Wilko, the 2004 Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner, makes his first start in nearly seven months Saturday when he faces six 3-year-old rivals in the $50,000 Larkspur Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.
Trained by Craig Dollase, the chestnut colt by Awesome Again
finished 12th in the Preakness (gr. I) in his last start. Wilko has lost five races in a row since his three-quarter-of-a-length win over Afleet Alex at Lone Star Park in the 2004 Juvenile at odds of 28-1.
Wilko was a surprise entrant in the feature. Not originally nominated to the six-furlong Larkspur, the colt was supplemented to the race by Dollase.
"He's training well and I want to get a race into him before the Strub series," said Dollase, referring to a three-race series at Santa Anita that begins Dec. 26 with the Malibu Stakes (gr. I). "This looks like an ideal spot."
Wilko, who sports a career record of 3-2-6 in 16 starts and earnings of $1,039,074 for owners J. Paul Reddam and Susan Roy, begins the comeback trail with the services of regular jockey Corey Nakatani on Saturday.
During his abbreviated 2005 campaign Wilko overcame quarter crack problems to finish third in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), beaten by a half-length by the winner Buzzards Bay. He followed that effort with a sixth-place showing in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), then was eased in the Preakness by Nakatani when tiring while racing wide.
Wilko underwent ankle surgery following the Preakness and has been back in training since mid-October.
"He had a bone chip removed from an ankle and we gave him plenty of time," said Dollase. "The quarter cracks that bothered him all year are healed up now and his feet have grown out. He's like a fresh, new, shiny penny. We're excited."
Stellar Magic also returns in the Larkspur following a long layoff. The California-bred gelding was last seen finishing last as the 2-1 favorite in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Bay Meadows. Trained by Brian Pitnick, Stellar Magic won three of four prior to the El Camino Real, including a victory in the San Mateo Mile.