Denied a sweep of Arlington Park's Mid-America Triple by a strong European contingent in the August 13 Secretariat S. (G1), WILLCOX INN (Harlan's Holiday) still rates as one of the leading three-year-olds on grass in the U.S. The Mike Stidham trainee can reaffirm that view Saturday in the $250,000 Kent S. (G3) at Delaware Park, which is scheduled at nine furlongs on the turf.
Showing a fondness for the surface at first asking when third at 23-1 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G2) last November, Willcox Inn has made only one diversion away from turf this season. After a couple early setbacks, the dark bay added blinkers for the Arlington Classic, opening leg of Arlington's three-race series for sophomores. A comfortable 2 1/2-length winner as the 3-2 favorite, Willcox Inn was even more impressive when landing the American Derby (G2) by four lengths as the 2-1 choice.
However, in the Secretariat, Willcox Inn ran fourth to Irish classic winner Treasure Beach (GB) (Galileo [Ire]), with Ziyarid (Ire) (Desert Style) and multiple Grade 2 winner Banned (Kitten's Joy) also beating Willcox Inn to the finish. The 3 1/2-length loss was no disgrace considering the company he was facing while racing over testing course decisions. Robby Albarado retains the mount for the Kent.
Willcox Inn drew the far outside post 13 for the Kent, but it seems unlikely all will line up at post time. Rain will be prevalent in the Wilmington area throughout the week, and a turf course on the soft side might sway some entrants away. Trainer Tony Dutrow also entered two colts -- RUSH NOW (Tiznow) and J W BLUE (Sky Mesa) -- who have never raced on grass and were both cross-entered in Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby (G2) on dirt. Of the two, J W Blue would seem more likely to race in the Kent given his pedigree.