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Willcox Inn, Mister Marti Gras Head Grade III Washington Park Handicap
Multiple graded stakes winners Willcox Inn and Mister Marti Gras will share high impost of 122 pounds as they headline a field of six entered for Saturday’s Grade III $150,000 Washington Park Handicap at a mile and an eighth over Arlington’s Polytrack main course.
Lael Stable and All In Stable’s Willcox Inn comes into the Washington Park Handicap off a fifth-place finish in the Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park in July. The 5-year-old Harlan’s Holiday horse has started five times this year, all on turf, and has a pair of Grade II runner-up finishes when second in both the Mervyn Muniz Handicap at the Fair Grounds in March and the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness Stakes undercard.
The Mike Stidham trainee, winner of the Grade II American Derby and Grade III Hawthorne Derby in his 3-year-old season, is best known as a turf horse but it should be noted that he broke his maiden over Arlington’s Polytrack as a 2-year-old beating eventual Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom in the process. In addition, he ran third in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface as a juvenile.
Earlier this week, the connections Willcox Inn called an audible and decided to enter the Washington Park rather than ship by van from their local base to Saratoga for the grassy Grade II Bernard Baruch Handicap when unable to secure a charter to upstate New York. James Graham has the mount Saturday.
Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras will make his third consecutive appearance in the Washington Park having won the 2011 renewal and finishing second last year to Middie. The Chris Block-trained son of Belong to Me was second in the one-turn one-mile Grade III Hanshin Cup over this course in May and most recently scored in the off-the-turf $125,000 Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury Park in July. The 6-year-old gelding would surpass the million-dollar mark in earnings should he win his second Washington Park on Saturday. Eduardo Perez has the call.
Slated to face the top pair in the Washington Park are: Lawana and Robert Low’s Agent Di Nozzo (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118 pounds); Kenneth Fishbein’s Hattaash (Emmanuel Esquivel, 116); Russell Reineman Stables’ Color Me Blue (Florent Geroux, 115); and NLG Racing Stable’s Gallant Eagle (Edgar Perez, 112).
Of these, Agent Di Nozzo carries a two-race win streak into the Washington Park including successive victories in a stakes-quality Churchill Downs allowance race in May and the $100,000 Golden Bear Stakes at Indiana Downs last month.