The Arlington Million, North America’s first seven-figure Thoroughbred horse race, returns Saturday with a strong field and historic implications. All eyes will be on Bricks and Mortar, undefeated in big-money races this year and universally regarded as the best US grass horse in training.

US's most beautiful track
A million bucks and a piece of history are up for grabs Saturday in Chicagoland’s Arlington Million. (Image: Arlington International)

This year’s running marks the 37th edition of “The Million” — the signature event at Illinois’ venerable Arlington International Racecourse and part of its International Festival of Racing.

A formidable international field going 1 1/4 mile on the grass will challenge the powerful Bricks and Mortar. Expect to see the Chad Brown-trained star, winner of four stakes in a row, as the odds-on public choice. The five-year-old’s career record shows nine wins in 11 starts, producing a bankroll of more than $4 million. 

No horse has ever won this race in two consecutive years. But last year’s winner, Robert Bruce, who also hales from Chad Brown’s barn, will be returning to defend his 2018 win. Robert Bruce began his career a perfect 6-for-6 in his native Chile before coming to the US in 2018 as a 4-year-old. Since arriving, he’s posted just two wins in seven starts, both in graded stakes, and has yet to see the winner’s circle in 2019.

Deep and Contentious Arlington Million Field

Here’s the field, riders and morning line for the history-making race:

  1. Robert Bruce (CHI) – Javier Castellano – 7/2
  2. Magic Wand (IRE) – Wayne Lordan – 5/1
  3. Bricks and Mortar – Irad Ortiz Jr. – 8/5
  4. Catcho En Die (ARG) – Sophie Doyle – 30/1
  5. Hunting Horn (IRE) – Ryan Moore – 12/1
  6. The Great Day (ARG) – Trevor McCarthy – 12/1
  7. Pivoine (IRE) – Silvestre De Sousa – 15/1
  8. Captivating Moon – Jose Valdivia Jr. – 20/1
  9. Intellogent (IRE) – Florent Geroux – 12/1
  10. Bandua – Adam Beschizza – 6/1

Saturday’s impressive undercard features the $600,000, 1 3/16M, Beverly D and the Secretariat Stakes at 1 mile for $500,000.

Remembering John Henry

The only two-time winner of the Arlington Million was the immortal gelding John Henry is the. He won the first and the fourth running of the race. In the 1981 inaugural, he battled neck-and-neck down the stretch with The Bart, grinding out a memorable come-from-behind victory by the slimmest of noses. Many consider this to be the greatest moment in Illinois racing history and still dispute who really won in the closest of photos.

John Henry returned to win the 1984 Million, forever connecting the legendary horse with this track (his bronze statue still graces the place), and making the biggest money-winner of his day (and still biggest money-winning gelding in history) a favorite son of Chicagoland.

Return to Glory?

This year’s Arlington Million could mark the last of an era, thanks to Illinois’ recently passed gambling expansion. While previous gambling expansions in the state left racetracks out of the equation, this one cleared the way for Arlington International to offer slots, casino games, and sports betting.

Track officials are cautiously optimistic that the new games will be available in less than a year, and horse racing fans are hopeful that the extra revenue will help restore the track to its former glory and prominence.