If either of trainer Michael Stidham’s horses wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT), look for a gigantic party in the winner’s circle. Both Willcox Inn and Rough Sailing have multiple owners, and those owners are poised to celebrate if they get lucky in what should be a 14-horse field.
Technically, Rough Sailing isn’t in the race yet, being second on the also-eligible list. However, Bourbon Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Rogue Romance is now a confirmed starter in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), which will let in first alternate Typhoon Slew, and Godolphin’s Italian group I winner Biondetti is also expected to opt for the Juvenile. That would allow Rough Sailing to enter the starting gate.
Stidham’s team selected both of his colts out of sales, Rough Sailing for a group headed by Jack Smith III of Lexington, Ky., and Willcox Inn for so many that the trainer simply dubbed them the All In Stable.
All In consists of an amalgam of longtime Stidham clients. Stidham, assistant Hilary Pridham, and bloodstock agent Marrette Farrell own a quarter interest. The other three quarters are divided equally between John Adger of Houston, Jack Hodge of Seattle, and the Three Kings Stable of Chicago. Brothers Al and Ron Lepinsky and Marty Nixon make up the Three Kings.
"They are all coming to town for the race," said Stidham. "Everybody is planning to have a good time, especially the Three Kings. They will be whooping and hollering. They love the game."
Stidham’s horses appear fairly evenly matched, so much so that just one point of Breeders’ Cup eligibility separated them. Willcox Inn finished third in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland. Rough Sailing ran sixth in that race following a second to Juvenile Turf hopeful Major Gain in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III).
Willcox Inn has yet to try the turf, but Rough Sailing broke his maiden by two lengths on the grass at Arlington.
"We were pretty impressed with Rough Sailing on the turf," Stidham said. "It was soft that day, and they were walking early. He sat back, got in a little trouble, and came running. We liked the way he finished, and he’s bred for the grass."
A Kentucky-bred son of Mizzen Mast —Moussica, by Woodman, Rough Sailing cost $40,000 at this year’s Timonium 2-year-old sale.
"He was a good-looking horse that moved over the track well," said Stidham. "We were surprised to get him for $40,000."
Pridham and Farrell selected Kentucky-bred Willcox Inn for $50,000 out of the 2009 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale.
"He’s by Harlan's Holiday out of a turf family," Stidham said.
Willcox Inn’s dam, stakes-placed De Aar, is a half-sister to the dam of four stakes winners, including Cetewayo and Dynaforce.
Stidham keeps his stable of about 70 horses at Arlington, the Fair Grounds, and Delaware Park, though he also raced at Keeneland this fall. Over the weekend, he moved the Keeneland group to Churchill, and he reported Nov. 1 that Willcox Inn and Rough Sailing were doing well at Churchill.
"We feel good about the turf, and we’re taking a shot," said Stidham, who acknowledges that it will be a major step up against the likes of the European contingent.
"Those are the main horses to worry about," he said. "John Gosden has won it twice, and his horse, Utley, is already said to be in the same class as those."