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Arlington Classic Winner Willcox Inn Returns in Grade II American Derby
All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, winner of the $100,000 Arlington Classic, the first leg of the Mid-America Triple on May 28, returns to the local oval in pursuit of that series’ second leg, the Grade II $200,000 American Derby on Saturday.
The American Derby will be run at a mile and three-sixteenths over Arlington’s world famous turf course and serves as the final local prep for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, which will be held Aug. 13.
The race is one of three major stakes that comprise the track’s Million Preview Day program. In addition to the American Derby, the 11-race card includes the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Handicap and the Grade III $150,000 Modesty Handicap. As an added bonus, the 1-2-3 finishers in the American Derby will have their entry and starting fees waived for the Secretariat should they elect to run in that event next month.
A son of Harlan’s Holiday, Willcox Inn stalked the pace in the mile and a sixteenth Arlington Classic before sweeping to the lead approaching the furlong marker and drawing off to a 2 ½-length tally as the 3-2 betting choice. The Mike Stidham-trained colt has never missed the board in three turf trips including a third-place run in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last November. Robby Albarado, who guided the sophomore to his Arlington Classic victory, will once again be in the irons.
Prominent among those set to line-up against Willcox Inn is Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Derby Kitten. The son of 2004 Secretariat Stakes winner Kitten’s Joy comes into the American Derby off a third-place finish in the $200,000 Lone Star Derby in Texas in his most recent start on May 30. Prior to that, the Mike Maker charge ran 13th in the Grade I Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum! Brands after winning the Grade III Lexington Stakes over Polytrack at Keeneland. On the board in six of eight turf starts, his lone grass score came when he broke his maiden for a $75,000 tag at Gulfstream Park in January. Julien Leparoux has the call.
Grant Heider, John Kuehl & David Conway’s Lil Bit O’Fun is a four-time winner on grass including the $200,000 Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs last out on June 15. The gelded son of Langfuhr is trained by Tom Proctor and will be ridden Saturday by Leandro Goncalves.
Overseas invader Cannon Hill, who races for Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone, arrived earlier this week from Ireland. The son of Holy Roman Emperor is trained by that country’s leading conditioner Dermot Weld. Weld is no stranger to the American Derby, having saddled Pine Dance to capture the race in the year 2000, Evolving Tactics in 2003 and Simple Exchange in 2004. Patrick Smullen, who rode the 2003 and 2004 victors, will make the overseas journey to partner with Cannon Hill on Saturday.
Other of note in the American Derby include William Farish & Skara Glen Stable’s Close Ally and Team Block’s Suntracer. The former, a son of Giant’s Causeway, was runner-up in the Grade II American Turf and the Lone Star Derby in his last two starts. He is trained by Neil Howard and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.
The latter, a Chris Block-trained son of Kitten’s Joy, ran second in the Arlington Classic last time out after previously winning a pair of turf allowance races. Shaun Bridgmohan is named.
Completing the field (with riders named) are: William Stiritz’ Zoebear (Junior Alvarado); Ashby Thoroughbreds’ Chalice (James Graham); Mark Jensen’s Forest Mouse (Perry Whetstone); and Homewrecker Racing Stable’s Twojohnsandajack (Florent Geroux).