Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sun. July 10

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/10/2011 #

In Today’s Notes:  Willcox Inn – Will He Sweep Mid-America Triple?; Tajaaweed Tuned up for Another Arlington Million Run; Fantasia’s Future Appears to Include Beverly D. Stakes; Block Pleased With His Million Preview Day Trio

Willcox Inn, the Harlan’s Holiday colt owned by All In Stable who captured Saturday’s 97th running of the Grade II American Derby and the 76th renewal of the Arlington Classic earlier in the season, will be pointed toward a run in Arlington’s Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 13, trainer Mike Stidham confirmed Sunday morning during training hours.

Should Willcox Inn win the Secretariat, he would become only the fourth horse in history – and the first in 14 years – to sweep the Arlington’s Mid-America Triple, which begins with the Classic, continues with the American Derby and concludes with the Secretariat as part of Arlington’s one-day International Festival of Racing on Arlington Million Day.

“The horse pretty much spoke for himself yesterday,” said Stidham on Sunday.  “I don’t need to say much.  I knew before he ran what I hoped he’d do, and he did exactly what I hoped, and he came out of the race in great shape.  We’re looking forward to running in the Secretariat.

“It’ll be interesting to watch the Virginia Derby (at Colonial Downs July 16) and get a better idea of what we’ll be up against next time,” said Stidham, who won the first two legs of last season’s Mid-America Triple before finishing third in the Secretariat with Estrorace’s Workin for Hops.

The three previous horses to sweep the Triple were Robert Schaedle III’s Honor Glide in 1997, Ogden Phipps’ Buckpasser in 1966 and Powhatan’s Tom Rolfe in 1965. 

Shadwell Stable’s Tajaaweed, clearly best in Saturday’s Grade III Arlington Handicap, will continue on his projected road to the Grade I Arlington Million five weeks later on Aug. 13, according to trainer Dan Peitz.

“I guess I started thinking about this plan last October at Keeneland,” said Peitz Sunday morning during training hours.  “I remember talking to Rick Nichols, general manager of Shadwell in Lexington about it after Tajaaweed finished fourth in the (Grade III) Sycamore Stakes.  He asked me if I wanted to take the horse to Hot Springs and try to win a stakes at Oaklawn or possibly at Fair Grounds.  I told him what I’d really like to do is freshen the horse up like they used to do in the old days and then point him toward another run in the Arlington Handicap and the Arlington Million like we did last year.  He told me that if that was what I wanted to do, the plan sounded good to him, too, so that’s what we did.  We turned him out.

“So far, my plan seems to be coming to fruition,” Peitz said of Tajaaweed, who finished third in last year’s Arlington Handicap and sixth in the Million.  “And now, after his win yesterday, we get a free ride to the Million (Million nomination fees waived after Saturday’s victory).  That was a nice race he ran yesterday and I think he’s running a little better this year than last, and now, hopefully, we’ll have a good five weeks to get him ready for the Million.”

Augustin Stable’s British-bred Fantasia, heroine of Saturday’s Grade III Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park, is likely to return to Chicago’s northwest suburban oval for a run in the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes on Aug. 13 as the Arlington Million’s sister race.

“That’s the plan right now,” said Fantasia’s Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, speaking over the phone from his Pennsylvania farm headquarters on the outskirts of Philadelphia on Sunday morning.  “Of course, we realize that the Beverly D. will be a big step up for us, but after the way she ran yesterday we’re looking forward to it.

“(Fantasia) seemed fine back at the testing barn last night,” said Sheppard, who left shortly thereafter for his flight back to Philadelphia.  “She left Arlington late last night and arrived back at Presque Isle (Downs in Erie, Pa.) at about 4:30 this morning.”

“Two good second place runs and a horse that got blocked.  That about sums it up,” said trainer Chris Block Sunday morning, speaking on the apron during morning training hours about his trio of Million Preview Day stakes contestants.

Block was speaking of the second-place run of Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras in the Grade III Arlington Handicap, the runner-up finish of Team Block’s Suntracer in the Grade II American Derby, and Rich Ege and Team Block’s Askbut I Won’ttell, who ran fourth in the Grade III Modesty Handicap after a traffic-troubled trip. 

“I was proud of all of them,” said Block.  “They all ran good and they all came back fine.  I was disappointed Askbut I Won’ttell didn’t get to run her race, but we may give her another chance in the Beverly D.  I’m undecided about Suntracer, but I suppose there’s an outside chance we’d try him in the Secretariat.  As for Mister Marti Gras (next race), I haven’t had a chance to talk to Mr. Lothenbach yet.”