Little Wilko to Keep Plugging in Big 'Cap

(from Santa Anita notes)
Wilko, seeking his first victory in 10 starts since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in a 28-1 upset in 2004, reunites with Garrett Gomez in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I).

Riding for trainer Craig Dollase, Gomez was third, beaten three-quarters of a length, in his first ride on the Kentucky-bred colt in the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) on Feb. 5.

"I liked his trip in the San Antonio," said the 34-year-old rider. "I was sitting in behind horses and I thought he'd go ahead and quicken when I got him out. It was his first route race since he's been back. He went from seven eighths (11th in the Malibu) to a mile and an eighth (in the San Antonio), so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"He got a little tired inside the eighth pole when I uncovered him from behind horses," Gomez explained. "But even towards the wire, he was picking them up inch by inch so the overall effort was good. He felt good when I worked him at Hollywood. I'm looking for a big effort."

Wilko drilled seven furlongs Sunday in a bullet 1:25 2/5.

Wilko, with earnings of $1,076,574, is a diminutive son of Awesome Again . "He's a little bitty thing," Gomez said, "but it's the size of his heart that counts."

The Santa Anita Handicap and the Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) will be televised live on ESPN News.

San Antonio Handicap winner Spellbinder breezed three furlongs Wednesday in :35 4/5 for Richard Mandella.