When going into a race like the Arlington Million, few things will give a trainer more confidence than physical and mental improvement in a horse. According to trainer Simon Crisford, Century Dream has shown just that, and he believes that he is ready for his U. S. debut in the prestigious G1 turf event tomorrow, which carries a $1,000,000 purse.
The son of Cape Cross enters the Arlington Million a winner of four of his last seven starts. He was a two-time winner this season with a pair of victories in Britain when taking the Commonwealth Paradise Stakes at Ascot on May 2 before his first Group victory on the Epsom Derby undercard in the G3 Investec Diomed Stakes on June 2.
The 4-year-old colt finished fourth in his last two outings but was not disgraced in either. In the G1 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot on June 19, Century Dream sat close to the pace set by fellow Million contender Deauville and was a bit keen while in between horses. In the final stages Century Dream took the lead before being overtaken by winner Accidental Agent to lose by only three-quarters of a length.
Next out, he was beaten 3¼ lengths in the G2 Summer Mile at Ascot behind Beat The Bank, who was sixth in the Queen Anne.
“He has been a slow developer but he’s always handled himself well; he’s been consistent,” Crisford said. “This season he’s just kept on improving. Obviously, he won a nice stake on Epsom Derby day. Last year, he was winning over a mile-and-a-quarter, so he’s bred to go the distance.
“He’s grown up mentally a lot and physically has strengthened throughout the course this year. The run at Royal Ascot was big step up for him. He’s just continued to develop and go the right way.”
The Arlington Million became an option once Century Dream took the Diomed at Epsom. Breaking from the rail, he tracked third in the 8½-furlong event, switched to the wrong lead at the top of the stretch but, when called upon by jockey William Buick, he drew away to a 2¼-length win.
“Ever since he won at Epsom, we’ve had this race in the back of our minds and thought it’d be an appropriate spot for him,” Crisford said. “He’s trained toward this race very nicely. He had a long journey over, but he travelled well and rehydrated very quickly. His temperature has been good. Obviously we’re hoping for a good performance.”
Crisford will be making his first appearance in the Arlington International Festival of Racing as a trainer, but has found success at the Chicagoland oval’s biggest day while working for Godolphin as Racing Manager. Said prosperity was found after Sulamani was elevated to winner in the 2003 Arlington Million via the disqualification of Storming Home, who veered into Sulamani in the stretch.
“That was slightly by default, but Sulamani was obviously a very good horse,” Crisford recalled. “This is my first runner at Arlington since I’ve been a standalone trainer and really hope we can make some sort of an impact. It’s going to be tough, I know that. He needs to improve a bit on what he’s done but you have to keep improving and that’s the point.”
Crisford also found himself in the Arlington winner’s circle when Godolphin’s Crimson Palace took the G1 Beverly D. in 2004. The 2018 Million will only be Crisford’s second start as a trainer in the United States. In 2016, he saddled Rodaini in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
Century Dream went to the track on Thursday morning in company with fellow Million contender Circus Couture and Beverly D. aspirant Nyaleti. He breezed a quarter of a mile in 25.80 with exercise rider Paul Holley under the supervision of Crisford’s travelling head groom, Les Reynolds.
“[Holley] was very happy with him,” Reynolds said. “The horse is well, he was settled. He just breezed the last couple of furlongs and galloped out. He’s eating well, drinking well. We’re ready to go.”