Willcox Inn, winner of the Arlington Classic, which kicked off the Mid-America Triple May 28 at Arlington Park, returns in pursuit of the $200,000 American Derby (gr. IIT), the second leg of the series July 9.
The American Derby will be run at 1 3/16 miles over Arlington's turf course. It is the final local prep for the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), which will be held at Arlington Aug. 13.
The race is part of Arlington’s Million Preview Day program. In addition to the American Derby, the 11-race card includes the $150,000 Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) and the $150,000 Modesty Handicap (gr. IIIT). As an added bonus, the 1-2-3 finishers in the American Derby will have their entry and starting fees waived for the Secretariat should they elect to run in that event next month.
A son of Harlan's Holiday , All In Stable’s Willcox Inn stalked the pace as the 3-2 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile Arlington Classic before sweeping to the lead approaching the furlong marker and drawing off to a 2 ½-length tally. The Mike Stidham-trained colt has not missed the board in three turf trips, including a third-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs last November. Robby Albarado, who guided Willcox Inn in the Arlington Classic, will once again be in the irons.
This year's American Derby will have some European flavor with Irish trainer Dermot Weld in pursuit of his fourth win in the race, this time with Cannon Hill. The Irish-bred son of Holy Roman Emperor has won two of eight starts at home with three seconds for owners/breeders Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone.
Weld previously won the American Derby with Pine Dance to in 2000, Evolving Tactics in 2003 and Simple Exchange in 2004. Patrick Smullen, who rode the 2003 and 2004 victors, will make the overseas journey to partner with Cannon Hill.
Another prominent challenger is Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Derby Kitten. The son of 2004 Secretariat Stakes winner Kitten's Joy comes into the American Derby off a third-place finish in the Lone Star Derby (gr. IIIT) in Texas in his most recent start May 30. Prior to that, the Mike Maker charge ran 13th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after winning the Lexington Stakes (gr. III) over Polytrack at Keeneland. On the board in six of eight turf starts, his lone grass score came when he broke his maiden for a $75,000 tag at Gulfstream Park in January. Julien Leparoux has the call.
Lil Bit O'Fun is a four-time winner on grass including the $200,000 Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs June 15. The gelded son of Langfuhr is trained by Tom Proctor for owners Grant Heider, John Kuehl, and David Conway, and will be ridden by Leandro Goncalves.
Others of note are William Farish & Skara Glen Stable’s Close Ally and Team Block’s Suntracer.
Close Ally, a son of Giant's Causeway , was runner-up in the American Turf (gr. IIT) May 6 at Churchill Downs and the Lone Star Derby in his last two starts. He is trained by Neil Howard and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie.
Suntracer, a Chris Block-trained son of Kitten’s Joy, ran second in the Arlington Classic last time out after previously winning a pair of turf allowance races. Shaun Bridgmohan is named.
Completing the field are Zoebear, Chalice, Forest Mouse, and Twojohnsandajack.
$200,000 American Derby (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:12 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 3/16 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Cannon Hill (IRE). P J Smullen, 119, D K Weld
2. Zoebear (KY), J Alvarado, 119, S Becker
3. Chalice (KY), J Graham, 119, K Gorder
4. Willcox Inn (KY), R Albarado, 121, M Stidham
5. Close Ally (KY), C J Lanerie, 119, N J Howard
6. Derby Kitten (KY), J R Leparoux, 126, M J Maker
7. Forest Mouse (KY), P S Whetstone, 119, M Jensen
8. Lil Bit O'Fun (KY), L R Goncalves, 126, T F Proctor
9. Suntracer (IL), S Bridgmohan, 119, C M Block
10. Twojohnsandajack (KY), F Geroux, 119, E Kenneally