Willcox Inn the One to Beat in Kent Stakes
The lone graded stakes winner in the field, Willcox Inn fell a win shy of sweeping the Arlington Park 3-year-old turf series. On May 28, the son of Harlan's Holiday notched a 2 1/2-length triumph in the Arlington Classic. He followed with an easy score in the American Derby (gr. IIT) on July 9 before checking in fourth in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 13 in his most recent start.
Willcox Inn is 3-1-2 from eight career starts and earnings of $360,943. He will carry top weight of 122 pounds, including Robby Albarado, and break from the outside post.
“He has been training real well,” said trainer Michael Stidham, who has sent the colt out for four works at Arlington Park since his last race. “He has had a few breezes since the Secretariat, and he is doing well.
“The first time we noticed a real difference was when we put the blinkers on him, and that was when he won the Classic at Arlington. The blinkers seemed to get him to focus a little better and have him a little closer to the pace. After that adjustment, he seemed to really move forward.”
Albarado will have the luxury of placing the versatile Willcox Inn pretty much anywhere he wants early in the race.
“He is pretty handy,” Stidham said. “Depending on how fast they are going in front of him, he can lay off of them with a fast pace, and if pace is slower up front, he can be closer. Either way he can be a real threat.”
One of the main threats to Willcox Inn is Mrs. Fitriani Hay’s Breathless Storm, a winner of two straight at Monmouth Park for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The Storm Cat colt enters off a 1 3/4-length score in the July 31 Jersey Derby in his stakes debut and fired a bullet four-furlong work in :47 Sept. 18, the best of 78 works that morning.
Paco Lopez will have the mount on Breathless Storm.
Also likely to take some action is Team Valor International’s Crimson China. Off the board in a pair of grade II turf races most recently, the Giant's Causeway colt won the Lamplighter Stakes at Monmouth in May and was fifth, beaten only three lengths, in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland in April. The Graham Motion trainee also has a turf win at Gulfstream Park over the winter.
Jeremy Rose will be in the irons on Crimson China.
Another horse with some back class is West Point Thoroughbreds’ King Congie. He was third in the Blue Grass when beaten only a neck, one start before finishing seventh in the Preakness (gr. I). Third in the Saranac (gr. IIIT) last out at Saratoga, King Congie won the Tropical Park Derby on the Calder turf back in January and crossed the wire first in the Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream in February before being disqualified and placed third.
The 4-1 second choice is J W Blue, but the son of Sky Mesa is likely headed to the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) at Parx Racing instead. J W Blue finished third in the Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga on Aug. 27.
J W Blue’s stablemate, Rush Now, is also cross-entered in both the Kent and the Pa. Derby, but trainer Tony Dutrow has yet to make a decision on where he will run. Dutrow said he is also looking at the Oct. 1 Indiana Derby (gr. II) for the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) runner-up.
$250,000 Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:24 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
Copyright © 2014 The Blood-Horse, Inc. All Rights Reserved.