08/04/2011 11:07AM

Arlington Park: Flights set to bring International Festival of Racing runners to Chicago


The first of three scheduled flights from Europe carrying hopefuls for the International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park was scheduled to arrive Saturday evening at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

Wigmore Hall and Zack Hall, both set to run in the 29th Arlington Million next Saturday, Aug. 13, were among the horses booked for the Saturday flight. The Million is the biggest of the three Grade 1 turf races that comprise the Festival.

Another horse booked on the Saturday flight is River Jetez, one of the leading candidates for the $750,000 Beverly D. River Jetez is trained by legendary South African Michael de Kock.

Two other overseas flights with Festival prospects are scheduled a few days later. A charter from France was expected Tuesday evening with Ziyarid, one of the top contenders for the $400,000 Secretariat. Then, less than 24 hours later, a flight from the United Kingdom is scheduled to arrive with the Aidan O’Brien runners for the Festival, most notably Cape Blanco, who could be a slight favorite over Gio Ponti in a very attractive renewal of the Million.

All foreign horses will go directly into quarantine in the Arlington stable area before being cleared for their final days of training.

Festival pre-entries were due this week, with release of the names for all three races set for Saturday morning. Entries will be taken and drawn Wednesday.

As many as 10 older horses are expected for the Million, with the others being Dean’s Kitten, Mission Approved, Rahystrada, Ransom Note, Tajaaweed, and Tazeez.

The 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. could have an even bigger field. Check the Label, a four-time graded stakes winner last year for Graham Motion, is expected from the East Coast, while other domestic hopefuls include Cheetah, Dubawi Heights, Eclair de Lune, Fantasia, Never Retreat, and Upperline.

The 1 1/4-mile Secretariat, for 3-year-olds, will have Willcox Inn trying to become just the fourth horse to sweep the Mid-America Triple. The Mike Stidham-trained colt won the Arlington Classic and American Derby and is aiming to follow Tom Rolfe (1965), Buckpasser (1966), and Honor Glide (1997) for that rare honor.

Others for the Secretariat include Air Support and Banned, the one-two finishers in the Virginia Derby last month, and about a half-dozen others.

Guaranteed Million Day pools

Arlington will be offering guaranteed pools on a couple of multi-race wagers on Million Day. The 50-cent pick four ending with the Million (race 10) is being guaranteed at $200,000, while the 50-cent pick five (15 percent takeout) that also ends with the Million is set at $100,000. The Beverly D. will go as race 9 and the Secretariat as race 8.

The 12-race Million Day card will start earlier than normal, at 12:15 p.m. Central.

WGN to provide Million coverage

Arlington announced this week that the Million will be carried live nationally in HD on WGN America, a cable network that reaches 27 million households. The broadcast will run simultaneously in the local area on WGN Channel 9.

Dan Roan and Howard Sudberry will anchor the 30-minute broadcast, which will run from 5-5:30 p.m. Central.

◗ Lacking a stakes, a 10-race Saturday card at Arlington ends with co-featured turf allowances (races 9 and 10). Both races are entry-level events with purses of $30,500. First post is 1 p.m.

◗ A number of top Arlington jockeys will spend part of their day off Monday helping disabled children learn equestrian skills. Junior Alvarado, Jimmy Graham, Chris Emigh, Florent Geroux, Tim Thornton, and Tanner Riggs will lend their time and expertise to the “Partners for Progress” program at the Pine Grove Equestrian Center in Mundelein, Ill. at 6 p.m.