June 19, 2024

Wide open Arlington Million makes debut at Colonial Downs

Catnip (blinkers) collars Never Explain in the Monmouth Stakes (Photo By Joe Labozzetta/Equi-Photo)

A new era in the history of the $1 million Arlington Million (G1) begins Saturday when the race will be run for the first time at Colonial Downs in Virginia, along with the $500,000 Beverly D. (G1) for fillies and mares and the $500,000 Secretariat (G2) for three-year-olds.

After a temporary stopover at Churchill Downs in 2022, when it was run over 1 1/8 miles due to track configuration, the Million has been restored to its original 1 1/4-mile distance over Colonial’s expansive turf course.

This edition of the Million seemingly lacks a standout, though 2022 winner Santin will look to make a bit of history in attempting to win the race for a second consecutive year. That has never been done, though Hall of Fame gelding John Henry won the inaugural edition in 1981 and followed up in his final season of action in 1984.

Santin, however, figures to be a price having gone unplaced in all six starts since winning the Million at Churchill. Even recent experiments on synthetic, on dirt, and around one turn, have not yielded a turnaround in form for the Godolphin homebred.

Catnip, merely a two-time allowance winner as recently as late May, enters in increasingly good form. After pulling off a minor upset in the Monmouth (G3) over Dinner Party (G3) winner Never Explain, Catnip beat all save longshot Therapist in the 1 3/8-mile United Nations (G1), also at Monmouth.

Trainer Chad Brown, winner of a record four Millions, relies on 2022 United Nations winner Adhamo, who has not run since October, and the veteran Rockemperor, whose graded wins have been sporadic since his importation from France in 2019.

Atone captured the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) in January, but has been unplaced twice since. Set Piece, the beaten favorite in last year’s Million, has won or placed in three attempts this term for Brad Cox, while likely pacesetter Strong Quality was a fading fifth in the Manhattan (G1) behind division leading Up to the Mark.

Master Piece was recently second in his debut for trainer Rick Dutrow, who saddled White Abarrio to an upset win in last week’s Whitney (G1) in that horse’s second start for the stable. The Million field is rounded out by longshots Strong Tide and Win for the Money.