Arlington Million XXXV Picks
The One To Beat
In a race with seemingly little separating the top contenders, the 2017 Million warrants a closer-than-usual examination of two fundamental handicapping elements: pace and class.
7/2 morning line favorite Deauville holds an edge over this field in both categories. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, this Irish-bred and raced four year-old is no stranger to American racing, winning the 2016 Belmont Derby and claiming third, beaten just a half length in last year’s Million.
Racing exclusively in Dubai and Europe so far in 2017, Deauville has a single win in six starts to go with a pair of second and third place finishes – all against graded competition, arguably better than he’ll encounter in the Million. The versatile runner will be ridden by regular jockey Ryan Moore and has proven his ability to handle all types of going. With little chance of rain in the Chicago forecast, Deauville and the rest of the field should get the feel of firm turf underneath their feet.
The Picks and Betting Advice
The Million is a great race to bet individually or pair with other races in multi-race wagers like the all-stakes pick three, pick four and pick 5. As usual, the race immediately follows the Grade 1 Beverly D, and will feature large wagering pools. Making a difinitive pick here is a tough call, but we can see no reason to pick against Deauville. He’s ultra-consistent and should provide exacta and trifecta bettors a good opportunity to key in all rungs of the bet and create value elsewhere. In the multi-race bets, it seems prudent to cover a few numbers in the million. Here’s our picks in order of their chances to win – not necessarily how we’d play the exacta, trifecta or superfecta.
Contenders and value
Getting down to brass tacks, this field brings some respectable credentials to the table, but several logical, short and mid-priced contenders have shown an aversion to the winner’s circle.
Beach Patrol (5/1) has good early speed and figures to stalk the early pace from his post ten starting position. The Chad Brown trainee has proven to be top-quality, but enters the million on a six-race losing streak including four second-place finishes. Beach Patrol has had his share of difficulty finishing races and seems like a horse to play against for the top spot.
Kasaqui (10/1), ran second in last year’s Million, but has also shown second-itis tendencies, finishing in the bottom part of the exacta 10 times in 27 career starts and three of his last five.
Local favorite, The Pizza Man (12/1) won the 2015 Million, but has won just 2 of 10 starts since then and is showing the signs of old age.
Two Euros to consider
Scottish (8/1) is an interesting European shipper getting Lasix for the first time. The five year-old ran respectably in the Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes, finishing fifth against 2016 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Highland Reel. He has license to improve as that was his first race since October. The ship across the pond is a confident move from well-regarded trainer Charles Appleby.
Mekhtaal (9/2) exits the same race as Scottish, finishing a quarter-length behind that one. The four year-old son of Sea the Stars will get the services of esteemed international jockey Frankie Dettori and would be no surprise. American bettors trying to distinguish between the pair of Mekhtaal and Scottish will likely be left with more questions than answers.
The home team
Divisidero (5/1) and Ascend (10/1) represent the best hopes of the American runners. The pair squared off in the June 10 Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes at Belmont Park where Ascend pulled a minor upset over the late-closing Divisidero. Ascend has better tactical speed and appears to be rounding into career-best form despite a dull effort July 29 at Saratoga.
The relatively short turnaround is a positive sign for this five year-old Graham Motion trainee. Considering the differential in morning line value, Ascend gets the nod over Divisidero.
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