Updated on 09/16/2011 8:02AM

Million dollar flying circus


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - If you can beat Beat Hollow, the Arlington Million is yours. That's the task facing eight horses Saturday in the 20th Million, and it will not be easy.

Favorites have failed here often enough. Just last year Bienamado floundered through a boggy turf course and finished fourth. But Beat Hollow seems different. Lightly raced and immensely gifted, Beat Hollow brings an aura with him. Favored all nine times he has run - four in Europe, five this year in the United States - Beat Hollow has speed, high class, and a massive following. He was a 1-2 favorite when insurmountable trouble led to his defeat by Sarafan three weeks ago in the Grade 1 Eddie Read.

The Beat Hollow supporters will be out for revenge Saturday, when Beat Hollow figures to start as a heavy favorite for America's most successful trainer-jockey combination, Bobby Frankel and Jerry Bailey.

Frankel, Bailey, and Beat Hollow's owner, Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, won the 2000 Million with Chester House. All are positioned for another prosperous afternoon on Arlington's signature day, with live horses in the other two Grade 1 events. Bailey rides Tates Creek for Frankel in the Beverly D., where Astra will be favored over Golden Apples and England's Legend. In the Secretariat, Bailey rides favored Orchard Park for Bill Mott, while Frankel sends out the improving Chiselling.

An Arlington pick three links the Beverly D. (race 7), the Million (race 9), and the Secretariat (race 11). Post time for the Million is 4:37 Central. An ESPN broadcast between 4 and 5 p.m. will show the Million live and the Beverly D. on tape delay. Post time for the 12-race card is noon.

Beat Hollow has three wins in five starts this year and Sarafan is the only horse to defeat him. Four months before the Eddie Read, Sarafan out-kicked Beat Hollow and won the Explosive Bid Handicap by a neck. But that was before Frankel had his horse fully honed, and Beat Hollow followed with convincing wins in a pair of Grade 1's, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the Manhattan.

In the Manhattan, Beat Hollow's only 1 1/4-mile race in the U.S., he went straight to the lead and dictated a slow pace. On paper the scenario appears plausible again, but rival trainers won't let the favorite take an edge.

"What happened [in the Manhattan] won't happen again," said trainer Christophe Clement, who watched Forbidden Apple give futile chase that day. "Beat Hollow won't steal the race again."

Forbidden Apple, the lone East Coast horse in the race, does have the tactical speed to at least keep Beat Hollow honest, and there may be a surprise pace player in the race, Paolini, the German horse with proven Group 1 ability.

"Yes, he does have speed," said trainer Andreas Wohler. Even more speed, Wohler said, than Silvano, who attended a legitimate Million pace last season before going on to a three-length victory for Wohler and jockey Andreas Suborics, who also rides Paolini.

Paolini nearly fell when he was eighth in his last start, the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes, but in his only other race this year, he showed his class with a second to Grandera, one of Europe's best, in the Singapore Cup.

Paolini has accomplished far more than the other three Europeans in the race. Neither Freefourinternet, Ulundi, nor Cheshire rank among the European elite, though Cheshire is trained by John Hammond, who won the 1992 Million with Dear Doctor.

Besides Paolini and Forbidden Apple, Sarafan poses the most obvious threat to Beat Hollow. Slow to emerge as a top turf horse, Sarafan hit his stride this season for owner Gary Tanaka and trainer Neil Drysdale. "I've always thought his horse was very capable," Drysdale said, "and I'm very pleased with the way he's coming up to this race."

Sarafan's important wins have come at nine furlongs, but Drysdale points to Sarafan's close third in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations Handicap as evidence Sarafan can produce his best race in the Million. "I'm not that concerned about the distance," he said.

Longshots Falcon Flight and Mystery Giver complete the field, and neither is an automatic throw-out. Falcon Flight, also owned by Tanaka, has won his only two races at Arlington and captured the Arlington Handicap here in his last start.

Bred in Illinois by David and Patricia Block, Mystery Giver is trained by their son, Chris, who aptly sums up participation in the Million. "My family and I don't get horses like this too often," he said. "This race is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."