Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thurs. July 7

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/08/2011 #

Willcox Inn – Then and Now; Preakness-Winning Rider Castanon Back at Arlington; Joshinelli Santana Born on America’s Birthday

Since 1900 when it accepted its first guests and throughout the Roaring Twenties of its initial heyday, the Willcox Inn in Aiken, South Carolina, played host to such socially prominent figures as Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Harold Vanderbilt and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during the midst of South Carolina’s winter social season.

However, in more recent times since being restored to its former glory, the historic landmark hotel has included conditioner Mike Stidham and assistant trainer Hilary Pridham among its guests when they would visit Aiken to attend its annual Thoroughbred sales.

Hence the derivation of the name Willcox Inn, owned by All In Stable, for the 3-year-old Thoroughbred colt who will attempt to continue his march toward a sweep of Arlington Park’s Mid-America Triple Saturday by winning the Grade II American Derby as part of the local oval’s Million Preview Day program.

Willcox Inn, the horse, captured the first leg of the Triple with a convincing 2 1/2-length tally in the 76th renewal of the Arlington Classic May 28, and should he win the 97th running of the American Derby, he would be in a position to become the fourth horse in Chicago racing history to sweep the Triple as well as the first in 14 years.  The final leg of the Triple is the Grade I Secretariat Stakes, which will be run during the International Festival of Racing on Arlington Million Day Aug. 13.

“Hilary and (bloodstock advisor) Marette Farrell deserve the credit for picking this horse out at the sales,” said Stidham Thursday morning during training hours.  “They are part of the partnership that also includes me, John Adger, Jack Hodge and the Three Kings group.”

In his career debut at Arlington last Sept. 18, Willcox Inn defeated Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom, who went on to win this spring’s Kentucky Derby, and last Sunday the colt breezed a half in 50.80 over Arlington’s world famous turf course.

“I was very happy with the work,” said Stidham.  “The turf was real firm.  He galloped out in 1:02 and seemed to get over the ground really well.”

Following an extremely successful spring in Kentucky that included a side trip to Maryland to take down winning honors in this spring’s Preakness Stakes aboard Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbadge’s Shackleford, jockey Jesus Castanon has returned to Arlington Park and was named on three mounts for Thursday’s program.

Castanon, 38, born in Mexico City, was based at Arlington for the entire season in 2010 and finished fourth in the standings.  He has always been highly regarded rider in the Midwest but had never had the mount on a horse to thrust him into the public consciousness until his Preakness win on May 21.

“He’s a critically acclaimed movie that’s just never been a big hit,” said Shackleford’s trainer Dale Romans shortly after the Preakness while also admitting that it was Castanon, although he had never previously ridden in a Triple Crown event until this year, that calmed him down prior to the Kentucky Derby.

“He acted like he was riding in a $5,000 claimer,” Romans said of Castanon’s lack of nervousness before the Derby.  “He knew he’s outridden those jockeys before and could do it again.”

Castanon’s first mount Thursday is aboard Glen Hill Farm’s Doctor Carina, the 2-1 morning line favorite in the sixth race of the day.  He returns in the eighth on David Earnest and James Gulick’s Heavens Cheer, 6-1 in the early line, and concludes his afternoon in the ninth race astride Emma’s Kiss for Midwest Thoroughbreds, pegged at 9-2.

Arlington guests in attendance for the Fourth of July racing program prior to the local oval’s fireworks extravaganza last Monday, would have noticed that Arlington Park’s leading rider J. Z. Santana took off all his mounts for the day.

That’s because he was by his wife Anna’s side in a maternity ward in the hours before she gave birth in the early afternoon to a baby girl 19 inches long and weighing 6 lbs., 1 oz., who was subsequently named Joshinelli.

Santana, 32, a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, returns to the saddle Thursday with seven mounts scheduled on the nine-race program tied for leading rider with E. T. Baird.

Joshinelli Santana is the first girl born to the jockey, who has two boys, six and seven years old, from a previous relationship.