07/09/2011 8:28PM

Arlington Park:Willcox Inn cruises in American Derby

Four-Footed Fotos
Willcox Inn, with Robby Albarado riding, wins the American Derby.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Willcox Inn is two-thirds of the way to a sweep of Arlington's Mid-America Triple, and leg 2, Saturday's American Derby, was no contest.

Sweeping to the front more than a half-mile from home, Willcox Inn held a four-length lead at the stretch call and a four-length lead at the finish, easily holding clear the stretch run of second-place Suntracer. Derby Kitten finished third, Chalice fourth. Willcox Inn, who paid $6.20 to win as the favorite, was timed in 1:54.56 for 1 3/16 miles on firm, fast-playing turf, a stakes record. The performance figures to make Willcox Inn one of the top choices in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes here Aug. 13.

Willcox Inn won the May 28 Arlington Classic, the first race in Arlington's series of 3-year-old grass races, by 2 1/2lengths, but that was more of grind-it-out type run over a wet turf course Willcox Inn might not have favored.

"He won over the softer turf even though he didn't love it," said trainer Mike Stidham. "Today, he loved it."

The Grade 2, $200,000 American Derby, unfolded somewhat strangely thanks to Zoebear, who essentially ran off in the early going. Willcox Inn raced in third as Zoebear opened a nine-length lead down the backstretch, passing the half-mile in 47.55 seconds before suddenly slowing his pace. In less than a furlong Zoebear's big lead had evaporated and Willcox Inn made the front, staying on impressively the last half-mile. But was the early part of Willcox Inn's American Derby that struck jockey Robby Albarado.

"I was doing it so easy that first half-mile," Albarado said. "The best part was the way he settled."

Willcox Inn, who beat Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in his career debut on Arlington Polytrack last summer, now has won three of seven starts, and is 2-1-1 from 4 turf races. Owned by eight partners, Willcox Inn is a son of Harlan's Holiday out of De Aar bred by Dr. John Chandler and purchased as a yearling for $50,000.