Large purses and big races from Dubai and Hong Kong to Florida and California give the 27th Arlington Million more competition these days.
But Saturday's event still draws enough European horses to boast an international flavor.
The Million and two sister races - the Beverly D and Secretariat Stakes - are run on turf, or grass, as opposed to the artificial tracks popular in America. While things are changing on the other side of the Atlantic, European horses traditionally race on turf.
"It's the most important turf race in the Midwest, and one of the most important in the whole country," said Jennie Rees, racing writer for the Courier-Journal, based in the horse country of Louisville, Ky. The newspaper reporter has attended Million races, even a few on her own dime.
Seven European horses will be among the 28 in Saturday's three featured races, said Alastair Donald, who works with Arlington Park to attract European horses.
The Breeders' Cup and the Triple Crown - the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont and Preakness Stakes - are in their own class, but the Arlington Million holds its own right below them, Rees said.
Louie Roussel, who calls New Orleans and Arlington Heights home, says Recapturetheglory - the first horse he's run in the Million - is a "David" to the "Goliaths" in the race. The biggest success for him and co-owner Ronnie Lamarque was in 1988, when Risen Star won both the Preakness and Belmont.
"The Arlington Million is one of the most prestigious grass races in the world to win," said Roussel, also the horse's trainer. "The Breeders' Cup is the next logical step. If you won this, you'd be one of the favorites" at the Breeders'.
Reached by phone in England before flying to the race, Luca Cumani, trainer of Cima de Triomphe, ranked third among favorites this week, said any big race is his favorite.
"I have a horse suited for the race. That's why I'm coming," said Cumani, who's won on every continent where races are run and won the Million with Tolomeo in 1983.
Arlington Park Chairman Richard Duchossois does an excellent job, Cumani added. "He's a great promoter of international racing."
The number of European horses, and the fact that three train in France, brought Liz Price of Paris Turf, a French racing daily, to Arlington Heights. The Breeders' Cup is the only other American race she covers in person.
"There's a lot of history, and we bet on the (Million) in France, so our readers need to know about the American horses," Price said. "It's good to have someone here who can check it out. I think it's a very important race."
Dermot Weld, who with about 3,500 wins is Ireland's leading trainer, brought Mad About You to race in the Beverly D, which is just for female horses.
"The Arlington track is one of the best turf tracks in America," he said, "but it's on the fast side for her."
Weld said he almost brought a horse to the Million, but the one he had in mind will probably run in France next week. He trains 100 horses and picks the races around the world that each horse might have a chance of winning.
"It's a really good field this year," Rees said. "There are a couple interesting European horses, but you don't know how they stack up with the American horses until they run against each other."
If you go
What: Arlington Million and International Festival of Racing
When: Saturday, Aug. 8. Gates open at 10 a.m. First of 12 races has a post time of 12:15 p.m. The Million is the ninth race with a post time of 4:42 p.m.
General admission: $15
Information: arlingtonpark.com or (847) 385-7500
Traffic warning: Rohlwing Road restricted to local traffic northbound from Kirchoff Road to Fremont Street. No northbound traffic allowed north of Fremont Street. Traffic and turns restricted in the vicinity of Rohlwing and Euclid Avenue to improve the flow in and out of the park. Watch for barricades and police. Restrictions are from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.