Colonial Downs Analysis – August 12th, 2023 – By Michael Domabyl

The Arlington Million begins a new chapter in its new home at Colonial Downs. While it’s frustrating to think about the circumstances that led to its departure from the beautiful property in Chicagoland, hopefully fans of the sport will be able to embrace Colonial Downs as a suitable replacement. This turf racing festival has endured a tumultuous history. The “Miracle Million” was run in 1985 after a fire ravaged the Arlington Park grandstand which ultimately forced the 1988 renewal to be run at Woodbine. The race took a two-year hiatus before the turn of the century and another one during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It was run at Churchill Downs over a patchwork turf course last year and now will be run at its fourth different track this year. It’s also has a storied history full of exciting memories like the stretch-duel between John Henry and The Bart in the inaugural running in 1981 and when The Pizza Man delivered a popular victory in the 2015 rendition. Here’s hoping this new home provides similar excitement this afternoon.

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  • Race 1: 3-7-4-2
  • Race 2: 4-3-1-9
  • Race 3: 7-5-1-8
  • Race 4: 3-8-2-4
  • Race 5: 11-10-9-5
  • Race 6: 1-5-8-2
  • Race 7: 6-1-5-4
  • Race 8: 1-5-4-3
  • Race 9: 6-5-1-7
  • Race 10: 7-2-8-9
  • Race 11: 3-1-8-9

Colonial Downs Race 2: Beyond Oscar (#4)

This maiden special weight for juvenile fillies likely goes through the barns of Graham Motion and Mark Casse who both have two entered in this spot. The stretch-out in distance makes sense for Yatta (#1) who was bet down to even money in his debut and likely takes money again today. Motion also debuts Suprenant Cocca (#8) who attracts Florent Geroux in the irons. While this daughter of Catholic Boy has a solid pedigree, Motion’s barn does not do well with this move. Over the last five years, he’s just 2/41 (5%, $0.61 ROI) debuting juveniles in turf routes. Casse’s pair is more intriguing to me and I could easily see them completing the exacta. This barn thought highly enough of The Myth (#3) to enter her in a stakes first time out. Unfortunately for her, she ran into a buzzsaw in Crimson Advocate who dominated that day and went on to with the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot next time out. The stretch-out in distance should work okay for her as she’s a half sister to Jessamine winner Delight. However, I prefer Casse’s other runner and made Beyond Oscar (#4) my top pick. It appears this daughter of Oscar Performance was privately purchased away from Augustin Stable by Gary Barber since her debut. I’m sure that cost him a pretty penny as this filly is a half sister to 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar. She was well-backed in her first start going off at 3-2 and should move forward with that run under her belt. The other one I’d want to use somewhere is Liam’s Message (#9) who I think can move up on the surface switch. This daughter of Liam’s Map is out of G3P Left A Message who earned over 200k on grass. Trainer Fausto Gutierrez has great numbers switching horses from dirt to turf sitting at 7/28 (25%, $7.62 ROI) over the last 5 years with that move in maiden races including 3/4 with juveniles.

Colonial Downs Race 8: Silver Knott (GB) (#1)

The G2-Secretariat initially drew a field of 8. but More Than Looks (#7) stayed up in Saratoga to contest the Hall of Fame Stakes on Friday afternoon finishing third. I think Cherie DeVaux’s other colt merits some respect as Northern Invader (#5) gets a major class test after breaking his maiden at Belmont on the first day of July. It remains to be seen what he was beating that day, but he could not have been more impressive drawing off in the lane to win by 8L despite a minor stumble at the break. He’s drawn outside the other speed and I trust Johnny V to give him a good trip and if he continues his ascent, this will be the last time he’s any sort of price. I’m using him, but ultimately thought this race has one of his rival’s names written all over it. Silver Knott (GB) (#1) was a major buzz horse heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall and delivered a respectable performance behind fellow European shipper Victoria Road while putting distance between them and the rest of the field. While some of the shine has worn off his reputation due to his performances this year, I think he’s just been a victim of running in the wrong spots. After not taking to the soft ground at Newmarket in his seasonal debut, he was caught behind a slow pace in the Pennine Ridge and ultimately found the 10 furlongs too much in the Belmont Derby. I could not be more excited to see this colt cut back to a flat mile in a race with some pace in front of him. Jamie Spencer comes over the pond to take the mount and I don’t think he’s making the trip to enjoy Richmond’s fantastic craft brewery scene.

Colonial Downs Race 9: Gina Romantica (#6)

The G1-Beverly D. looks like a showdown between Fev Rover (Ire) (#1) and Didia (Arg) (#5) who figure to vie for favoritism. I have no major knocks on the form of Fev Rover (Ire) as she’s run well in both starts this year unleashing a powerful rally to dominate the G2 Nassau at Woodbine then not missing by much when finishing third in the G1-Diana at Saratoga. To me it’s possible that she’s moved up on surfaces that had some give in the ground and her performance last time looks better on paper since the heavy favorite In Italian didn’t really fire her fastball. Of the two, I prefer Didia (Arg) (#5) who had her seven-race win streak snapped last time out when she couldn’t run down the loose-on-the-lead Marketsegmentation in the G1-New York Stakes. While she couldn’t quite get to the winner, it’s worth noting that both McKulick and War Like Goddess (the 1-2 finishers in the Glens Falls) finished well behind her in that spot. I have a soft spot for this mare due to the fact her first two U.S. victories came over this Colonial Downs turf course and expect her to be trying hard in the lane. However, I ultimately landed on betting on the scenario that Gina Romantica (#6) plays the role of Marketsegmentation in this spot and leads them on a merry chase. Chad Brown has a penchant for switching tactics his charges to more aggressive tactics when races appear to be void of speed. With his other entrant Rocky Sky (Ire) (#7) staying in Saratoga and running second on Friday, the picture become even clearer that the filly left in the entry box will be sent to the lead by Flavien Prat. The potential pace advantage isn’t the only thing this filly has going for her as her 2022 form after switching to turf last summer was quite impressive, ultimately capped by a win in the G1-QEII Cup last fall at Keeneland.

Colonial Downs Race 9: Strong Quality (#7)

While the inaugural edition of the G1-Arlington Million at Colonial Downs lost its star power with Up To The Mark sidelined, that defection likely allowed for a large and competitive field to be assembled. Of the eleven runners, only Strong Tide (#1) and Win for the Money (#11) would shock me if they took down top honors, leaving nine evenly-matched rivals to choose from. I don’t need Atone (#4) at anything near the favorite which was what he was made on the morning line. He got a picture perfect ride to win the Pegasus World Cup Turf in January, but his two starts since leave plenty to be desired. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the he floated up off that morning line and Catnip (#8) ends up going off favored. This Stidham-trained gelding has really put things together this year with two wins and a close second in the G1-United Nations last time out. I can see him getting over-bet and slightly prefer the rival he defeated in his G3-Monmouth win, Never Explain (#2), who made a stout middle-move into the hottest part of the race. This is a classic Shug McGaughey horse as he’s just now peaking in his five-year-old season. He ran really well last time with a wide trip in the Bowling Green and I find it interesting that this barn wheels back in just 13 days while also paying the hefty supplemental nomination fee. There are two Chad Brown trainees in this race for the man who made the Arlington Turf Stakes Festival his personal playground in the latter years of its time in Chicagoland. I’d imagine that Adhamo (Ire) (#9) ends up going off much shorter than Rockemperor (Ire) (#5) despite the opposite showing on the morning line. Adhamo has been working forwardly for his return off a nearly 10-month layoff including a solid July 28th move in company with G2-Hall of Fame Stakes winner Carl Spackler (Ire). Ultimately I landed on Strong Quality (#7) who I project to go off the longest price of the four horses I’m focusing in on. This Mark Casse trainee has really moved forward with the switch to grass this year posting back-to-back allowance wins before running into the aforementioned Up to the Mark in the G1-Manhattan. While he proved no match in the lane for that rival, he wasn’t done any favors earlier in the race setting super quick fractions. While there are other runners that like to be forward, none are as comfortable running on the front end as Strong Quality and I can see Javier Castellano being able to set a moderate tempo. This is a big, strapping colt that should have no problem clicking off :24’s and excelling at the 10 furlongs of today’s affair.

Colonial Downs Race 10: Up to Something (#3)

After the dust settles from the exciting stakes action, the nightcap presents a difficult handicapping puzzle as twelve allowance-level turf routers line up to contest the race that will close all the Pick-N sequences. I’m not in love with any of the short-priced horses on the morning line. Tequilera (#9) and Thisnameisokay (#10) look bound to set an honest tempo and there’s other hopeless longshots with speed as well, so I could see them as pace casualties.  Some may go to Watch This Birdie (#4) looking for a win right back off her maiden victory in the meet’s opening race. Watching that replay back, that looked like an affair none of the participants were too keen on winning especially after the heavy favorite failed to show up. Of the horses that are single-digits on the morning line, the one I trust the most is Galilei (#8). She was pretty impressive running down a loose-on-the-lead favorite in the Brookmeade Stakes last time and should get a pace to run at today. I’m using her, but there are two longshots I think are worth highlighting as well. Cha Cha Mission (#1) shows up in Brittany Russell’s barn for the first time and has races from the end of last year that are plenty good enough to compete. While this trainer is primarily known for her prowess with dirt runners, she is 9/30 (30%, $1.85 ROI) in turf races off a trainer switch. My top pick is going to be Up to Something (#3) for the owner/trainer combination responsible for 2021 Virginia Oaks winner Flippant. This filly has a fantastic pedigree by Into Mischief out of G1P Super Expresso and could move forward in her second start off the layoff. Her return race at Ellis has all the makings of a useful prep race as she was understandably outrun going 5.5f. She faced some decent fields in her turf races as a juvenile and could put it all together at a big price to close the card.



Meet Statistics

Top Pick: 117-29-23-19 (25%, $1.25); Featured Horses: 48-6-9-8 (13%, $0.68)

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