08/07/2006 11:00PM

Ace out to end long drought in Million


CHICAGO - Trainer Graham Motion mostly cleared up one mystery Tuesday, saying Better Talk Now was all but certain to come to Chicago for Saturday's Arlington Million. The mystery of who Todd Pletcher will send to the Million, English Channel or Go Deputy, is ongoing, though Arlington racing officials believe they are getting one of the two.

But how to explain this mystery: Ace, one of the top contenders in the Million, is coming up on the two-year anniversary of his last victory.

Ace is one of 11 horses pre-entered in the Million, and was one of two Aidan O'Brien horses - the other is Secretariat Stakes hopeful Ivan Denisovich - to arrive Monday at Arlington. The O'Brien charges, in from Ireland, cleared quarantine Tuesday, and will begin to finish off their final race preparations with a training session Wednesday. Later Wednesday morning, entries were to be taken and post positions drawn for the Million, the Beverly D., and the Secretariat.

O'Brien won the 2005 Million with Powerscourt, who had finished first in the previous Million only to be disqualified to fourth for interference. Powerscourt's form seemed to improve whenever he came to the United States. Ace may be similar in that respect. He was coming off fourth- and fifth-place finishes in England and Ireland when O'Brien shipped him last fall to New York, but there he finished a close third in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and later in October was second in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Both were good races, but both losses, and in four European starts this season, Ace still has not found the winner's circle.

Better Talk Now still likely

Even though Better Talk Now has been pointed to the Million, there remained a chance that he may desert the race for the Sword Dancer. But during a national conference early Tuesday afternoon, Motion termed the chances of switching to the Sword Dancer "very slim."

Motion had the same decision to make last summer and at the last minute chose the Million, where Better Talk Now finished a tough-luck fourth. And despite Better Talk Now's win in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf two seasons ago, and an 0-for-3 record at 1 1/4 miles, Motion believes the Million, with a faster pace likely than in the Sword Dancer, might better suit his horse.

There was little other movement in the three Grade 1 turf races carded for Saturday, though locally based Arbuckle Bandit has joined the list of possible Secretariat starters, bringing the prospective field to seven.

Original Spin staying at Saratoga

Trainer Tony Mitchell was to drive back home to Arlington from Saratoga on Wednesday morning, but Original Spin, whom Mitchell saddled to a second-place finish Saturday in the Grade 1 Test Stakes, is staying put in New York for now. Mitchell's wife, Sherri Mitchell, whose father, Bill Boland, was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame on Monday, will remain at Saratoga with Original Spin, who is being pointed toward the Victory Ride Stakes there later this month.

Original Spin, the 2005 Illinois horse of the year, was 38-1 in the Test. Her 2006 debut during the Gulfstream meet was a disaster, and she had fared poorly in an Illinois-bred stakes race in late June at Arlington.

"When she went in that race at Arlington, she just came up short, and that was my fault," Mitchell said. "Everyone that was around her still had confidence in her."