The Pizza Man pursues Arlington Million repeat

The Grade I Arlington Million is set to be contested this Saturday at Arlington Park in Illinois. A stacked field of 12 will go 1 1/4 miles on the turf course; estimated post time is 6:09 p.m. EST (Race 9 on the program). Don’t forget to try out FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game if you haven’t already!

The defending champion of the Arlington Million is #5 THE PIZZA MAN (10-1), but there’s a great deal of doubt as to whether he can still win a race like this. His seven-year-old season hasn’t begun smoothly as he’s been out of the money is all three of his starts, going off as the favorite each time. His last start came here at Arlington, a course he loves (14-10-1-1 record), but he couldn’t get by a pair of these rivals (#3 GREENGRASSOFYOMING and #4 PUMPKIN RUMBLE) at 1 1/2 miles.

However, I think there are some reasons for encouragement. Mike Smith, who rode THE PIZZA MAN to a win in the Hollywood Turf Cup late last year, regains the mount on Saturday. THE PIZZA MAN should also be able to take advantage of some softened up leaders in the stretch. The pace doesn’t project to be fast per se, but it should be honest and it may get crowded up front with #2 DUBAI SKY, #6 KASAQUI, #7 TAKE THE STAND and #11 WORLD APPROVAL all in the mix. That combined with his affinity for this course makes THE PIZZA MAN an appealing option at his morning-line odds.

#12 TRYSTER (7-2, morning-line favorite) leads a stellar cast of international runners in here. He makes his stateside debut after a disappointing run at Royal Ascot in the Group I Prince of Wales. However, his form before that was stupendous, as he won two group races at Dubai with ease before settling for third in another. William Buick, one of the better jockeys from overseas, will try to work out the right trip from this post.

#6 KASAQUI and #11 WORLD APPROVAL will be forwardly placed but perhaps not on the lead if DUBAI SKY takes up his usual tactics. Both are eligible to land a share here.

KASAQUI won the Arlington Handicap, the traditional prep for this race, in his last start with a smart stalking trip under Robby Albarado (who has the mount once more).

#11 WORLD APPROVAL stalked and scored in the United Nations going slightly longer at Monmouth last time out. Before that he managed to hit the board in each of his four other starts, three of which came in graded stakes. World-class turf rider Florent Geroux, who won this race aboard THE PIZZA MAN last year, will get the leg up.

The play: $4 exacta box 5/12, $3 exacta box 5/6, $3 exacta box 5/11 ($20)

DFJ analysis: Florent Geroux ($10,500), who cut his teeth in the Midwest and at Arlington Park in particular, returns with several live mounts on Arlington Million day. Aside from WORLD APPROVAL in the headline event, Geroux rides the favorite in three of the remaining four graded stakes, all of which look formidable (Da Big Hoss in the American St. Leger, Beach Patrol in the Secretariat, and Sea Calisi in the Beverly D). He is well worth the premium this Saturday.

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