07/15/2011 4:09PM

Arlington Park: Cape Blanco looks like a Million starter

Barbara D. Livingston
Cape Blanco, with Jamie Spencer up, wins the Man o' War.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – News updates do not exactly come flying out of Ballydoyle, trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Irish home base, but it seems fairly certain at this point that Cape Blanco, a solid winner of the Man o’ War at Belmont on July 9, will return to the United States for a start in the Aug. 13 Arlington Million.

Alistair Donald, director of the International Racing Bureau, told Arlington publicity earlier this week that it was “well documented” that Cape Blanco was being pointed for the Million. And if Cape Blanco does indeed show up, it will probably mean a rematch with Gio Ponti, the second-place finisher in the Man o’ War. Gio Ponti won the 2009 Million and was runner-up last season to Debussy.

Cape Blanco would be O’Brien’s fifth Million starter and first since Mount Nelson finished third in 2008. O’Brien won the 2005 Million with Powerscourt, who had finished first in 2004 but was disqualified to fourth for interference. Powerscourt’s rider in 2004 was Jamie Spencer, who also happens to be the regular pilot of Cape Blanco, who finished a close fourth in the Dubai World Cup to start his 2011 campaign.

Also likely to ship overseas is the 8-year-old mare River Jetez, who will start for trainer Mike de Kock in the Beverly D. River Jetez finished fifth on July 8 in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes in England, but at one mile the Falmouth fell short of River Jetez’s best distance, and she should be a serious contender in the Beverly D. Earlier this year she finished second to Presvis in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free and second to Gitano Hernando in the Group 1 Singapore Cup.

DiVito’s form holding

When 2-year-old first-time starter Twelve Hundred won the first race on Thursday at Arlington, followers of the local racing scene could not have been surprised. Jim DiVito trains Twelve Hundred, and DiVito has been winning with both first-timers and 2-year-olds at a crazily high percentage the last two Arlington meets.

Daily Racing Form trainer stats show that DiVito has won with 11 of his last 22 first-time starters and 15 of his last 40 two-year-old starters. At the 2011 Arlington meet, DiVito already has won with five different first-time starters, four of them in 2-year-old races, and all selected for purchase by DiVito himself.

“I think that I’ve had some better stock,” DiVito said of his recent run of success. “It’s not that I do anything different than I did before. But I do get to go out and purchase some of these myself.”

Several of the young winners have come at bargain prices. Ann of the Dance, a highly impressive debut-winning filly, cost just $2,500. Thursday’s winner. Twelve Hundred, was named for his purchase price. Backdoor Kenny cost more, $85,000, but could earn much of that back Saturday night in the Prairie Meadows Juvenile. Richard Templar, who races as Doubledown Stable, bought Backdoor Kenny as well as Blue Forty, with Blue Forty purchased privately for an undisclosed price.

That is the new, but there is news of the old in the DiVito barn. DiVito said 11-year-old Coach Jimi Lee has officially been retired after finishing last of nine July 11 at Prairie Meadows in his 2011 debut. Coach Jimi Lee earned more than $1 million while winning 18 of 56 starts spanning 10 racing seasons, and he owns the Illinois state record for six furlongs. DiVito said Coach Jimi Lee will remain at the track and be trained as a stable pony.

◗ Springfield Stakes winner Hydro Power heads an evenly matched field of six in Sunday’s featured second race, a second-level allowance also open to $40,000 claimers and carded for one mile on Polytrack.