08/05/2007 11:00PM

Million Day possibilities

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The $750,000 Beverly D., the $400,000 Secretariat, and the Arlington Million at Arlington Park on Saturday will provide a "win and you're in" ticket to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and a pair of "win and you're in" tickets to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27. But beyond the purses and the long-range Breeders' Cup implications, all three Grade 1 stakes figure to be intriguing handicapping puzzles in which the probable pace is likely to have a major impact on the outcomes.

In the 1 1/4-mile Million, which is being run for the 25th time, horseplayers will have to decide if last year's winner - the venerable 9-year-old gelding The Tin Man - can deal with a much faster, more competitive pace than he got away with last year. If the answer to that is no, then the $1omillion race probably will go to the rapidly improving stretch-runner After Market or one of the European imports - Doctor Dino, Pressing, or Danak - all of whom fit the Million's historic profile of favoring mid-pack closers.

After Market, so impressive winning the nine-furlong Eddie Read on the Del Mar turf course July 22 and two other graded races this year, probably will attract the most betting support. But the French import Doctor Dino is an intriguing longshot threat, having improved noticeably in 2007 with consecutive third-place finishes to highly ranked Dylan Thomas in the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Longchamp in April and to a strong international field in the Group 1, $1.9 million Singapore Airlines Cup in Singapore in May.

In the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D., which will have its 19th running Saturday, the key issue is whether the fleet Citronnade can add a fifth straight graded stakes victory while fending off the locally based high-octane speedster Jennie R., who could force Citronnade into uncomfortable, rapid early fractions.

Although Citronnade did win a non-graded stakes from slightly off the pace last fall, she rapidly developed into a top contender for a national championship (with correspondingly higher Beyer Speed Figures) ever since jockey David Flores sent her to the lead leaving the gate in the San Gorgonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 7. In each of her subsequent three graded stakes triumphs this year, Citronnade has had things her own way while not being headed.

Should Jennie R. push Citronnade into compromising early splits or force a change of tactics, the Beverly D. probably will boil down to a stretch battle between Honey Ryder and Irridescence, with California-based Lady of Venice also a logical contender based on her solid recent form at one mile and her winning history at a longer distance in 2005 when she was a 2-year-old in France.

Honey Ryder, trained by Todd Pletcher, was a rallying fourth in this race last year in a slightly stronger field. Since that race, Honey Ryder has performed with distinction in 5 of 6 outings, including victories in two graded stakes. She also owns a pair of sharp second-place finishes against males, one to the Million contender Jambalaya in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup in February and another to her highly rated stablemate English Channel in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park July 7.

Obviously, Honey Ryder looms a stout stretch threat whose chances would be enhanced should Citronnade and Jennie R. hook up in a speed duel.

Irridescence also seems likely to benefit from a contested early pace. Trained by internationally respected Michael De Kock, Irridescense is a 6-year-old world traveler from South Africa owned by America's Team Valor stable. An eight-time winner from 18 starts, Irridescence has won a pair of Group 1's in South Africa and another Group 1 in Japan over two-time Breeders' Cup winner Ouija Board and world-class male rivals in the $1.8 million Queen Elizabeth stakes last year. This year, she was third to male rivals in a $250,000 stakes at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai on March 1 and was a rallying second in the one-mile Group 1 Falmouth stakes at Newmarket last month. A versatile mare, Irridescence has multiple victories at a mile and 1 1/4 miles, suggesting that the 1o3/16 miles of this race should be a comfortable fit.

The 1 1/4-mile Secretariat, which will have its 32nd running Saturday - also will present handicappers with an important pace-related issue. This time, however, it will not revolve around the prospect for a hot pace, but the lack of any serious front-running speed.

With the exception of the Irish import Fleeting Shadow, who scored a wire-to-wire victory in a relatively slow seven-furlong maiden race last year, none of the prospective Secretariat starters ever has led a race from start to finish. Very few have pressed the pace in a winning performance.

Under such paceless circumstances, handicappers might have a hard time predicting the way this Secretariat will be run. Yet, the mere absence of an identifiable pace seems likely to turn this 10-furlong contest into one that will play into the strength of the Europeans.

Typically, the pattern of most European turf races at 1 1/4 miles includes a gallop at a leisurely pace for nearly a mile before the strongest finishers rev up to fire their best rallies to the wire. In other words, the 2007 Secretariat probably will be won by the horse with the strongest late move, and that would suggest a close look at the British-based Admiralofthefleet.

While Admiralofthefleet easily won a Group 3 stakes at Chester in May, he showed significant promise when fifth against top-flight older horses in the Groupo1 Coral Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on July 17. No disrespect to the Secretariat intended, but Admiralofthefleet is taking a significant class drop from that level of competition for his American debut.

The top American contenders include Lattice and Going Ballistic, the one-two finishers in the American Derby at Arlington on July 21; Pleasant Strike, the beaten favorite in that Grade 2 prep for this event; and Red Giant, the improving, stretch-running winner of the 1 1/4-mile Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs on July 21.

Lattice, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, and Red Giant, trained by three-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher, certainly deserve parimutuel consideration - especially in the exotics - but they will playing the Europeans' game and may offer minimal value in the win pool.

For reasons stated above and with flexibility reserved for changing course conditions and important defections, I personally will approach my Arlington Million Day handicapping adventures looking most closely at After Market and Doctor Dino in the Million, Honey Ryder and Irridescence in the Beverly D., and Admiralofthefleet in the Secretariat.

* Steve Davidowitz will be at Arlington Park on Million Day to sign copies of his new book "The Best and Worst of Thoroughbred Racing."