08/14/2013 12:56PM

Arlington Million: Little Mike draws post 11 for repeat bid

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Barbara D. Livingston
Little Mike was a front-running winner of last year's Arlington Million and will try to repeat that effort Saturday from post 11.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Little Mike’s bid to become the first winner of back-to-back Arlington Millions started with at least a small measure of success at the Million post position draw.

The Million draw, officially conducted late Tuesday but unveiled Wednesday afternoon at WGN studios in Chicago, put Little Mike in post 11. Little Mike’s early speed should cancel out any negative aspect of being drawn wide, and he is favorably positioned outside the Million’s other main pace player, Nates Mineshaft, who drew post 4.

The two pace rivals are among 13 entered in the 1 1/4-mile Million. Little Mike beat 10 foes here last year, and if all the entrants make the gate, it will be the first 13-horse Million since 2004.

Also announced Wednesday were fields for Saturday’s other three major turf races. Nine fillies and mares, headed by Marketing Mix, were entered in the Grade 1, $750,000 Beverly D. There are 13 3-year-olds in the Grade 1, $500,000 Secretariat, that race’s largest field since 1994. Eight were entered in the second edition of the American St. Leger, a turf marathon won by the Marco Botti-trained Jakkalberry last year, and that has the Botti-trained Dandino as a 9-5 morning-line favorite Saturday.

While this Million looks stronger than the one Little Mike won, Little Mike himself looks weaker. He won the 2012 Million, leading all the way on a slow pace, after winning the Grade 1 Turf Classic and finishing a good third in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. This year, he has only eighth- and 11th-place finishes in Dubai and a fading fourth in the July 6 United Nations on his résumé.

Trainer Dale Romans said on a conference call this week that Little Mike had wrenched an ankle in the Dubai Duty Free on March 30, and that Little Mike had lost weight during his Dubai trip. Little Mike was freshened upon his return home, and Romans said a fast, contested pace in the United Nations, combined with Little Mike’s less-than-ideal early-season schedule, had contributed to defeat.

“I think that United Nations was better than it looked on paper,” Romans said. “He got pressed early. He’s come back and had some nice works.”

Nates Mineshaft is a confirmed front-runner, and his jockey, E.T. Baird, a noted front-end rider. Little Mike rated off the pace in winning the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf, but Romans suggested that jockey Joel Rosario will use Little Mike’s speed Saturday.

“We’re not going to take his run out of him,” Romans said. “That’d be my first preference – open up a couple lengths and see if they can catch him.”

Little Mike is the 5-1 third choice on Arlington’s morning line, and morning-line favorite Grandeur had no luck at the draw, landing post 13. No horse in 20 renewals of the Million has won from a post wider than 12, though only 13 horses have tried. John Henry came closest, finishing second from post 13 in 1983 after winning from post 12 in 1981.

Grandeur, a fast-finishing English shipper, almost certainly will drop in, looking for early position, before hitting the clubhouse turn. Jockey William Buick is tasked with working out a trip.

Grandeur is one of six overseas Million shippers; Hunter’s Light, Side Glance, Mull of Killough, Guest of Honour, and The Apache are the others. The Apache worked five furlongs on turf in 1:04.40 here Wednesday. Indy Point, the 9-2 second choice on the morning line, has made one U.S. start, winning the Wickerr Stakes after being imported from Argentina. Indy Point is well drawn in post 7.

Breaking from post 12 is Rahystrada, who is making an unprecedented fourth start in the Million. The others in the race are the rail-drawn Real Solution – one of five Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned runners in the four big races – and Finnegans Wake and Temeraine, a pair of longshots.

Post time for the Million, the last of the major stakes on a 12-race Saturday card, is scheduled for 5:44 p.m. Central. The race will be televised on a one-hour broadcast by WGN.