08/06/2011 10:34AM

Arlington Park: Cape Blanco, Gio Ponti top list of Million pre-entries

Barbara D. Livingston
Cape Blanco wins the Man o' War in his U.S. debut. He is scheduled to ship from Ireland to Chicago on Wednesday.

Ten older horses, led by Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti, have been pre-entered in the 29th running of the Arlington Million, which will be run next Saturday as the annual showcase event at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill.

Cape Blanco, scheduled to arrive Wednesday in Chicago on the last of three equine charter flights from Europe, will be making his first start since he posted a highly impressive 2 1/4-length triumph in the Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont Park in his North American debut July 9. The 4-year-old colt returned to Aidan O’Brien’s training base in Ireland shortly after that victory.

Gio Ponti, second as the favorite in the Man o’ War, will be running in the Million for the third straight year, having finished second to Debussy last year after winning in 2009. An earner of nearly $5.5 million for trainer Christophe Clement, Gio Ponti will be traveling to Chicago from Saratoga, where he worked a bullet five furlongs in 59 seconds earlier this week.

Other major threats pre-entered in the 1 1/4-mile Million include the speedy Mission Approved, winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan; Tajaaweed, winner of the Arlington Handicap; and Wigmore Hall and Zack Hall, two more foreign-based runners.

Mission Approved, based in New York with trainer Naipaul Chatterpaul, became the first non-local horse to arrive for the Festival when he was vanned through the stable gate early Friday afternoon following a 16-hour van ride.

The Million, the richest of three Grade 1 turf races that comprise the International Festival of Racing, will be the 10th of 12 races on a card that will start at 12:15 p.m. Central. WGN America will provide live coverage of the Million on a half-hour broadcast from 5-5:30 Central.

In all, 33 horses were pre-entered for the Festival, with 11 for the Beverly D. and 12 for the Secretariat Stakes. Festival entries will be drawn Tuesday.

The $750,000 Beverly D. drew the 2010 winner, Eclaire de Lune, but she does not appear to be in peak form and figures as one of the longer prices in the race. Other fillies and mares pre-entered in the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. include Dubawi Heights, winner of the Grade 1 Gamely last out at Hollywood Park; Cheetah, a romping winner last out at Delaware Park for Clement; Never Retreat, a winner of five stakes within the last 13 months for local trainer Chris Block; and River Jetez, trained by the legendary South African, Michael de Kock.

The $400,000 Secretariat, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles, also shapes up as a terrific race, with the pre-entries headed by Willcox Inn, Air Support, Banned, Roderic O’Connor, Treasure Beach, and Ziyarid.

Arlington Million Festival pre-entry lists
Arlington Million
Purse: $1 million, 1 1/4 miles (turf); Grade 1
Cape Blanco
Dean’s Kitten
General Perfect
Gio Ponti
Mission Approved
Proceed Bee
Wigmore Hall
Zack Hall

Beverly D.
Purse: $750,000, 1 3/16 miles (turf) Grade 1
Check the Label
Dubawi Heights
Eclaire de Lune
Never Retreat
River Jetez
Romin Robin

Purse: $400,000; 1 1/4 miles (turf); Grade 1
Air Support
Casino Host
Crimson China
Derby Kitten
Roderic O’Connor
Treasure Beach
Willcox Inn