08/07/2008 12:00AM

A world's fair in Chicago

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Four-Footed Fotos
Archipenko leads a high-powered international trio.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - There have been years when the official moniker for Arlington Million Day, the International Festival of Racing, has felt more than a little contrived, the flags of many nations fluttering over the Arlington tote board without high-class horseflesh backing them up.

This is not one of those years.

The eight-horse Arlington Million has drawn horses bred in five different countries who have raced in six different nations in 2008 alone, and the international contingent for the Million, headed by Group 1 winners Archipenko and Mount Nelson, appears especially salty. Toss in established American runners Einstein and Stream Cat, and the 26th Million has the makings of a good one.

And that is only the main course. The Million, race 10 of 12 with a scheduled post time of 4:44 p.m. Central, is the finale to the day's Grade 1 turf racing here, with the Secretariat going as race 8, the Beverly D. as race 9. A guaranteed $250,000 Festival Pick 3 links the trio of turf heats.

The Secretariat has two horses from Ireland, morning-line second choice Plan and the Dermot Weld-trained Winchester, but both have Kentucky-based favorite Tizdejavu to beat. The Beverly D. came up especially strong, with Precious Kitten probably favored over Mauralakana, and top local filly Dreaming of Anna trying to wire the field.

The Million and the Beverly D. both are Breeders' Cup Challenge races: The winner of the Beverly D. earns an automatic berth in the BC Filly and Mare Turf, the winner of the Million a slot in the BC Turf. First post for the day is 11:45 a.m. Central. The Beverly D. and Million will be shown live from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Central on ESPN, which will broadcast the Secretariat tape-delayed. Weather Saturday should be ideal, with mostly clear conditions and moderate temperatures. The grass course here was called "soft" Thursday, but should be at least "good" by Saturday.

The matchup between Mount Nelson and Archipenko is intriguing in its own right. Mount Nelson races for Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Mrs. John Magnier, and is trained by Aidan O'Brien. One of the better European 2-year-olds of 2006, Mount Nelson missed most of 2007, but has come back this year with encouraging form: In his most recent start, the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes on July 5 at Sandown, Mount Nelson won by a nose.

The interesting thing is that these are the same connections that used to have Archipenko, briefly a contender for the 2007 English Derby. But Archipenko flopped in that race, lost the rest of his starts in 2007, and was shed via private purchase last fall. He wound up in Dubai this winter, trained by Mike de Kock, and has undergone a remarkable transformation, from castoff to Group 1 winner. Archipenko showed signs of life when he won a Group 2 at Nad Al Sheba in February, but it was his close third in the Dubai Duty Free on Dubai World Cup Night that stamped him as potentially top-class. And Archipenko did not disappoint in his next race, easily winning the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in Hong Kong in April.

"He's improving," said Archipenko's regular rider, Kevin Shea, like de Kock a South African native. "He was more a pacemaker when we got him. No one had ever taught him to race. He was taught to lead to the straight. I would say he's learned to settle very well - he's enjoying it now."

Archipenko, who breaks from the rail, raced from midpack in Hong Kong, where he won at 1 1/4 miles, but was closer to the pace while winning the July 12 Summer Stakes at Ascot.

"He's a horse that can lead, and he's a horse that can come from behind," de Kock said.

Mount Nelson, on the other hand, looks like a more typical European invader, a horse with less speed who will try to make a late run. On the other end of the spectrum is European import Sudan, who has raced four times in this country, and improved in every race.

"He pulls hard," said trainer Bobby Frankel. "We changed tactics with him. We were rating him and he was choking up. His first race [in the States] he bled, and the second time he choked himself down."

But in his third U.S. start, Sudan wired a Grade 3 field, and on July 12 he finished fourth, beaten little more than three lengths by Red Rocks in the Man o' War Stakes after getting involved in a furious pace duel.

"For him to only get beat only that far, it was an amazing race," said Frankel.

Einstein, who always seems to be in the mix, finished second in the Firecracker Handicap last out, but that one-mile race was only a Million prep.

"Ideally, it was to set up for this race," said trainer Helen Pitts. "It wasn't the best of trips, either. He's not a horse you want to get stopped and start on again."

There was no stopping Stream Cat here last month in the Arlington Handicap, his first race since October, and first since moving into the barn of trainer Rusty Arnold. On the bridle and into the race from the start, Stream Cat - a close fourth in the 2007 Million - won the Arlington Handicap by almost four lengths. His connections chose a start here over the Pacific Classic, and Arnold feels Stream Cat will not "bounce" off his comeback run.

"It didn't seem hard on him," Arnold said. "We watched him closely to see if he'd come back all right, and if we wanted to come back this quick. We think he's ready to run his race."

Spirit One, a shipper from France, does not have a Group 1 win on his resume, but has kept high-class company, and may prove well suited to American-style racing. And finally, there is the senior set: 8-year-old Silverfoot won the Stars and Stripes Handicap at 1 1/2 miles here in his last start, while 8-year-old Cloudy's Knight, seventh and fourth in two 2008 races, will try to recapture the form that won the Grade 1 Canadian International last fall.