08/16/2012 4:53PM

King: Favor Europeans in Arlington Million

Four-Footed Fotos
European import Crackerjack King could find his way to the Million winner's cirlce.

Betting Europeans running in the U.S. is a little bit like wagering on first-time starters. No matter their talent and the strength of their trainers, inexperience can catch up to them.

Of course, there are exceptions. Certain first-timers have win-early pedigrees that make them appealing, and yet others benefit from catching fields of below-average quality.

It is the latter angle, used mostly with first-timers, that also applies to Europeans, and will likely lead to a European winning the Arlington Million on Saturday.

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It’s a race without a U.S. star – well, that is, unless you count Boisterous as a star, and this handicapper certainly doesn’t. He’s honest, but in the end, a Grade 2-caliber horse that runs Beyer Speed Figures in the mid-90s. And of course the same can be said of Rahystrada, who edged Boisterous with a far better trip in winning the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, the local prep for the Million.

Their mid-level stakes accomplishments suggest the Grade 1 Million is ripe for a Euro to win – and my feeling is that horse will be either Crackerjack King or Afsare.

Both horses, while a cut below the European cream, are quality runners – particularly Crackerjack King when he fires. This is a Group 1 winner with a 7-for-9 record.

The one thing he hasn’t done is win outside of Italy, running 15th in the French Derby and fifth in the Coral Eclipse at Sandown Park in his most-recent outing.

My hope is that those failures outside his Italian home base will have some questioning whether he will run to his ability in America, and thereby allowing him to stick to or exceed his 5-1 morning-line price – making him a good price-based wager.

Should he again stub his toe with a trip outside Italy, 6-1 shot Afsare looks like the most likely horse to capitalize. A consistent and well travelled horse, he has strung together Racing Post Ratings ranging from 111 to 117 over his last five starts while racing everywhere from Turkey to Britain to Italy.

In his one head-to-head duel with Crackerjack King, however, Crackerjack King blew past him in the stretch, though the race came in Italy.

I plan to back one or both or the two runners come post time – with Crackerjack King being the first preference, provided he is not bet down.

Playing the pick five

Also worthy of attention Saturday at Arlington is the all-stakes pick five, which can be played in 50-cent increments and has just a 15-percent takeout – far below the norm for a multi-race gimmick wager.

Here’s a look at the five-race sequence and the horses I plan to use:

◗ Race 7, American St. Leger: A 1 11/16-mile turf event, this race looks tailor made for Euro success given their stamina breeding and experience in such marathons.

Jakkalberry (#8) rates on top, followed by Zuider Zee (#10). And for security sake, I will toss one American in the mix – Iowa Bigtime (#11), who starts for a winning turf barn and has the home-course edge.

◗ Race 8, Secretariat: Silver Max (#8) has proven uncatchable in turf races for 3-year-olds this year, but he wasn’t quite as dominant in the 1 1/4-mile Virginia Derby as in shorter races this year – scoring by a length. So Euros Daddy Long Legs (#6) and Bayrir (#7) have fighting chances against him.

Both are true stayers, while Silver Max seemed to win the Virginia Derby more due to a favorable setup and talent edge than being a true 1 1/4-mile horse.

◗ Race 9, Hatoof, second division: This race requires a player to go a few deep. I will play three horses, taking Illinois-bred Leading Astray (#2), course specialist Freedom Reigns (#8), and recent maiden graduate Lady Micaela (#6), who is bred to move up in her first start on grass.

◗ Race 10, The Beverly D.: The Americans seem stronger in the female turf division, giving them a good shot to take the Beverly D. Marketing Mix (#8) and Aruna (#7) are top-class U.S. performers. Also going on the tickets is one Euro: Joviality (#10), a talented invader whose last race can be excused on soft ground at Newmarket.

◗ Race 11, The Arlington Million: And as mentioned, the plan to do go with two Euros in the Million, with Crackerjack King (#9) and Afsare (#3) being the pick-five selections.

◗ The Ticket: Using the horses outlined above, a 50-cent ticket in numerical order of 8,10 with 6,7,8 with 2,6,8 with 7,8,10 with 3,9 costs $54.