Divisidero on Target for Arlington Million
By Alicia Wincze Hughes, courtesy Blood-Horse
The van ride up I-65 to just north of Chicago has been a lingering item on Divisidero's to-do list.
Last season owner Gunpowder Farms and trainer Buff Bradley had designs on shipping the son of Kitten's Joy to Arlington International Racecourse to have him make a statement during the track's most heralded day of racing. They believed the colt's 4-year-old campaign would be the year he showed the full brunt of his talent but, one start after he earned his first grade 1 victory, his need for time off became more pressing than high-level aspirations.
Upon his return in January from an eight-month layoff, Divisidero stepped back onto the path originally set for him a year earlier. He used some early season tighteners to get himself right for another grade 1 victory and the Arlington Million XXXV Stakes (G1T) was back on his agenda. And this time, instead of putting his charge on a trailer to go recover his form, Bradley is sending him up the interstate from his Churchill Downs base to try and make good on what he says is the best version yet he has seen of the bay horse.
"I just talked to (owner Tom Keithley) and we were thinking, 'Well, we're finally here,'" Bradley said. "We've been trying to get to this race for a while, but knowing that ... we want to be 110% going into a race like this. We feel like now it's our time."
On his top day, Divisidero is as capable as any in the turf male division, with a list vanquished rivals that includes a former divisional champion (Big Blue Kitten) and a Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) winner (Tourist). If one of those good days comes against a field of 12 challengers in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million Aug. 12, the late-running millionaire could make good on his connections' long-held belief that he is capable of not just ascending up the ranks, but staying there for the longer haul.
A lack of consistency has been the difference between Divisidero being regarded as a good talent and being considered a divisional leader. Ability has never been an issue—something he showed when he won three of his first four starts, including the 2015 American Turf Stakes (G2T)—but each time he has been on the cusp of breaking out, a disappointing finish or slight physical setback shut down the progression.
After he won the 2016 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (G1T) at Churchill, Divisidero returned to finish fifth in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes (G1T) before he was sidelined with some minor bone bruising. He defended his title in the Turf Classic May 6, only to get stuck trying to close into pedestrian fractions during his sixth-place run in the June 10 Manhattan.
"The pace was very slow that day, so I think that things should set up much better for him in this race and I think he should like this course," Bradley said. "And, you know, he's just doing so well that I'm really happy with where he is. He's on it, he feels good, he wants to do it. He's telling us all systems are go.
"If we could take this thing home on Saturday, we could move to the top of the pack, or be close to the front anyhow."
Bred by Hinkle Farms, Divisidero has won five of 14 starts with $1,077,950 in earnings.
Among those Divisidero bested when he rallied to capture this year's Turf Classic by a half length are fellow Arlington Million entrants Beach Patrol, Oscar Nominated, and Kasaqui.
Beach Patrol delivered the best result of his life over the Arlington turf in August of 2016, when he won the Secretariat Stakes (G1T). The son of Lemon Drop Kid hasn't seen the winner's circle in six starts since but has hit the board in three grade 1 tests during that span, including a third-place outing in the United Nations Stakes (G1T) at Monmouth Park July 1.
Aidan O'Brien has twice sent runners from his Ballydoyle stables to bring back the Million trophy and this year he boasts the 7-2 morning-line favorite in Deauville. The 4-year-old son of Galileo already enjoyed stateside success when he won the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T) last year and came in third, beaten less than half-length by winner Mondialiste in the 2016 Arlington Million.
Though he has just one win in six starts this season, Deauville has posted some sneaky-good runs, including a runner-up finish last time out in the ICON Meld Stakes (G3) at Leopardstown July 20.
Sentimental favorite The Pizza Man, who became the first Illinois-bred to win the Arlington Million in 2015, will return for his third try in the 10-furlong test after he finished a close sixth, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths, in last year's running. The 8-year-old English Channel gelding most recently came in second in the July 8 Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3T) over his home course.
The Arlington Million is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series. The winner is guaranteed a spot in the gate for the Longines Breeders' Cup at Del Mar.