Despite a lack of Bozo or Chelveston the Duck sightings, there still was plenty of excitement at the WGN-TV studios Wednesday as the draw for Saturday's International Festival of Racing took place with all the accompanying pomp and circumstance one has come to expect from an Arlington International production.
Most of it centered around the compact field of seven horses entered for the showcase event of the day -- the 32nd running of the Arlington Million -- where Aiden O'Brien trainee Magician, the 2013 Breeders' Cup Turf champion, was installed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite.
As impressive as Magician's resume is, he is but one of five Group I winners in a field that includes defending Million champion Real Solution (5-2). Smoking Sun (9-2), whose last out was a second in the Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup, and reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Up With The Birds, who won the Grade I Jamaica Handicap last fall at Belmont Park.
It was Up With the Birds' impressive romp in the Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine on July 19 that convinced his connections to make the trip to Arlington.
"I was quite impressed with him," trainer Malcom Pierce said. "He showed a lot of determination and finished very strong. He seems to be rounding into form.
"The Million was on our radar, but it became a surer thing to do after that race."
At odds of 12-1, one horse to watch Saturday might just be Finnegan's Wake, winner of the Grade III Arlington Handicap last month.
"He's run well at Arlington every single time he's run," trainer Dale Romans said. "If he gets the right trip, Finnegan's going to be right there.
"A short field for a million dollars? It's just hard to pass up."
Rounding out the field are Side Glance (8-1), who was third in last year's Million, and Hardest Core (20-1), a winner of two straight heading into Saturday's showcase.
WGN-TV will televise the Arlington Million live at 5 p.m.
Both the Beverly D and the St. Leger, courtesy of their 11-horse fields, figure to be wide-open affairs.
Stephanie's Kitten is the lukewarm 7-2 favorite in the Beverly D, a race which features six Grade I winners.
Included in the field are Somali Lemonade (6-1), who has won three of her last four, Alterite (4-1), Emolient (5-1) and Just the Judge (6-1).
In the American St. Leger, Dandino (3-1) returns to defend his title against a stellar field that includes Chris Block trainee Suntracer (4-1), another locally based contender, The Pizza Man (9-2), Big Kick (6-1) and Eye of the Storm (6-1).
Eight horses are entered in the Secretariat Stakes, headed by 8-5 morning-line favorite Adelaide, from the barn of Aiden O'Brien. The Irish-bred has never finished worse than second in his career, including his runner-up finish in the Belmont Derby.
Adelaide, however, figures to get a stern test from Tourist (5-2), who is 3-for-3 on the turf this year.
Bettors delight II:
Arlington will offer a $200,000 guaranteed pool on a special Pick 4 wager covering races 7 through 10 on Saturday, beginning with the American St. Leger and concluding with the Arlington Million.
In addition, the track's 50-cent Pick 5, which carries a 15 percent takeout rate, will offer a guaranteed pool of $100,000 and cover races 8 through 12.
The day's $1 Pick 6, which will cover races 6 through 11, will have at least five turf races in the sequence.