Owners of 2015 Arlington Million champ try again Saturday with Twenty Four Seven
Chicago owners Richard and Karen Papiese's 2015 Arlington Million champ, The Pizza Man, retired last year.
But the Papieses and their trainer, Illinois native Roger Brueggemann, have not retired from the Arlington Million. They will be represented by Twenty Four Seven in Saturday's 36th running of Arlington's showcase event, which is scheduled for a 6:08 p.m. post at Arlington Park.
Completing the local connection is jockey Chris Emigh, who gets his first call aboard the 5-year-old gelded son of City Zip. It will be Emigh's third appearance in the Arlington Million. He was eighth in 2011 with Proceed Bee and third in 2015 with Shining Copper.
"This is very exciting," said Emigh, who is fourth in the Arlington standings with 32 wins. "The crowd and the atmosphere is electrifying with all the people cheering. It's an awesome feeling being in the race."
The Pizza Man provided an awesome story three years ago when he became the only Illinois bred to win the Million. Although retired, he hasn't left Bruegemann's barn. The Pizza Man serves as a stable pony, leading the horses to the track for morning workouts.
Emigh has worked Twenty Four Seven twice leading up to today's race.
"He worked perfectly, he hit the ground great," Emigh said on Thursday. "I don't know if he'll be overmatched or not. But he acts like he is ready for the challenge."
Bruegemann, who is winning at a 53 percent clip on the turf this summer, was up to the challenge when Twenty Four Seven joined his barn.
"They (Papieses) bought him when he was a yearling and I had him when he was a two-year-old," Brueggemann said. "He ran once or twice here and then went to New York to (trainer) Danny Gargan. I got him back when he went to the Fair Grounds this March."
Brueggemann won three races with Twenty Four Seven (claiming and allowance in March, May and June) before a sixth-place finish by only 2 lengths in the Arington Handicap on July 7 here.
"He is maturing," Brueggeman said. "He is just getting better as he goes along. He is calming down some and getting a little better with that.
"He is totally different from The Pizza Man. He likes to be a little closer to the pace than The Pizza Man and maybe he has a little quicker turn of foot."
Emigh watched the film on Twenty Four Seven's race in the Arlington Handicap.
"He looked like he had a little too much ground to make up," Emigh said. "He acts like he has the ability. If he has a good trip and things set up nice, he'll come and go after them."
The Million field, from the rail out, includes Irish-bred Circus Couture, Spring Quality, English-bred Almanaar, Irish-bred Century Dream, Argentina-bred Catcho En Die, Twenty Four Seven, Money Multiplier, Irish-bred Deauville, Chilean-bred Robert Brice and Oscar Performance, the 3-1 morning line favorite.
Oscar Performance won the Secretariat last year. He is trying to become the fourth horse to follow up a Secretariat triumph with a Million conquest the next year.
Trained by Brian Lynch, Oscar Performance is a three-time Grade I winner over the grass and tops the Million field in career earnings with $1,967,632.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien is seeking a third Million trophy as he saddles Deauville, who has finished close-up thirds in the past two Millions.
Brown will try to repeat his 2017 Million victory when he sends out Almanaar, Money Multiplier and Robert Bruce.
Almanaar has a pair of Group 3 victories in France and recently scored a win on the Belmont turf. Money Multiplier is coming off a half-length loss in the Grade I United Nations in June while Robert Bruce was undefeated until a troubled trip in the Grade I Manhattan Handicap.
Spring Quality won the Manhattan and is trying to give trainer Graham Motion his first victory in the Million.
Catcho En Die is the Grade III Stars and Stripes winner and was a Group 1 winner in his native country before traveling to the United States.
Century Dream won the Group 3 Investec Diamond Stakes in June before a ¾ length victory in the Group 1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.
Circus Couture is a nine-time winner in Italy for trainer Marco Botti and has hit the board in six of his seven career starts at the mile-and-a-quarter distance.