08/08/2006 11:00PM

No European world-beaters in this Million

Andrew Watkins
Touch of Land, here winning in Dubai, is again coming off a Vichy victory.

There will be some familiar European faces lining up for the Arlington Million on Saturday, but neither they nor any of the newcomers rate as highly as recent winners Sulamani or Powerscourt. The Beverly D., in direct competition with this past Saturday's Nassau Stakes, in which Ouija Board and Alexander Goldrun set Goodwood alight, has attracted only a single European-trained 3-year-old filly, one who will be making her first start against older females. In the Secretariat, we will see a Breeders' Cup Juvenile also-ran who has not won a race in 13 months and an intriguing Giant's Causeway colt who should make his presence felt.

Arlington Million

Touch of Land needs no introduction to Arlington regulars. Eleventh behind the victorious Sulamani in the Million three years ago as a 3-year-old, Touch of Land returned to Chicago last year to finish an improved fifth behind Powerscourt. Like last year, he is coming off a win in the Group 3 Grand Prix de Vichy. Perhaps more importantly from a form standpoint, he has won the last two runnings of the Prix Dollar, one of France's better Group 2 contests. Can Touch of Land be third-time lucky? A late-running third or fourth is more likely.

The Aidan O'Brien-trained Ace showed a liking for American racing when he was third in last fall's Turf Classic at Belmont and an even better second in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Disappointing in his first three starts this year, the 5-year-old Ace seemed to be coming around in his last try, when he was second over an inadequate mile in a Group 3 at the Curragh. A horse who likes a fast pace on firm ground, he is likely to enjoy the conditions of the Million. But players must choose between the Ace who has been off form all year and the Ace who may remember that he is back in America where, like ex-stablemate Powerscourt, he runs his best.

At 124, Phoenix Reach has a higher Timeform rating than any of Arlington's other European invaders. Trouble is, he hasn't run since finishing up the track in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes in July 2005. Trainer Andrew Balding has been pointing the 6-year-old Phoenix Reach to the Million since he got him back in training late this spring after a long spell on the sidelines because of a leg injury that nearly forced his retirement. At his best, he would be competitive, but it is doubtful Phoenix Reach will be at his best on Saturday. Moreover, his big international victories in the Canadian International, the Hong Kong Vase, and the Dubai Sheema Classic all came at 1 1/2 miles.

Soldier Hollow appears to be the best 10-furlong horse among the visitors. From the barn of Germany's leading trainer, Peter Schiergen, the 6-year-old Soldier Hollow hasn't been facing the quality of competition some of his Million rivals have this year, but he appears to be sitting on a big race. Twice the winner of Italy's best late-season event for older horses, the 1 1/4-mile Premio Roma, he has been first or second in 10 of his 12 tries at the Million distance and may be the value play.

Beverly D.

After chasing home the redoubtable Alexandrova in the English Oaks despite having taken a frightening stumble at the eighth pole, Rising Cross ran eighth in the Italian Oaks before bouncing back to form and finishing third behind Alexandrova in the Irish Oaks. Now, however, she is cutting back to 1 3/16 miles and facing older fillies and mares for the first time. She is likely to find the pace at Arlington too quick, the distance too short, and the competition too tough.


By the great Danehill, the O'Brien-trained Ivan Denisovich has seemed disinclined to make a peak effort this year and appears to be a classic case of a fine 2-year-old who simply didn't improve at 3. Anyone who thinks he will better himself in his first try beyond 1 1/16 miles may want to try him, but it would probably be money spent unwisely.

Primary, on the other hand, is a horse to whom attention should be paid. Lightly raced and improving, this son of Giant's Causeway is 2 for 2 at the Secretariat distance. The winner of the Group 3 Sandown Classic Trial in his seasonal debut off a 6 1/2-month absence, he was fifth in the Chester Vase next time out, but that can be discounted because it came at 1 1/2 miles, a distance that is just too long for him.

Primary was sent to Milan last time to prepare for the Secretariat and ran to expectations, loving the firm ground to rally off a fast pace in winning a competitive listed race. Expect him to be tracking the early pace in midpack and to close with a rush.