08/10/2005 11:00PM

Europe's second string unlikely to take prizes


NEW YORK - None of the eight European raiders who will run in the three big turf events at Arlington Park on Saturday has won so much as a Group 2 race this year, as Million Day suffers its usual losses to European races deemed more valuable than the Million, the Beverly D., and the Secretariat.

The connections of Europe's best 10-furlong horses frequently give Arlington a pass in favor of the Nassau Stakes (July 30 at Goodwood), the Juddmonte International (Aug. 16 at York), and the Prix Guillaume d'Ornano (Aug. 21 at Deauville). Even the Irish Champion Stakes (Sept. 10 at Leopardstown) is too close to the Million to risk a round-trip trans-Atlantic journey. Azamour, Bago, Electrocutionist, Oratorio, and Alexander Goldrun, all Group 1 winners at or about 10 furlongs this season, have stayed home rather than endure Chicago's grueling midsummer heat.

Can the second-string Euro invaders cope with one of the strongest home defenses ever gathered for the Million? There are reasons to believe that they cannot.

Arlington Million

Powerscourt returns to Arlington in hopes of sweet revenge for his unjust disqualification from last year's race. Instead of Jamie Spencer, he will have the superb Kieren Fallon to help him keep a straight line - and to produce him at the proper time - but he does not appear to be quite the same horse he was last year. You might discount his loss on July 18 in the Scottish Derby when Imperial Stride got away with a dawdling pace, but how does one account for his poor effort two back in the Hardwicke Stakes on firm ground he is supposed to love? The Million's fast pace will be to Powerscourt's advantage, but there are doubts about his current form.

Alost was unlucky in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont last time, finishing fast for fourth over the Million distance. A strong finisher, he would certainly prefer a longer stretch than that at Arlington, which is 97 yards short of a quarter-mile and 32 yards shorter than Belmont's. Trainer Antonio Spanu is bringing his reliable son Frederic along for the ride. Keeping Alost closer to the pace than usual will be the young man's first objective. Note that two back at Longchamp, Alost finished just a nose behind subsequent Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly winner Geordieland. Alost is one to use in the exotics.

Like Cheshire in 2002 and Vangelis in 2003, Touch of Land arrives as this year's Grand Prix de Vichy winner. However, Touch of Land, a 5-year-old by Lando, is at least a cut above those two. Forget his unplaced effort in the Million two years ago when he was in over his head. He has since won a pair of Group 2 races, notably the Prix Dollar on Longchamp's Arc Weekend last October. Moreover, he was just three-quarters of a length third in December in the Hong Kong Cup behind Alexander Goldrun, who would rate a favorite's chance in the Beverly D. had she made the trip. Note also that Touch of Land was 1 1/4 lengths in front of Powerscourt in Hong Kong. Touch of Land has been primed for the Million by French provincial ace Henri-Alex Pantall and may be the race's best value. He will not, however, have the usual services of Christophe Lemaire, who will remain in Deauville for his all-important date with Divine Proportions in Sunday's Prix Jacques le Marois.

Beverly D.

While the three European invaders in the Million all have a reasonable chance, the same cannot be said for the European trio in the Beverly D. Racing for Godolphin, Sundrop will not be facing the likes of Alexander Goldrun or Soviet Song, but she is an inconsistent type. The step back up in distance will help Sundrop, a Sunday Silence filly, but she would have to reproduce her career best, a second to Attraction in last year's 1000 Guineas, to have a chance.

Tarfah is a Kingmambo filly who was improving consistently until last time in the Group 2 Windsor Forest Stakes, when she finished 7 1/2 lengths behind second-place Sundrop. A difficult gate horse, she was withdrawn prior to the start of the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes on May 14, having suffered cuts that required stitches on all four legs after she acted up in the controversial new Australian starting gate introduced at many British tracks this year. Tarfah goes down to the start early and is covered with a blanket for loading, all of which makes her an improbable winner.

As you might deduce from her name, Mona Lisa is an enigmatic type. A Giant's Causeway 3-year-old, Mona Lisa has been chasing first-rate fillies like Eswarah, Maids Causeway, Alexander Goldrun, and Shawanda. Mona Lisa was a close fourth to the very good Playful Act in last year's Group 1 Fillies Mile, and she was about the same distance behind Playful Act when third in the Irish Oaks, an indication that she may be improving, especially as she had Irish 1000 Guineas winner Saoire and Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes winner Thakafaat behind. Mona Lisa has since beaten older colts in a Cork listed race, but is cutting back from 1 1/2 miles to 1 3/16 miles. Fallon could do worse than to grab a lead aboard Mona Lisa turning for home and turn this into a test of stamina, but the odds are against him. While the last nine Beverly D. winners have all been either foreign invaders or formerly trained in foreign climes, no 3-year-old has ever won this race.


The Dermot Weld-trained Merger can be safely eliminated off his lackluster sixth in the American Derby. He is meeting tougher here and would be a big surprise.

Grand Central, like his stablemate Mona Lisa, is hard to figure. Out of one-mile Group 1 Coronation Stakes winner Rebecca Sharp, he looked to be headed in the right direction after his close third to Fracas in a Group 2 Derby trial at Leopardstown in May. He flopped, however, in the Epsom Derby itself and disappointed greatly next time in much easier listed company, finishing well behind Merger. Back to his best against still easier last time in allowance company, he appears suited to 1 1/4 miles and should not be overlooked as he seeks to duplicate trainer Aidan O'Brien's 2000 Secretariat victory with Ciro. On Wednesday, Grand Central was sold to the Hong Kong Breeders' Club and will be sent Hong Kong after having completed this season with O'Brien.