Three years ago, Coolmore and trainer Aidan O'Brien sent Irish classic winner Cape Blanco over for the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Arlington Million, kick-starting a three-race American campaign which resulted in an Eclipse Award for the Galileo colt as the nation's leading turf male.
There are no firm plans for Magician, also a son of Galileo, ahead of Saturday's renewal of the 1 1/4-mile fixture at Arlington, but the similarities between he and Cape Blanco are there. Competitive but unsuccessful in several of Europe's leading events this spring and summer, Magician will try and turn things around on U.S. soil against six rivals.
Unlike Cape Blanco prior to the 2011 Million, Magician has already made one successful raid on America. That came last November in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita, when the now four-year-old upset the 1 1/2-mile event at 12-1 while making his first start in more than four months. Winner last spring of the Irish One Thousand Guineas over a mile, Magician stepped up in trip and came from 14 lengths back to defeat The Fugue by a half-length.
That now-retired mare got her revenge on Magician in the Prince of Wales's at Royal Ascot on June 18, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. It was the second runner-up finish in a row for Magician, who started the year with a sixth in the Dubai World Cup, a first in the Mooresbridge at The Curragh, and a second behind Noble Mission in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, also at The Curragh.
Last time, however, Magician showed little when a distant sixth behind the brilliant three-year-old filly Taghrooda in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Ascot. Thirteen lengths adrift of the winner, it was not the first time he had failed to fire over that particular course. Better things will be expected in the Million with Joseph O'Brien, son of Aidan, in the saddle.
Real Solution is seeking to become the second two-time winner of the Arlington Million and the first to win in consecutive years. John Henry took the inaugural running in 1981 and won again three years later, while Powerscourt was disqualified from first in 2004 but came back the next year to win relatively cleanly.
Real Solution did not actually finish first in the 2013 edition, but was elevated to the winner's circle after The Apache bumped him soundly approaching the wire. A Pennsylvania-bred who started his career in Italy, Real Solution did not build on that victory right away, subsequently running third in the Joe Hirsch Turf Class and ninth behind Magician in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
After two early-season losses to start 2014, the latter a narrow beat in the Man o' War, Real Solution showed that 10 furlongs is what he really excels over when taking the June 7 Manhattan at Belmont Park by more than a length.
Also making a return trip to the Million is Side Glance, third by two lengths as a 24-1 chance last year. The globetrotting gelding later traveled to Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore and back to England, but found success only in the Mackinnon, a Group 1 at Flemington's Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Side Glance made a preparatory return to the U.S. last month for the United Nations at Monmouth Park, where he weakened to third in the late stages after leading part of the way.
The only foreign invader in the Million without prior U.S. experience is Smoking Sun, a five-year-old Smart Strike horse who captured his first Group win in the Prix d'Harcourt at Longchamp in April. Subsequently fourth behind superstars Cirrus des Aigles and Treve in the Prix Ganay, Smoking Sun was most recently second in the International Cup in Singapore, nearly five lengths ahead of Side Glance.
Up With the Birds, Canada's Horse of the Year last season in a campaign highlighted by scores in the Jamaica Handicap and Breeders' Stakes, hopes to continue his recent momentum following an impressive four-length romp in the Nijinsky at Woodbine. Success in the nine-furlong heat was preceded by disappointing sixth-place finishes in two races for which he was favored -- a Keeneland allowance and the Dixie at Pimlico.
Finnegans Wake, fourth in the Million last year, overcame a hideously slow pace to take the course-and-distance Arlington Handicap by a head last month, but no winner of that race has ever come back to win the Million itself.
The Million field is rounded out by Hardest Corse, who was cross-entered in the American St Leger but is expected to start here. The Hard Spun colt enters on a three-race win streak, but is taking a significant step up in class following a three-length win in the $50,000 Cape Henlopen at Delaware Park.
As part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Win and You're In, the Arlington Million winner will receive an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Turf with pre-entry and entry fees waived plus a travel stipend to the race to be held on November 1 at Santa Anita.
WGN-TV will televise the Arlington Million live in an hour-long broadcast that begins at 5 p.m. (CDT). HorseRacingTV (HRTV) and the Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will broadcast the race as well.
The Arlington Million is the centerpiece of the International Festival of Racing which also includes the $750,000 Beverly D., the $500,000 Secretariat and the $400,000 American St Leger.