07/11/2012 4:35PM

Arlington Park: Silver Max returning for American Derby bid

Four-Footed Fotos
Silver Max will be the one to catch in Saturday's Grade 3 American Derby at Arlington Park.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Two days after Silver Max won the May 26 Arlington Classic, trainer Dale Romans suggested Silver Max might not return to Arlington until the Secretariat Stakes in August and that the Virginia Derby on July  21 at Colonial Downs might be a more likely goal than the American Derby here the previous weekend.

A month later, Romans’s position had shifted. On June 23, he told Churchill Downs publicity staff that he was leaning toward the American Derby over the Virginia Derby for Silver Max. Still, it took a lot of people – Arlington officials included – by surprise when word came out late Tuesday that Silver Max was coming to Arlington. When entries for the American Derby and three other graded turf stakes Saturday at Arlington were taken Wednesday, there was Silver Max’s name.

“He’s going straight to the American Derby. That was the plan all along,” said Romans, who will send Finnegan’s Wake to the Virginia Derby.

There remains uncertainty, however, about who Romans will actually run in the Grade 3, $200,000 American Derby. Besides Silver Max, he also entered Cozzetti and Quick Wit.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet,” Romans said when asked if all three horses would actually start here.

A definitive answer might not come until Friday, when Romans’s horse or horses are scheduled to make the trip to Chicago from Louisville.

Robby Albarado was named to ride Silver Max, his first time on the horse since winning the Transylvania Stakes in April at Keeneland. Not that Silver Max has cared who steers him, since his ongoing five-race winning streak (four in stakes) has come for five different riders. Strategy is simple: Let Silver Max go to the lead and see if anyone can catch him. Recently, no one has come close. Those five victories have come by a combined margin of more than 20 lengths.

The horse who came closest to Silver Max during his streak was Sachem Spirit in the Arlington Classic, and Sachem Spirit also is among the 10 horses entered in the American Derby, a 1 3/16-mile grass race that will be run over very firm turf. Sachem Spirit drew post 10, but with potential scratches and a long run to the first turn, the wide draw shouldn’t be a major issue.

The other races on Million Preview Day came up with good, solid fields. Eleven horses were entered in the both the Stars and Stripes and Arlington Handicap, though Vertiformer and Joinem are cross-entered in both spots. Trainer David Carroll said Joinem is more likely to run in the Stars and Stripes. The Modesty Handicap got the shortest field among the graded stakes, with eight horses slated to run.

Willcox Inn not ready for return

Willcox Inn was at one point considered a possible starter in the Arlington Handicap, but trainer Mike Stidham has elected to find a different spot for Willcox Inn’s 2012 debut.

A 4-year-old, Willcox Inn won the Arlington Classic and the American Derby here last summer before finishing fourth in the Secretariat. He won the Hawthorne Derby in the fall, but finished eighth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in his final start at 3.

Willcox Inn has been posting steady works since early June, but Stidham said the Arlington Handicap came up too quickly.

“We’re looking for some other spot,” Stidham said. “He’s training great, but I just don’t have quite enough in him to go a mile and a quarter in a graded stakes first time back.”

Also passing on Saturday’s stakes at Arlington is Hammer’s Terror, who Stidham is sending back to Woodbine for the $150,000 Toronto Cup on Saturday rather than trying the American Derby. Hammer’s Terror won the Charlie Barley Stakes at Woodbine in his most recent start.

Stidham still has horses for two of Saturday’s stakes, with Upperline as one of the favorites in the Modesty and Workin for Hops trying 1 1/2 miles in the Stars and Stripes.

Feels Like Flying back on turf

Friday’s card includes several good races, among them a third-level turf-sprint allowance and a second-level turf-route allowance, but the race of the day, in terms of gambling intrigue, has to be the eighth.

A one-mile grass race for second-level Illinois-bred allowance horses that drew a full field of 12, race 8 brims with betting possibilities, not the least of which is the return to turf of Feels Like Flying. Competent on dirt and synthetic surfaces, Feels Like Flying, a Christine Janks-trained 3-year-old, turned in an eye-catching performance winning an open first-level allowance race here Sept. 17 in what remains the only turf start of his career.