08/05/2008 11:00PM

Precious Kitten named as early pick


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Precious Kitten has been listed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of nine entered in the $750,000 Beverly D., the Grade 1 race that usually bears itself out as a critical stop for the filly-mare turf contingent.

The Beverly D. and the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes will combine again Saturday with the Arlington Million to form the International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park.

Rafael Bejarano will be in from California to ride Precious Kitten, a 5-year-old mare who last year was sold by her breeder-owner, Ken Ramsey, to the Lael Stables of Barbaro fame. Precious Kitten, first or second in 16 of 21 career starts, won the Grade 1 Gamely at Hollywood Park in her last start. She will break from post 3 in the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D.

Mauralakana, with Kent Desormeaux named, is the program second choice at 3-1 and will break right alongside in post 4. A 5-year-old French-bred mare, Mauralakana is in perhaps the best form of her life, having won 3 of her last 4 starts, including triumphs in back-to-back Grade 2 stakes on the Belmont Park turf.

From the hedge, the entire field for the Beverly D. is Dreaming of Anna, Rosinka, Precious Kitten, Mauralakana, Ciao, Meribel, Toque de Queda, Communique, and Cicerole.

The $400,000 Secretariat, the oldest of the three festival races, has two decided favorites among the field of nine 3-year-olds: Tizdejavu is pegged as the 6-5 favorite, with Plan next at 5-2.

Tizdejavu, with Garrett Gomez to ride, comes off three straight graded stakes wins, most recently the American Derby at Arlington. Plan, with Johnny Murtagh named for Aidan O'Brien, has won twice in five tries, with a Group 3 victory at the Curragh in Ireland marking his last appearance.

From the inside, the Secretariat field is Prime Realestate, Winchester, Plan, Strait of Mewsina, Snoose Goose, Tizdejavu, Your Round, Sr. Henry, and Secret Getaway.

Besides the three festival races, several other stakes are carded on a 12-race Saturday program at Arlington. The Hatoof has been split into two divisions as the fourth and sixth races, while the Forward Pass will go as the seventh.

O'Brien runners arrive in wee hours

For an operation that works as privately as that of Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien, it was only fitting that his two horses here for the racing festival arrived in the dead of night.

Mount Nelson and Plan were on a flight that got into O'Hare International Airport at about 12:30 on Tuesday evening.

"We were all settled in at Arlington by 1:40," said Pat Keating, the O'Brien assistant who regularly travels over with O'Brien's Million Day runners.

Mount Nelson figures to be among the top three betting favorites in the Arlington Million, with Plan perhaps second choice in the Secretariat. O'Brien has won both races before, with Powerscourt capturing the 2005 Million, and Ciro taking the 2000 Secretariat.

O'Brien, operating from his famed Ballydoyle training yard in County Tipperary, Ireland, is in the midst of a remarkable season, having won 17 Group 1 races already this year. Mount Nelson has one of those Group 1 wins, a nose victory in the Eclipse Stakes on July 5 at Sandown. The race came at the Million's 1 1/4-mile distance, and probably was the best race in the eight-start career of the 4-year-old Mount Nelson.

A Group 1 winner at age 2, Mount Nelson made only one start at 3, finishing 11th in the Champion Stakes last October. Keating was reticent about describing the events that led to the disappointing 3-year-old campaign.

"That's just the way it worked out," Keating said. "He's a big horse, you know. He's progressing well right now."

As for Plan, he also comes off a career-best race, a one-length win over older horses in the International Stakes at the Curragh.

Archipenko has well-traveled rider

The jockey Kevin Shea might be a newcomer to these shores, but he hardly is a novice in the racing game.

Shea's first race in the United Stakes comes Saturday, and he won't be flying under the radar as the regular rider for the Arlington Million's morning-line favorite, Archipenko.

A 45-year-old native of South Africa, Shea began riding in his native country some 30 years ago, and at various times has lugged his tack all over the world. He has ridden in England, Germany, and Singapore, has been based in Dubai during recent winters, and has been a contract rider in Hong Kong.

"I've gone where the big races have been," Shea said.

And not just the big races, either. He even has ridden at Champs de Mars racetrack in Mauritius, a tiny island nation near Madagascar off the east coast of Africa.

Shea has ridden all kinds of racetracks, left-handed, right-handed, and straight-course, fast-playing and boggy. And in Archipenko, he has a mount who should be well-suited to the Million's conditions. Shea began riding Archipenko four races ago in Dubai, and was aboard for a third-place finish in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free and victories in two more recent races, the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, and the Summer Mile Stakes last month at Ascot in England.

Shea arrived here Monday to work Archipenko on Tuesday morning - perhaps the first South African rider to ride over the Arlington grass course.

"You won't find many South African riders in America," Shea said. "This is a long way from home."

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh