08/13/2013 3:06PM

Arlington Million: Grandeur returns from England for second tour of United States

Benoit & Associates
Grandeur, winning the Hollywood Turf Cup last year, will use the Arlington Million as his first step toward this fall's Breeders' Cup Turf..

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – The 4-year-old gelding Grandeur was bred in Ireland and made his first nine starts in England, but all the while his trainer, Jeremy Noseda, harbored plans for a different kind of racing.

“I always had in my mind that this horse was ready-made to race in America,” Noseda said. “He loves turning tracks in Europe, and the ground – he’s one of those horses that the ground can’t be fast enough for him. He always just gave me the gut feeling that he’d like American racing.”

Noseda was right. Grandeur, during an extended trip to California late last fall, won two graded stakes and finished a tough-luck second in another. After a winter, spring, and early summer back home with Noseda in England, Grandeur has returned to the United States, setting up shop at Arlington for a run on the Saturday in the Arlington Million, Noseda’s first starter in the race.

“He’s traveled well. My team is really happy with him,” said Noseda, who was scheduled to travel Wednesday to Chicago. “This was the plan made at the beginning of the year, that his first major target of the season would be the Arlington Million.”

Noseda sent Grandeur to California last fall on a flight ferrying Breeders’ Cup horses from England, and, in an unconventional maneuver, he left Grandeur there for the better part of two months while always intending to bring him home again.

In his U.S. debut, Grandeur closed like a bullet and won the Grade 3 Twilight Derby. He finished second to Unbridled Command in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, but probably was the best horse in that race, too, rallying from 14th at the top of the stretch while racing at least eight paths from the inside rail. The original plan had called for Grandeur to go home after that start, but a frustrated Noseda decided Grandeur should stick around a few more weeks for the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup, where Grandeur wound up comfortably handling a decent group of older horses.

Impressive as Grandeur looked flying home in his trio of California races, he might be a better horse now. Fourth of six in a molasses-paced stakes July 11 at Newmarket, his first start this season, Grandeur ran perhaps the best race of his life July 27 in the York Stakes, rallying strongly for second behind high-class Mukhadram.

Frankie Dettori rode Grandeur that day, but William Buick, Grandeur’s regular rider and the winner of the 2010 Million on Debussy, has the mount Saturday.

Noseda, an Englishman who worked for John Gosden in California in the mid-1980s and trained there himself in the mid-1990s, has a far greater comfort level than most overseas horsemen with American racing, and he intends to make full use of it with Grandeur. If Noseda’s plan holds, Grandeur has raced for the last time this year in Europe: He goes home after the Million, with his long-term goal the Breeders’ Cup Turf and a race in New York or California as a bridge between the Million and the BC Turf. The plan is a strong one; Grandeur likes it over here.

Rahystrada defies Father Time

It has become a rite of mid-summer, Rahystrada’s trip from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Center in Lexington to Arlington Park. Three times Rahystrada has traveled for the Arlington Million, and on Saturday, 9-year-old Rahystrada will become the first horse to run in four editions of the Million.

This is no mere sentimental journey for owner Robert Courtney and trainer Scooter Hughes. Fourth in the 2010 Million and fifth in 2011, Rahystrada finished a tough-luck third last year, and in his most recent start, he won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, a course-and-distance Million prep. Rahystrada is not coming just to run in the race, but to try and win it.

“To me, he’s as good as he was last year, and maybe better, really,” Hughes said.

Several horses raced in three Millions, but none was durable or fortunate enough to make a fourth. Rahystrada, whose career began in July 2006 and was punctuated by layoffs during his early years, is the rare horse who has carried his peak form through an age when nearly all equine athletes have begun to decline.

“It is surprising, yes, but that’s why we’re still going with him,” Hughes said. “He still acts like he’s 4 or 5. After his work, after his bath, he’ll just drag you outside to graze.”

It did not get recorded, but Rahystrada worked a half-mile over one of the KTC’s training tracks this past weekend. Works are infrequent: Rahystrada’s usual routine is to gallop six days a week around a big field on the KTC property. And Hughes is big on routine, particularly the one that worked well here last month.

“Last time we went into barn 1A, and I told the Arlington people I want to do exactly the same; Give me the same stall, everything. We trainers are a superstitious lot.”

Hughes can use whatever methods he wants: They have worked beautifully on Rahystrada.

Optimizer bows out of Million

Optimizer, a last-minute pre-entrant in the Million, won’t travel from New York for the race, Arlington racing officials confirmed, leaving a likely field of 13 for the race.

Also, two pre-entrants from the American St. Leger won’t be among that race’s final entries: Cavalero ran instead in an optional claimer here Sunday, and Harrods Creek will not make the trip from New York, trainer Bill Mott informed Arlington racing officials Monday.