08/03/2009 11:00PM

Europeans get used to foreign turf


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It is one of the early-week rituals of the Arlington Million: foreign horses getting acquainted with the Arlington Park turf course. Cima de Triomphe, an Irish-bred who will be one of the top contenders for the 27th Million on Saturday, cut a striking figure on a very quiet Tuesday morning, cantering around the spacious course while his assistant trainer looked on approvingly.

Cima de Triomphe exits what arguably has been the deepest race for older horses so far this year in Europe, the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes on July 4 at Sandown Park in England. The gray 4-year-old colt will try to give Luca Cumani, the Italian-born icon of English racing, a second Million victory. Cumani won the third running of the Million with Tolomeo, a 38-1 shot, way back in 1983.

Cima de Triomphe "has really settled nicely into his new home here," said Charlie Henson, a 30-year-old Englishman whose unofficial title of "assistant abroad" to Cumani has taken him to various points around the world in recent months, including Dubai and Hong Kong.

Cima de Triomphe, fourth in the Eclipse, won a Group 3 race at Sandown in his prior start. Henson - much like the International Racing Bureau officials who have traveled to Chicago as usual for the International Festival of Racing events - believes the European contingent should make a good showing Saturday when facing the likes of American-based runners Gio Ponti, Einstein, and others. Gloria de Campeao and Stotsfold are the other overseas shippers for the Million, which was won last year by the French longshot Spirit One.

"At some point later in the week, we'll probably let him do something a little more serious than what he did this morning," said Henson, whose limited prior experience with American racing has taken him to only two tracks, Keeneland and Churchill Downs. "He seems very happy, doing very well."

Henson said Cumani was scheduled to arrive Friday.

By Tuesday, all but two remaining Festival starters from Europe had arrived and been assimilated into the quarantine facility near the five-furlong training track on the Arlington backstretch. Alnadana (Beverly D.) and Black Bear Island (Secretariat Stakes) were due Wednesday.

One from N.Y., Calif. in Beverly D.

California had a stranglehold on the Beverly D. in the early years, with West Coast shippers winning six of the first seven runnings (1989-93, 1995) after Arlington enriched the purse to make it a race of national importance.

But that dominance has shifted almost 180 degrees in recent years to New York horses, although it could easily occur Saturday that neither East nor West will prevail. Of the eight fillies and mares entered Tuesday for the Beverly D., only Black Mamba will come from California and Dynaforce from New York.

No challenge for Grand Slam bonus

With Battle of Hastings staying home in California, there once again will be no Grand Slam of Grass bonus in the balance when the Secretariat is renewed Saturday.

Since 2004, when the Jacobs family that owns Colonial Downs in Virginia first offered the $5 million bonus (purse winnings included), no horse has come close to a sweep. As winner of the Colonial Cup and Virginia Derby, Battle of Hastings was still eligible for the bonus, but the gelding was not even entered in the Secretariat. The final leg of the series is the Breeders' Cup Turf, set for Nov. 7.

Luncheon tickets still available

For weeks, Arlington has been heavily promoting a special event to be held here Friday: "Dining with the Dynasty," a luncheon that will be attended by nearly two dozen retired jockeys, including Hall of Famers Pat Day, Earlie Fires, Angel Cordero Jr., and Laffit Pincay Jr.

A limited number of seats are still for sale for $300 each. Proceeds benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America. More information is available at arlingtonpark.com.

* It was hard not to notice how well Arlington horses fared last Saturday on West Virginia Derby Day at Mountaineer Park. Three winners on the all-stakes card are Arlington-based - Shadowbdancing, Piratesonthelake, and Tizfiz - while two more, Prince Rooney and Tequilas Dayjur, made their previous starts here.

* Besides the three Festival events, the 12-race Saturday card also is scheduled to include four $50,000 supporting stakes. Those races are the Top Flight (for 2-year-old fillies), the Spectacular Bid (2-year-old colts and geldings), the Forward Pass (3-year-old colts and geldings), and the Hatoof (3-year-old turf fillies).