Chris Wilkins' Wilbo got the early jump on even-money favorite Ivan Fallunovalot for a second straight race and drew off to win by two lengths over the two-time King Cotton Stakes winner in the 68th renewal of the $125,000 sprint stakes Feb. 3 at Oaklawn Park.
The two mixed it up in their season debuts in a Jan. 14 allowance/optional claimer going six furlongs at the Arkansas track, where Wilbo edged his graded stakes-winning rival by a length.
This time, Wilbo raced fifth while Ivan Fallunovalot was sixth early after a slow break as St. Joe Bay led the field through fractions of :21.78 and :44.83 for the first half mile. Jockey David Cabrera guided the eventual winner four wide into the stretch of the six-furlong test, and when he called on his mount, Wilbo responded by drawing clear in 1:09.85 over a fast track.
"It feels great" said winning trainer Chris Hartman, who finished second in four consecutive editions of the King Cotton with Alsvid. "We've been beat by some real good horses in this race and we beat a good field today. It felt good.
"He kicked really big today. David (Cabrera) put an excellent ride on him. He sat to the outside and when he called on him, he went on. He was loaded today. I was glad to see him get by them."
Wilbo was bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds out of the Coronado's Quest mare Kokadrie, and was a $120,000 purchase by his owner from his breeder's consignment to the Ocala Breeders' Sales 2014 Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training. A 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding, he improved his record to 9-3-6 in 24 starts and earnings to $470,681.
"This is a very, very special horse," Cabrera said. "The first time I rode him, Chris gave me instructions on how the horse was. I listened to him and I rode him just exactly the way he told me. I think that helped me a lot because he said he just has one kick and it's not very far. He said to wait as long as I could and then cut him loose. He's a really nice horse and I am happy that Chris let me ride him."
Luis Quinonez, aboard Ivan Fallunovalot, said the bad start impacted his mount's race.
"I went to 'Plan B' right away," he said. "He just didn't get away from there. He kind of bobbled out of the gate and they got the jump on him. He was trying down the lane."