer ground, as he’s a three time winner over polytrack at this distance. He has a three month layoff to contend with but gets first time Lasix here, and winner of three of four 2015 starts figures to be forwardly placed early. SLUMBER was an impressive winner two back at this distance over the aforementioned favorite in the Grade 1 Manhattan before having those tables turned on him last out. He endured a tougher trip in defeat that day and if able to sit a bit closer to the pace as he did in his Manhattan score (field high 106 Beyer) should have every right to make an impact late. As for the favorite, it’s tough to overlook his runner-up 105 Beyer and field high 116 Racing Post Rating in terms of multi-race wager structuring. But the feeling here is that a lot has to set up for him to win at this distance in terms of pace, and would you believe he has never won a race above the Grade 3 level at shorter than 11f? He certainly would be no surprise but we will seek value elsewhere in terms of outright bets. The horse with perhaps the most potential upside in the field is TRIPLE THREAT, who exits a highly impressive late running win in the 9f Monmouth Stakes, where he endured a brutal trip in his US bow and looked to want every part of the added furlong he’ll get here. A Group 2 winner at 10f in Europe as a three year old, he shows a competitive Racing Post Rating of 115 from prior efforts abroad and figures to improve upon the 99 Beyer earned in his last in his second start off the layoff. It is a tad concerning that he missed his prep for this over the local course after having to be scratched with a brief illness, but trainer Bill Mott is an expert at bringing horses along quickly under such circumstances. If our race shape angle is wrong altogether and a meltdown does materialize, his field high 114 BRIS Late Pace number is somewhat towering; he should be used just in case.

Local favorite THE PIZZA MAN is 9 for 12 lifetime over this turf course and seems logical enough if using the same pace angle we used for the top selection. However, he again looms a potential underlay in this spot based on his popularity at the track relative to his speed figures (92 Beyer), which have actually been in steady descent over his last three races. While he has thrown together a highly impressive resume, he still has never won above the Grade 3 level or placed at the Grade 1 level and was a fairly easily beaten 4th behind the favorite last fall at Woodbine in a 12f race; we will play against him yet again on this significant class leap. QUIET FORCE was a somewhat surprising winner in the local prep for this, the 9.5f Arlington Handicap, posting a competitive 100 Beyer in that effort, but it bears mention that no winner of the local prep race has ever won the Arlington Million. UP WITH THE BIRDS was a distant 4th here last year against a weaker field and was an easily beaten 3rd last out in the local prep, and it’s hard to find an angle to include the deep closer here. LEGENDARY has shown speed before but faltered last out against the two favorites without excuse and is difficult to support in this spot. Rounding out the rest of the Euros is BOOKRUNNER, who figures to be forwardly placed and deserves a look at a price based on pedigree as he stretches from 8f to 10f, and German import WAKE FOREST, a last out winner at the Group 3 level at this distance; both show Racing Post Ratings of 112 and get first time Lasix. ELLEVAL and BELGIAN BILL also ship over but appear as much outsiders on form as they are in terms of post position.

Picks:

1) Maverick Wave 8-1

2) Slumber 7-2

3) Big Blue Kitten 3-1

4) Triple Threat 6-1

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