With a 15-1 morning line longshot, owner Kevin Warner is hoping to "quietly" sneak up on the field Saturday in the 33rd running of the Arlington Million.
Warner starts Quiet Force in the 13-horse field and says he is the "little guy with a big horse in a big race."
Quiet Force is the second horse he has owned. He claimed the 5-year-old at Santa Anita on March 14 for $40,000 and won a four-way shake.
"I had two offers to buy him that day," Warner said. "He had been claimed for $25,000 the race before in a 19-way shake."
Now Warner, who owns three horses, finds himself competing for a million-dollar purse.
He spent five years owning a medical company in Lexington before getting involved in racing two years ago when he successfully came out of brain surgery.
"I thought I was having a stroke," Warner said. "I drove myself to the hospital at five in the morning and they told me 'you don't have a stroke, but you do have a brain tumor.'
"I have a big scar in my skull where they took the tumor out. But I came out fine. I had no issues at all and was even released to drive a car in nine days."
Since then, he decided he was going to "live life" and do what he wanted. So he got into horse racing.
While in college, Warner was the manager of the University of Kentucky basketball team coached by Joe B. Hall.
"During summers, I worked at Gainesway Farm as a groom for yearlings," he said. "I loved it and I said if I ever had an opportunity to get into racing, I would."
With trainer Michael Maker, Quiet Force began the season in an allowance event at Parx on May 26, finishing third. Six weeks later, Warner brought Quiet Force to Arlington, where he won the Grade III $100,000 Arlington Handicap on July 11 under jockey Julian Leparoux.
The truly local Million story belongs to the Pizza Man, an Illinois-bred who has won his only two starts this year, including the 1½-miles Grade III $100,000 Stars and Stripes at Arlington on July 11. Florent Geroux returns to the saddle.
Owners Richard and Karen Papiese grew up in the Chicago area. Some of their first dates included trips to Chicago race tracks. "He taught me everything about racing," Karen said.
"I've been a racing fan all my life," said Richard, who manufactures store fixtures in University Park. "The old Washington park was the first track I went to."
The Pizza Man is trying to become the first Illinois-bred to win a Million. He owns two track records at Arlington, including his time in last year's American St. Leger.
Even though he won the Breeders Cup Sprint last year at Santa Anita with Work All Week, Papiese said a Million victory would be special.
"This would mean a lot to win here, because Arlington Park is where our first win came (2001)," he said. "We claimed the horse, and then after the race, he got claimed from us. And the first race I ever ran, we lost by an inch."
A brief look at the rest of the field:
Up With the Birds, trained by Graham Motion, returns to the Million after finishing fourth last year. He was the Grade I-winning 2013 Canadian Horse of the Year and will be ridden by reigning Eclipse Award champion apprentice jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
New York-based Triple Threat is trained by Bill Mott, who won the 1994 Million with Paradise Creek. Triple Threat won his only start this year, the Grade II Monmouth.
Trainer Naill Saville's Legendary was third behind Slumber and Big Blue Kitten in the Manhattan. A Grade III winner, Legendary is 2-for-3 at the 1¼ miles distance.
Trainer Andreas Wohler's German-bred Wake Forest was most recently first in the Group III $61,000 Hamburg Trophy over the same distance as the Million. Wohlker won the 2001 Million with Silvano.
Irish-bred Elleval enters the Million off a second-place finish in the Group III $66,000 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown on July 16 at nine furlongs.
England-based Belgian Bill, owned and trained by George Baker, was most recently second in the $234,000 Goodwood Mile on July 31 in an 18-horse field. Jamie Spencer rose Cape Blanco to victory in the 2011 Million.
Trainer Mike Delzangles' Bookrunner is a French-based three-time winner was third in the Group III $89,000 Prix Messidor at Maisons-Laffitte in his last start.