ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — At least one trainer involved in today's sixth running of the Budweiser-Arlington Million believes that Maysoon, the 3-year-old English filly, has no business even running in the race.
But the horse's trainer, Michael Stoute, and his assistant, Jimmy Scott, have barrels of confidence in Maysoon, as do more impartial observers--the British reporters who are at Arlington Park to write and talk about the race.
Trainer Luis Olivares, whose Flying Pidgeon is among the race's 14 starters, doesn't list Maysoon as one of the horses to beat in the 1-mile Arlington turf race. In fact, Olivares wonders why Maysoon is even here.
"The filly had a long trip to get here," Olivares said. "If I had a good 3-year-old filly like this, I wouldn't be running her in this kind of race. There are too many other big races for her to run in, and she might need a year to recuperate."
Of the 65 horses that started in the first five Millions, only six were 3-year-olds, with one of them, the Irish-bred Tolomeo, winning the race by a neck over John Henry in 1983.
But Tolomeo was a colt. It's not unusual for 3-year-olds to start competing against older horses at this time of the year, but it's rare in the United States for a young filly to attempt what Maysoon is trying today. Royal Heroine, the best filly finisher in the Million, was second, 1 3/4 lengths behind John Henry, in 1984, but she was 4.
The way Stoute's stable has been piling up purse money in Europe, it may be foolhardy to doubt Maysoon's capabilities.
Stoute's horses have earned about $2.8 million this year. That doesn't compare with trainer Wayne Lukas' $7-million total in the United States, but it's still an extraordinary amount because the European purse structure is not nearly as lucrative as it is here.
Stoute's winners this year include Shahrastani in the English Derby and Irish Derby, Sonic Lady in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Colorspin in the Irish Oaks.
And, of course, there's Maysoon. A stakes winner in her first career start as a 2-year-old, she also began her 3-year-old season with a stakes win. In her last three starts, Maysoon has been second twice and third once, being unable to beat the outstanding filly Midway Lady in two of the races.
Scott, a 39-year-old ex-jockey who once rode for Queen Elizabeth, will saddle Maysoon in the Million because Stoute's brother is ill in England.
"I've never seen this filly look so good since she arrived here last Tuesday," Scott said. "She travelled well and ate well on the way over (on a nine-hour flight). Since she got here, I've been pleased with the way everything's going. If we don't win, we'll have no excuses."
Maysoon is the result of a mating between the ill-fated Shergar and the stakes-winning Triple First. In 1983, the year Maysoon was foaled, English Derby winner Shergar was kidnaped from his stud farm and never found.
It's believed that the kidnapers, unable to handle the hot-tempered Shergar after they got him, dumped him into the sea out of desperation.
Maysoon was an $83,000 yearling purchased by Sheik Maktoum al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai.
Talking about Maysoon's second-place finish, three-quarters of a length behind Midway Lady, in the English 1,000 Guineas in May, Scott said: "She was unlucky that day. With about 50 yards to run, she started looking at a tent in the crowd and didn't stick to her business."
Scott will not go so far as to say that Maysoon is another Pebbles. Now retired, Pebbles was the English filly who missed last year's Million because of an illness but came to Aqueduct late in the year to beat males and win the $2-million Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes.
Scott said that Yves Saint-Martin liked Maysoon's chances so much in the 1,000 Guineas that he passed up mounts on two horses from his regular stable to ride her. Walter Swinburn rode Maysoon in her last two starts, but because he would be unable to make the 114 pounds she's assigned today (the lightest impost in the field), Chris McCarron has gotten the mount.
McCarron, the California jockey who is leading the nation in purses with almost $8 million, caught Stoute's attention when he was at Epsom to ride Bold Arrangement in this year's English Derby.
Bold Arrangement finished far back that day, but McCarron won another race on the program and the English were also familiar with his second-place ride on Bold Arrangement in this year's Kentucky Derby.
"McCarron's a marvelous jockey," Scott said. "We're very happy to have gotten him. He knows this race and he can do the weight."
McCarron had ridden in four Millions--he was fourth with Lemhi Gold in 1982, second aboard John Henry in 1983, a winner with John Henry in 1984 and 10th with Gate Dancer last year.
McCarron's win with John Henry was expected, because the intrepid gelding, a 9-year-old at the time, was the even-money favorite. Should McCarron win today, it will not be expected--unless your name is Michael Stoute or one of his employees.
Horse Racing Notes