08/09/2013 3:39PM

Arlington Million attracts balanced cast of pre-entrants

Tom Keyser
Little Mike is seeking his first victory of 2013.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – A full field of 14 horses, including defending champion Little Mike, was pre-entered Friday for the Aug. 17 Arlington Million.

The race is nicely balanced between North American- and overseas-based runners, with six horses shipping in from Europe, and eight U.S-based runners pre-entered.

Pre-entries for the Million and the three other main stakes on the Million Day program – the Grade 1 Beverly D., the Grade 1 Secretariat, and the second edition of the $400,000 American St. Leger – were due by noon Friday, with final entries to be taken and post positions assigned Tuesday. Pre-entry and entry fees – $4,000 for the American St. Leger, $6,000 for the Beverly D. and Secretariat, and $15,000 for the Million – must be paid at the time of pre-entry, and partial refunds are provided only with a veterinarian’s certificate, so pre-entered fields usually mirror final entries.

Little Mike, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year, is seeking his first victory of 2013. He controlled the Million pace and won comfortably over Afsare last season, but his rider that day, Ramon Dominguez, has since retired because of brain injury, and Little Mike faces a more challenging pace scenario this year with the presence of locally based longshot Nates Mineshaft, a confirmed front-runner.

The other U.S.-based horses in the Million are Rahystrada, Indy Point, Optimizer, Real Solution, Finnegans Wake, and Temeraine. Nine-year-old Rahystrada would become the first horse to compete in four Millions. He finished fourth in 2010, fifth in 2011, and third last year. Indy Point, bred and based in Argentina until early this year, seeks to become the first South American-bred horse to win the Million. His trainer, Richard Mandella, won the 2006 Million with The Tin Man. Real Solution, who made his first five starts in Italy, will give trainer Chad Brown his first Million runner.

The European pre-entrants are Hunter’s Light, Side Glance, Grandeur, The Apache, Mull of Killough, and Guest of Honor. The group is decent, but has combined to win only 5 of 20 starts in 2013. Hunter’s Light, from Godolphin, had a strong Dubai World Cup Carnival while racing on an all-weather surface, but is less proven on turf. Four-year-old Grandeur was based last fall and winter in California, winning two stakes there. The Apache, a South African-bred trained by South African Mike de Kock, is this year’s most accomplished international shipper and finished second in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free in March. De Kock’s only other Million starter, Archipenko, was a troubled second in 2008.

The 13 international shippers for the four stakes are scheduled to arrive in Chicago on three flights Saturday and Sunday.

The Beverly D. drew 10 pre-entered horses, including Marketing Mix, who endured a wide trip when she finished second by a head in the 2012 Beverly D. Marketing Mix, owned by Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor, has been based in California much of this season and is not scheduled to ship to Arlington until late in the week.

The Beverly D. lost expected prominent starter Stephanie’s Kitten earlier this week, but picked up pre-entrant Dream Peace, who finished second by a head July 27 in the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga. Also in from New York is New York Handicap winner Starformer, while Solid Appeal ships from Canada, but the major rivals to Marketing Mix probably are the three Europeans: Duntle, Dank, and Gifted Girl.

Days ago, the Secretariat and the American St. Leger appeared destined for short fields, but that all changed. There were 13 pre-entrants in the Secretariat, 10 in the American St. Leger.

Rydilluc, one of the top 3-year-old grass horses in the United States so far this year, was a late addition to the Secretariat when the Hall of Fame Stakes on Friday at Saratoga, a race in which he was entered, was moved from turf to dirt because of rain. Jack Milton, Draw Two, and Admiral Kitten are the three most accomplished U.S.-based Secretariat pre-entrants, while First Cornerstone from Ireland and Visiyani from France both could figure prominently.

Trainer Marco Botti won 2012’s inaugural American St. Leger with Jakkalberry, and in Dandino he has a major contender. The other overseas shipper pre-entered was Wigmore Hall, who is making his fourth trip to Arlington, having finished second in the 2010 Secretariat and fourth and seventh in two Million starts. Dark Cove heads the U.S.-based pre-entrants in the 1 11/16-mile marathon.