The Arlington Million at Arlington Park today features Grade I turf winners from around the world. But the owners and trainer of a hard-trying horse from Maryland hope to upset one of the toughest field of turf runners assembled in this country in years.
Mr O'Brien, a Pimlico-based, Irish-bred gelding with Howard County owners, will break from the inside in a 13-horse field that showcases six Group I or Grade I winners from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany.
Mr O'Brien and another Maryland-based horse, Kicken Kris, stabled at Fair Hill, are 8-1 in the morning line for the race northwest of Chicago.
The 5-year-old Mr O'Brien might have been the best horse in his last two races, the United Nations at Monmouth Park and the Manhattan at Belmont Park, both Grade I stakes. But he encountered trouble in the stretch in each race, finishing second and third, respectively. Ramon Dominguez rode him then. Pat Day will pilot Mr O'Brien at Arlington.
"We've been knocking on the door," said Willie White, who owns Mr O'Brien with Lou Rehak. "It's about time somebody let us in."
Neither White and Rehak, who race as Skeedattle II and live in Clarksville, nor Robin Graham, trainer of Mr O'Brien, has won a Grade I stakes, the most prestigious in this country. The gelding is 5-for-10 on turf and 7-for-18 overall.
His connections believe that he's best on grass and that he's poised to run his best race.
"If he can get any kind of a break," Graham said, "he should be right there."
Kicken Kris, a 4-year-old colt trained by Michael Matz, will attempt to become the third horse to win the Grade I Secretariat at Arlington as a 3-year-old and come back to win the Arlington Million. The Million will be televised along with other stakes from Arlington and Saratoga in New York on ABC in a two-hour broadcast beginning at 4 p.m.