07/24/2012 4:04PM

Arlington Park: Willcox Inn will try a graded stakes next

Four-Footed Fotos
Willcox Inn showed a burst of speed in his comeback win that pleased his trainer, Michael Stidham.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Options remain open for the second start of Willcox Inn’s 2012 campaign, trainer Mike Stidham said Tuesday, but what’s certain is that Willcox Inn will step back into graded turf stakes competition in his next run. And from the appearance of his comeback race this past Sunday at Arlington, his progress should be worth following.

Making his first start since late November, Willcox Inn won a high-level allowance race by a half-length, but it was the manner of his victory, not the margin, that impressed. Knifing between rivals past the three-sixteenths pole, Willcox Inn zipped his final quarter-mile in a tick or two more than 23 seconds while outkicking capable Lil Bit o Fun,

“He’s never had a burst quite like that, I don’t think,” Stidham said. “When he broke his maiden and beat Animal Kingdom he did kind of fly home, and I guess in the Hawthorne Derby he did make an immediate impact with a big move, but that turn of foot he showed the other day, that was a little different.”

Willcox Inn was stretched as far as 1 1/4 miles during his 2011 campaign, but after watching Sunday’s one-mile race, Stidham has started wondering if Willcox Inn might better suit races up to about 1 1/8 miles. Considering that, a spot like the Bernard Baruch on Sept. 1 at Saratoga might make sense. The Arlington Million, at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 18, hasn’t been totally ruled out, but might not be the ideal spot for Willcox Inn, Stidham said.

“As much as we’d like to stay right here and run him out of his stall, I’m not sure that race makes the best sense,” said Stidham.

The mare Upperline, however, remains a likely Aug. 18 participant in the Beverly D. Stakes, according to Stidham. Upperline, fifth in the 2011 Beverly D., finished third in the Modesty Handicap here on July 14.

“I think that’s where we’re leaning,” Stidham said of the Beverly D. “She came out of the race well, and she’s got five weeks from the Modesty.”

Stidham also said he plans to send Hammers Terror to the $150,000-added Mystic Lake Derby, a one-mile grass race July 28 at Canterbury. Hammers Terrror won the one-mile Charlie Barley on June 23 at Woodbine but could only finish fourth there July 14 when trying nine furlongs in the Toronto Cup.

“A mile is as far as he wants to go,” said Stidham.

Stidham leads Catalano by one win

Stidham, meanwhile, holds a narrow lead in the Arlington trainer standings through races last weekend, his 25 wins at the meet one better than Wayne Catalano and three more than Larry Rivelli.

The jockey standings also have tightened up at the top, with Cisco Torres holding three-win advantage, 55-52, over James Graham entering this week’s racing. Torres took off his mounts last Thursday and Friday, citing fatigue and dehydration, according to his agent, Allan Plever, and failed to ride a winner after returning to action Saturday and Sunday. Torres was named on just one horse for Thursday’s program but was scheduled for five mounts on Friday’s card.

Rosemary Homeister Jr., spending her first meet at Arlington, had a strong weekend and moved into third in the rider standings with 34 victories.