08/14/2010 12:02PM

Gio Ponti tops 10 Arlington Million pre-entries


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Pre-entries for the Arlington Million, the Beverly D., and the Secretariat closed at midnight Friday with 10 horses pre-entered in the 27th running of the Grade 1 Million. The list of pre-entered Million horses is topped by Gio Ponti, who will try to become the first back-to-back Million winner when he starts in next Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile turf race.

Eleven fillies and mares were pre-entered in the $750,000 Beverly D., but just seven possible runners went into the $400,000 Secretariat. The Beverly D. lacks a defined favorite after the shocking death last weekend of Tuscan Evening, who won the Modesty Handicap here last month and was scheduled to return to Arlington this week. Paddy O’Prado will be heavily favored to capture his third straight graded turf stakes in the Secretariat.

Final entries for the only Grade 1 races of the Chicago season are to be taken Tuesday, with no pomp surrounding this year’s draw. Pre-entered runners typically are entered in the races since pre-entry fees are refundable only with a veterinarian’s excuse. It costs owners $3,000 to pre-enter the Secretariat, with a $5,000 due from connections of horses pre-entered in the Million and the Beverly D.

Six European runners are scheduled to arrive in Chicago this weekend (four Saturday night, two more Sunday) for all three Million Day Grade 1s. Debussy, Summit Surge, and Tazeez are bound for the Million, with Pachattack and Biased going to the Beverly D., and Wigmore Hall in the Secretariat. None of the Europeans has ever won a Group 1 race, and only Tazeez and Debussy have so much as started in one. Luca Cumani, who won the 1983 Million with Tolomeo, trains Summit Surge. Tazeez and Debussy both are trained by John Gosden, who sent Royal Heroine to a second-place finish in the 1984 Million.

That 1984 edition was won by John Henry, who, with that victory, became the only two-time Million winner in the race’s history, after also taking the inaugural running in 1981. Gio Ponti will try to do John Henry one better by taking his second Million in a row. He won last year’s race by 1 1/4 lengths, but had subsequently taken five straight losses before scoring a narrow victory July 10 in the Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park. Trainer Christophe Clement, who also has Armstrong Mill pre-entered in the Secretariat, will ship Gio Ponti here from New York on Wednesday.

Neither Marsh Side nor General Quarters, two more pre-entries, are certain to make the starting gate. Marsh Side’s connections want to avoid a very firm turf course, and may elect to keep the horse home in California, trainer Neil Drysdale said. Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy wants no part of hard ground and excessive heat with Churchill-based General Quarters, who was sixth here under such conditions in the July 17 Arlington Handicap. There is no rain in the Arlington forecast this week, with temperatures warming from the low 80s early next week to the high 80s on Friday.

The other Million pre-entries are Just as Well, second to Gio Ponti in the 2009 Million; Quite a Handful, who never has won a stakes race; Rahystrada, a multiple Group 3 winner; and Tajaaweed, a fast-closing third behind Rahystrada and Just as Well last month in the Arlington Handicap.

The full list of Beverly D. pre-entries includes Acoma, Ave, Biased, Eclair de Lune, Gypsy’s Warning, Hot Cha Cha, Pachattack, Rainbow View, Romacaca, Treat Gently, and Turning Top. Turning Top was also entered in the Aug. 15 John Mabee at Del Mar, while Treat Gently’s connections have been on the Beverly D. fence for a couple weeks.

The pre-entered Secretariat horses are Cherokee Lord, Dean’s Kitten, Mister Marti Gras, Paddy O’Prado, Two Notch Road, Wigmore Hall, and Workin for Hops. Workin for Hops, the race’s probable second choice, will attempt to become the first winner of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple (also including the Arlington Classic and the American Derby) since Honor Glide in 1997.