07/06/2011 3:55PM

Arlington Park: Million Preview Day has international flavor

Reed Palmer Photography
Wasted Tears, winner of the Ouija Board Distaff at Lone Star Park, could be tough to catch in Saturday’s Grade 3 Modesty at Arlington.

The main overseas infiltration of Arlington Park comes next month, for the Million, the Beverly D., and the Secretariat on Aug. 13, but dollops of international flavor have been thrown into this year’s Million Preview Day.

The three graded turf stakes scheduled for Saturday – the American Derby, the Modesty, and the Arlington Handicap – were drawn Wednesday, and all attracted decent- to good-sized fields. Eight fillies and mares were entered in the Grade 3 Modesty, the local prep for the Grade 1 Beverly D., while there are 10 in both the Grade 2 American Derby, which leads to the Grade 1 Secretariat next month, and in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, a nominal stepping-stone to the Million.

There are no recent transoceanic imports in the Modesty, though Fantasia and Endless Expanse spent their early days racing in Europe. Cannon Hill, however, has shipped from trainer Dermot Weld’s base in Ireland for the American Derby, and two horses in the Arlington Handicap, Interaction and Sanagas, are making their first starts in North America. Sanagas, who makes his graded stakes debut, won 4 of 5 starts in Germany in 2010-11 and now is based with trainer Graham Motion. Christophe Clement trains Interaction, a multiple Grade 1 winner in Argentina who wintered in Dubai with trainer Pascal Bary.

The likely favorite in the Modesty, however, has come not from overseas but from Texas. Wasted Tears, the likely pacesetter under Julien Leparoux, drew post 3 and may find herself alone on the lead Saturday. Fantasia, the likely second choice, will break from post 4 and be ridden by East Coast-based jockey Rajiv Maragh. Never Retreat, who would have been among the Modesty favorites, will start Sunday in the Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine, trainer Chris Block said. Block instead entered Askbut I Won’ttell, fifth in the 2010 Modesty.

Willcox Inn, the probable American Derby favorite, fared well at the draw, landing post 4 of 10, with Robby Albarado named to ride. Albarado was aboard Willcox Inn for the first time May 28, when the Harlan’s Holiday colt won the Arlington Classic, first leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, by 2 1/2 lengths. Trained by Mike Stidham, Willcox Inn has a win, a second, and a third in his three grass races and beat Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in a Polytrack maiden race here last summer. He turned in a strong in-company half-mile turf workout here Sunday.

Suntracer, second in the Arlington Classic, breaks from post 9 on Saturday and gets a rider change from Leparoux to Shaun Bridgmohan. Leparoux is booked to ride Derby Kitten, on whom he won the Lexington Stakes this past spring. Derby Kitten most recently was third in the Lone Star Derby, a race in which another American Derby entrant, Close Ally, was second by a neck. Cannon Hill, the Irish horse, breaks from post 1 under Pat Smullen. The field also includes the one-two finishers from the $200,000 Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs, Lil Bit o’ Fun and Chalice.

The Arlington Handicap drew a solid Grade 3 cast headed by Tajaaweed. Tajaaweed, who will break from post 4 under James Graham, finished strongly for third in the 2010 Arlington Handicap, beaten by Rahystrada and Just as Well, two horses better than any he faces Saturday.

Mister Marti Gras would have raced Monday at Churchill in the Firecracker Handicap had an entry snafu not prohibited his participation. Rerouted to the Arlington Handicap by Block, Mister Marti Gras drew poorly in post 10. Saturday’s races (the American Derby and the Modesty are at 1 3/16 miles, the Arlington Handicap at 1 1/4 miles) will be contested with the inner turf rail set up in lane 5, the so-called Million lane. A wide draw can prove especially troublesome with the rail so far out in the course, particularly in 1 1/4-mile races, which start at the end of the far turn.