05/28/2011 7:19PM

Arlington Matron a romp for Pachattack


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The stakes races Saturday at Arlington, the Arlington Matron and the Arlington Classic, were of the Grade 3 and listed variety, but the winner of each may be ready for bigger game.

Pachattack was especially impressive winning the Grade 3, $100,000 Matron by six lengths, while Willcox Inn appeared to handily outclass the opposition in the $100,000 Arlington Classic, winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

Pachattack gave English trainer Gerard Butler, who trains the mare for owner Michael Deegan, his first stakes victory of the Arlington meet, to which he has sent a string of runners from his Newmarket base. Pachattack, a 5-year-old by Pulpit, shipped here last summer for the Beverly D., in which she lost all chance with a poor start, and she was coming off a ninth-place finish in the Group 3 Dahlia Stakes on May 1.

Butler said the recent performance resulted from questionable riding tactics, and indeed, Pachattack seemed to be in top form Saturday, blitzing eight opponents after jockey Florent Geroux made an early move before the half-mile pole.

Geroux replaced Junior Alvarado, who broke his collarbone in a Friday spill, and the new rider got a feel for his mount during an easy Saturday-morning jog. Racing just behind a moderate pace (24.60 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 49.09 to the half), Pachattack and Geroux came off the rail to challenge pace-setting Santina Dond before the far turn, taking a narrow lead after six furlongs in 1:13.01 and drawing easily clear through the stretch run.

“I knew I was on the best filly in the race,” Geroux said. “I took advantage of it.”

La Gran Bailadora rallied late for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Home’s the Best. Favored Upperline raced wide around the first turn and never really got involved, finishing fourth. Pachattack ran 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack in 1:49.64 and paid $8.40 to win.

After watching Upperline fail to show her best in the Matron, trainer Mike Stidham walked back to the paddock to put a saddle on Willcox Inn for the Arlington Classic, which worked out much better for the Stidham team. Willcox Inn had not won since a debut score here last September over Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, though the Harlan’s Holiday colt had been second or third in three of his four subsequent races. Stidham fitted Willcox Inn with blinkers for the first time Saturday, and the equipment change had the desired effect, putting Willcox Inn into the race much more quickly.

“It got him in the bridle pretty good,” jockey Robby Albarado said.

Willcox Inn pulled fairly hard down the backstretch, but Albarado was able to hold his mount in a pressing position just outside pace-setting Crimson Knight, who set splits of 24.52, 51.88, and 1:17.63 over a yielding turf course. Willcox Inn edged up to his rival’s flank turning for home, swept to the lead before the eighth pole, and never was challenged, with Suntracer running late to get third over Extensive.

Willcox Inn, who paid $5 to win, completed 1 1/16 miles on a very tiring course in 1:49.51, getting his final half-furlong in just more than six seconds.

“He really sprinted home,” Albarado said.

Willcox Inn, Stidham said, will be pointed to the July 9 American Derby.