Updated on 09/18/2011 12:38AM

All roads lead to Arlington

Powerscourt won last year's Arlington Million (above) for trainer Aidan O'Brien, who, is expected to bring at least one quality runner for each of the three Grade 1 turf stakes Arlington Park will hold on Aug. 12.

Even while Del Mar and Saratoga are in progress, the national racing focus will shift to Arlington Park's turf course in suburban Chicago on Aug. 12.

That is when the Arlington Million will be run for the 24th time, supported by the 16th running of the Beverly D. for fillies and mares and the 30th Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds. Billed in its early years as an Olympics for world-class turf horses, the Arlington Million now is the most important American turf race this side of the Breeders' Cup.

Moreover, the $750,000 Beverly D. at 1 3/16 miles, has become at least as prominent as any other turf stakes for fillies and mares and the $400,000 Secretariat at the Million distance of 1 1/4 miles has developed into a launching pad for 3-year-olds on the verge of challenging older horses in the BC Mile or BC Turf.

These three Grade 1 turf races also are target races for several of the nation's best turf trainers as well as international horsemen seeking to firm up credentials for a Breeders' Cup invasion in the fall.

This year's Arlington Million Day figures to attract high-class American-based turf horses trained by Bobby Frankel, Graham Motion, Neil Drysdale, Ron McAnally, Dick Mandella, and Patrick Biancone, while the prominent Irish-based trainer Aidan O'Brien is considering at least one top horse for each of the three rich stakes. O'Brien won last year's Arlington Million with Powerscourt.

For the Million, Frankel is expected to send the classy Cacique, winner of the Manhattan Handicap in June, while Motion is sending the hard-hitting stretch runner Better Talk Now, who has maintained good form since winning the BC Turf in 2004. O'Brien is sending Ace, a useful sort with more natural speed than most European turf horses.

Drysdale is trying to decide if he should go with Aragorn or Fourty Niners Son. Aragon certainly looked the part of a world-class performer when he won the nine-furlong Eddie Read at Del Mar by four lengths on July 23. His starting status in the Million will be determined by how he seems to be coming around just three weeks after his excellent Eddie Read. Should he be in the race, he will be a formidable horse to beat.

As a viable option, Drysdale may reserve Aragorn for the one-mile Del Mar BC on Aug. 26 and go with Fourty Niners Son. Fourty Niners Son had a rough trip in Aragorn's Eddie Read and was a good third in the 2005 Million despite traffic problems.

McAnally has expressed his intent to run Sweet Return, who set the pace in the Eddie Read and finished seventh and eighth in the last two runnings of the Arlington Million. The French-based Touch of Land also will be making his third appearance in this million dollar race after failing to hit the board in 2003 and 2005.

Biancone said he will wheel back Cosmonaut after he won the Arlington Handicap over the course on July 22 and Mandella intends to ship The Tin Man, an aging but highly effective world-class performer who was sixth in last year's Million. More recently, The Tin Man won Hollywood Park's Grade 2 American Invitational Handicap.

The O'Brien-trained Ace has had his moments, finishing a close second in a Group 3 stakes at The Curragh on July 15 and a surprising second in the BC Turf at Belmont Park last fall.

Cacique handles any course condition and has the tractable running style that will give jockey Edgar Prado plenty of options in a race that usually puts a premium on tactics as much as it does the essential class and conditioning of the horses involved.

As a stone-cold stretch runner, Better Talk Now has run his best races when accompanied by Shake the Bank, a speedy sort employed as a "rabbit" to prevent one of Better Talk Now's main contenders from enjoying an easy, uncontested lead. With the absence of his "rabbit," Better Talk Now will still need a naturally developing, realistic pace to be effective. Of equal import, he handles any turf condition.

In the Beverly D., Biancone has the flashy late runner Gorella ready to stretch out in distance, while Frankel has the rejuvenated Melhor Ainda, who won Belmont's $68,000 Capades Stakes on July 14, in a prep for this. In last year's Beverly D., Melhor Ainda was beaten a neck when third after encountering plenty of traffic.

Gorella and Melhor Ainda's most dangerous competition figure to be Motion's veteran performer Film Maker and O'Brien's improving 3-year-old filly Queen Cleopatra.

Film Maker, who prefers soft footing, won the Grade 3 All Along BC at Colonial Downs on June 24 in her only start this year. Queen Cleopatra was a close third in the French Oaks at Chantilly on June 11, France's premier race for 3-year-old fillies. Also worthy of consideration are the Arabian-based Nasheej, third against top class fillies and mares in the Group 1 Coronation on June 23 at Royal Ascot.

Moscow Burning, second in the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap at Del Mar on July 22 and second by a nose in this race last year, may also be entered, pending how well she has recovered from the Mabee.

In the Secretariat, O'Brien is expected to start highly rated Ivan Denisovich, who was a disappointing eighth in a Group 1 stakes at Chantilly on July 9 after finishing an encouraging third in a Group 1 at prestigious Royal Ascot in June. A field of seven to 10 is expected for this race, including Showing Up, America's leading 3-year-old turf horse; the Motion-trained Amigoni, who was third in the American Derby on July 22; and the Frankel-trained Proudinsky, who was fifth in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on July 15.

Frankel, by the way, knows his way around this course, having won the Arlington Million twice, the Beverly D. twice, and the Secretariat.