Heavy choice Willcox Inn cut the final corner expertly for jockey Robby Albarado and sprinted away from his rivals in the stretch to win the $200,000 Hawthorne Derby Sponsored by TVG (gr. IIIT) by 4 1/2 lengths Oct. 15 at Hawthorne Racecourse (VIDEO).
Willcox Inn, dropping in company off of a fourth-place finish in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 13 at Arlington Park, picked up his third win in six starts this year for trainer Michael Stidham and owner All In Stable. The 3-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday out of the Gone West mare De Aar completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:48.97 over firm going.
Dr. John A. Chandler bred the winning dark bay/brown colt in Kentucky,
Breaking from the rail, 11-10 pick Willcox Inn raced near mid-pack in the field of 10 sophomores along the inside as 150-1 outsider Legendary King led Friendly Banter and Crimson China comfortably through even fractions of :24.12, :48.47, and 1:12.39.
Willcox Inn advanced along the inside rounding the final bend as Legendary King began to shorten stride. Albarado angled the favorite between horses leaving the turn and Willcox Inn emerged in the clear. He quickly passed the leaders and took control through the lane, forging a three-length lead at the eighth pole and continuing to expand his advantage under steady encouragement.
Suntracer, rallying for Eduardo Perez from next-to-last on the outside, finished best of the rest to take the runner-up spot by a neck. Friendly Banter, ridden by Tim Thornton, stuck around for third.
Third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs, Willcox Inn was briefly on the Triple Crown trail this spring. But after an eighth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) at Keeneland in April, Stidham switched the colt to the grass full time.
Willcox Inn won both the Arlington Classic and American Derby (gr. IIT) at Arlington before flattening out in the stretch run of the Secretariat, contested over a yielding turf. He finished 3 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Treasure Beach.
The winner's share for the Hawthorne Derby, $120,000, boosted Willcox Inn's total earnings to $480,943. He owns a 4-1-2 career mark in nine starts.
Carrying co-top weight of 122 pounds, Willcox Inn paid $4.20, $3, and $2.60. Suntracer, second to Willcox Inn in both the Arlington Classic and American Derby, returned $6.80 and $4.40. The exacta was worth $26.60. Friendly Banter, in his stakes debut for trainer Louie Roussel III, paid $12.20 to show.
It was two lengths to Cavalero in fourth, followed by Crimson China, Derby Kitten, Pass the Dice, Legendary King, Lethal, and Breathless Storm, who bolted extremely wide on the final turn.