After Almanaar (GB) took home his first United States victory in last year's Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, owner Shadwell Farms' Racing Manager Rick Nichols had the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million in the back of his mind for the son of Dubawi (IRE). Unfortunately, some setbacks put him on the shelf for the remainder of the year, so the connections are looking to make up for such lost time when they contest this year's edition of the Million.
Trained by Chad Brown, Almanaar has only run once since the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in an allowance optional claiming event over the turf at Belmont Park on June 8. In doing so, he defeated a trio of graded stakes winners including stable mate Ticonderoga, King Kreesa and Glenville Gardens. In the 1 1/16-mile event, Almanaar sat well off the pace and appeared a bit rank in the early stages of the race. Despite getting angled wide at the top of the stretch, he did not require much asking and was never asked by jockey Joel Rosario. He held off a late charge from stable mate Ticonderoga to win under a hand ride by a neck and galloped out with authority.
“Chad always liked him,” Nichols said. “He had a little problem right after the Grade I win. He was working and we were actually getting him to last year's Million, but he came up a little lame in his left front. We had to do some work on him and he went back into training. Chad said he was training great so we thought that we'd give him a try. Chad has always had a lot of faith in the horse and he thinks he's that kind of horse. We figured we'd see what he can do. The distance should suit him.”
Almanaar began his racing career in France, where he won the Prix Paul de Moussac and the Prix Daphnis (both Group 3 events) in June 2015. He made his United States debut when coming off of a 13-month layoff in a Belmont Park allowance event in September 2016, where he finished fourth. Almanaar showed improvement in his following starts with a third-place finish in an allowance race over the Belmont Park inner turf in October 2016. He then finished second behind Flatlined in the Grade II Fort Lauderdale Stakes in January of following year.
“The first time he ran fourth and he ran a little keen that day,” Nichols recalled. “He broke and just went to the lead. He needed to learn how to rate himself a little bit. We ran him in an allowance race at Belmont and he ran a little bit better but he was on the outside and had a wide trip and finished third. He came back at Gulfstream in the Fort Lauderdale and ran second and then we put him in the Grade I at Gulfstream Park and won, was very well ridden.”
Following the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap in February 2017, Almanaar continued to record works at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Florida, where Brown keeps his major string of horses in the winter. In early December of that year, he shipped to Camden Training Center in South Carolina where Shadwell keeps a small operation.
“We've got a good team here at Shadwell to get horses healed up after injury,” Nichols said. “We sent him down to our operation in South Carolina and they do a good job getting horses back on track.”
So what gives Nichols confidence that Almanaar can score a Million victory in his second race off the bench?
“He's done it before at that level and Chad is so good with these older turf horses from overseas,” Nichols said. “He knows what to see in them and I have to rely on his judgment because he is so good with him. This horse deserves to be there.”
In 15 career starts, Almanaar has made six trips to the winner's circle with only four off the board finishes and has secured lifetime earnings of $491,849. He is out of the Bahhare broodmare Baqah (IRE) who won the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly in 2004.
Trainer Chad Brown will also be represented by graded stakes winners Robert Bruce (CHI) and Money Multiplier in the Million. He will be going for his second victory in the prestigious turf event after a win in last year's edition with Beach Patrol.
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