08/11/2010 2:47PM

Defections slice Arlington Million field in half

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Barbara D. Livingston
Gio Ponti will try to defend his title in the Arlington Million on Aug. 21.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Just more than a week ago, Arlington Park listed 17 horses as possible runners in the 27th Arlington Million. By Tuesday, that number had been cut almost in half.

Not only have the connections of The Usual Q.T. declined to ship half-way across the country for the Million, but several European-based horses are no longer crossing the pond for the race, which will be run Saturday, Aug. 21. Among them is Famous Name, who would have been among the race favorites had trainer Dermot Weld elected to come from Ireland. Two other Europeans, Lady Jane Digby and Allybar, also have been crossed off the Million list, according to Arlington racing secretary Chris Polzin. Lady Jane Digby, a 5-year-old mare, had won a German Group 1 in her most recent start; Allybar, a Godolphin runner, has never won a group or graded stakes on turf.

The more defections, the more the odds of Gio Ponti winning his second straight Million shrink. As of Wednesday, Gio Ponti was one of nine horses expected to be pre-entered in the Million at a cost of $5,000 by midnight Friday. Also expected to be pre-entered are three overseas horses − Debussy; Summit Surge, a late nominee at a cost of $2,000; and Tazeez − plus North American-based General Quarters, Just as Well, Quite a Handful, Rahystrada, and Tajaaweed. Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stable owns Tazeez and Tajaaweed.

The Europeans Biased and Pachattack remain on course for the Beverly D., but Buzzword will not cross the Atlantic for the Secretariat, leaving Wigmore Hall as the lone Euro in the race for 3-year-olds. Arlington lists eight horses as possible Secretariat starters, headed by Paddy O’ Prado. Between 11 and 13 horses could run in the Beverly D.

Horsemen adjust to new deadline

The Arlington racing office no longer is burning the midnight oil waiting for entries to come trickling in.

Several times earlier in the meet, Arlington closed entries well into the evening, even holding entries open overnight on a couple of occasions. But beginning with entries taken for the July 31 card, Arlington instituted a hard 11 a.m. deadline for horsemen to make their entries.

“We might have gotten stuck with a shorter field here or there because this doesn’t give us an opportunity to work on any of the races,” Arlington racing secretary Chris Polzin said. “Other than that, it’s going great. People getting them in. We’ve had maybe three people call and say they forgot so far. It’s worked pretty well.”

Polzin said the pace of entries has been steady and acceptable since Arlington began restricting programs to nine races per day.

Supah Soup gets back to dirt

Supah Soup should appreciate a return to Arlington’s main track in featured race 8 here Friday.

Supah Soup, one of eight horses entered in an entry-level allowance race carded for one mile on Polytrack, has made his two most recent starts on turf. A 6-year-old Dale Bennett-trained gelding, he is 0 for 11 in his grass starts but has two wins and two second-place finishes from five races on synthetic surfaces. He twice raced on the Arlington main track in May, finishing second in a one-turn mile to synthetic-surface specialist Helicopter. Supah Soup drew the rail for Friday’s race but has finished first and second in his last two starts breaking from post 1.

Clean Shot probably will be favored for owner Frank Calabrese and trainer Nick Canani. A 4-year-old Wagon Limit colt, Clean Shot hasn’t started since May 28, when his late rally in a 6 1/2-furlong Polytrack allowance race earned him a third-place finish. Clean Shot’s two wins have come at Friday’s one-mile distance, and the longer trip should help him.