08/15/2013 4:01PM

Arlington Million: Grandeur must overcome outside post


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Arlington loves all things international. Its Hanshin Cup has a sister race of the same name in Japan. The track’s scenic property is ringed by grapevines, French-style. Even the very word “International” has crept back into Arlington’s official moniker.

The 31st running of the Arlington Million here Saturday tastes of an especially international flavor. Six Europeans, the most since 2003, have traveled overseas for the race, the best of them the Irish-bred, England-based Grandeur, and the South African expatriate The Apache, who wintered in Dubai. And the horse with the best chance to dash European hopes is Indy Point, an Argentine-bred who made his first 12 starts in South America. International, indeed.

Arlington rolls out the red carpet for international visitors, but there is nothing the track can do about the random post position draw, and it was unkind to Grandeur, the 7-2 morning-line favorite. Grandeur and jockey William Buick, the 2010 Million winner on Debussy, drew the outside post in a 13-horse field. The horse might be good enough to overcome it.

“Listen, the draw is not ideal, but it’s not going to change my instructions to William,” said trainer Jeremy Noseda, who has his first Million runner. “Get him out of the gate, don’t take back too much, try to get a position. Unless you’re really unlucky, it shouldn’t be the difference between winning and losing.”

Noseda, an Englishman, did two tours of California racing as an assistant and a head trainer. Grandeur, a 4-year-old gelded between his 2- and 3-year-old campaigns, always had seemed like a candidate for American racing, with his love of fast-playing turf and his affinity for turns, and Noseda sent him to California for a three-race campaign last fall. Grandeur won the Twilight Derby and the Hollywood Turf Cup, and with better luck could have won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. A gray with roan mottling and a brilliant late turn of foot, Grandeur finished a good second in the York Stakes, his Million prep, and has traveled well.

“I couldn’t be happier with him,” said Noseda. “He looks great.”

But Indy Point, who arrived from California on Wednesday afternoon, also looked great during an easy training session Thursday morning, with trainer Dick Mandella looking on from the apron. Mandella’s eight Million runners have a win, three seconds, and two thirds, and Indy Point is poised to enhance that record. One of South America’s top horses of 2012, Indy Point won multiple Group 1’s there and finished second of 22 in the Carlos Pelligrini – Argentina’s premier race – in his final start before being sent to Mandella last winter.

The colt’s U.S. debut came in a mid-tier race, the Wickerr Stakes, but Indy Point won with aplomb and has since impressed his trainer. “Fabulous” was how Mandella described Indy Point’s one-mile workout Aug. 10 at Del Mar. A stalking type, Indy Point, unlike Grandeur, is ideally drawn in post 7 under Gary Stevens.

Archipenko finished second in the 2008 Million, trainer Mike de Kock’s only previous Million starter, and The Apache, bred and raced for most of his career in South Africa, gives de Kock another live runner. The Apache finished fourth behind Grandeur in the July 27 York Stakes, but de Kock trainees often need their first start after a layoff, and the York was The Apache’s first race since a successful winter campaign in Dubai. There, The Apache showed good form on a left-handed, fast-playing turf course like the one he’ll find Saturday. De Kock, however, has remained in England to saddle another stable star, Soft Falling Rain, on Saturday.

Little Mike, the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, is the Million’s defending champion, but will need a return to last year’s form to become the first back-to-back Million winner. Little Mike finished eighth and 11th in a pair of Dubai starts this winter, and faded off a quick pace to fourth in the July 6 United Nations.

“Physically, there’s no excuse going into this race,” said trainer Dale Romans. “He’s doing as well as he can do. He’s back to his old self.”

Little Mike won the 2012 Million leading on a slow pace, but the presence of front-running Nates Mineshaft probably precludes a similar journey. Those two horses, if they show their speed, should ensure a legitimate early and middle pace. Indy Point and jockey Gary Stevens figure to be in the second flight, as should jockey Rosie Napravnik and Rahystrada, a 9-year-old making a record fourth Million start and who was a closing third last year.

“I think Little Mike had it all his way last year,” said Byron Hughes, who trains Rahystrada. “Hopefully he won’t this time.”

The remainder of the field consists of Italian import Real Solution, third to Point of Entry in the Manhattan last out; longshot Americans Finnegans Wake and Temeraine; and the other three Europeans, Hunter’s Light, Side Glance, and Mull of Killough.

Grandeur loved fast-playing California courses, and Indy Point skipped over the quick Del Mar turf. Both should relish the forecast conditions Saturday, with cool, breezy weather that has firmed up the local course forecast to hold through the Million. The Million, the 10th of 12 races with post time scheduled for 5:44 Central, is the last of four major turf stakes Saturday, a sequence beginning in race 7 with the $400,000 American St. Leger and running through the day’s other Grade 1’s, the Secretariat and the Beverly D. A guaranteed $200,000 pick four with a 50-cent minimum bet links the four big races. WGN-America will nationally televise the Million in a broadcast running from 5-6 Central.