Wilkinson, who pulled off a stunning upset of the Grade 2 American Handicap in his most recent appearance, will make his first start since that Memorial Day feature in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Daytona at Santa Anita. The about 6 1/2-furlong turf dash tops a trio of stakes at The Great Race Place and is the penultimate graded event on the 2012 calendar.
Increasingly a non-factor against stakes foes in the eastern half of the country while residing in the barn of Neil Howard, Wilkinson struck gold in the one-mile American at Hollywood Park in his debut for trainer Jeff Mullins. Under Martin Pedroza, the four-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt rated closer to the pace than usual, bid for the lead at the top of the stretch, and drew off to win by 1 1/4 lengths at odds of 44-1.
Wilkinson was preparing for the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile in June when he underwent emergency colic surgery. Having trained swiftly for many weeks, he will be reunited Saturday with Pedroza for his first sprint attempt in some time.
Grade 1 veteran Comma to the Top could top the $1 million mark in career earnings with a victory in the Daytona. The Bwana Charlie gelding has won twice in five turf attempts, but has gone unplaced in both prior starts over the Santa Anita turf.
Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out Great Mills, who enters off a fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. The War Front colt is a multiple stakes winner, but has had to settle for minor checks in a number of the leading turf sprints stakes in the eastern half of the country.
Also of note in the Daytona are Red Sun, winner of the one-mile Lure on October 28, and course-and-distance specialists Ain't No Other, Circa'sgoldengear and Clubhouse Ride. Grade 2 Pat O'Brien winner Capital Account is also likely to attract a fair amount of play, but enters the Daytona without any prior turf experience.
Ten juveniles were entered for the $75,000 Eddie Logan over one mile on the turf, with Grade 3 Generous runner-up Rising Legend and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint Preview hero Gabriel Charles the leading candidates.
Eight fillies and mares will sprint 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track in the $75,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap. Notables include 2011 Grade 1 La Brea heroine Teddy's Promise, 2011 Grade 2 Raven Run winner Great Hot, and multiple Santa Anita allowance winner Pink Lollipops.