08/27/2013 1:48PM

Arlington: Washington Park Handicap best option for Willcox Inn

Tom Keyser
Willcox Inn's connections considered shipping him to Saratoga for the Bernard Baruch, but opted to keep him at Arlington Park for the Washington Park Handicap on Polytrack.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Willcox Inn won his only start on Arlington’s Polytrack, and rather than travel by van to Saratoga for the Bernard Baruch Stakes this weekend, a trip long contemplated by his connections, he will try to win another in the Washington Park Handicap here Saturday.

The local Polytrack victory came in Willcox Inn’s career debut on Sept. 18, 2010; finishing second in that 1 1/16-mile maiden race was a horse named Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, won the $10 million Dubai World Cup this year, but Willcox Inn still seeks his first victory of 2013.

Willcox Inn has run well enough to win three turf stakes, finish a troubled third in the Connally at Sam Houston and a close second in the Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds and in the Dixie at Pimlico. But rather than ship Willcox Inn to race for the third straight time this spring and summer, trainer Mike Stidham will run Willcox Inn out of his own stall Saturday.

“There was no plane to New York, and he would have to van 15 hours to get there,” Stidham said. “With the race here the same weekend, it seemed like the logical choice.”

Willcox Inn, a five-time winner with earnings of more than $850,000, raced two more times on Polytrack early in his career before switching exclusively to grass, finish third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at 2, and eighth the next spring in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, Willcox Inn’s last race without blinkers. Even off a ho-hum fifth in the United Nations last out, Willcox Inn figures to be favored over Mister Marti Gras and a handful of other foes in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile Washington Park.

E.P. Taylor among options for Ausus

Arlington-based trainer Dan Peitz is picking late-summer and autumn spots for a trio of stakes horses under his care, but plans remain fluid for the most accomplished of the three, Ausus.

The 4-year-old Ausus, one of the best runners yet produced by 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Invasor, enhanced her r é sum é with a third-place finish in the Beverly D., earning a Grade 1 placing in her second Grade 1 start. Beaten 1 1/2 lengths for second by Gifted Girl in a race dominated by English shipper Dank, Ausus confirmed the form of her clear victory in the Modesty Handicap here in July, but Peitz and Rick Nichols, vice president and general manager of Shadwell Farms, still are plotting their next move.

The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf has come up as a possibility, as has the Flower Bowl at Belmont, but perhaps the leading candidate for Ausus’s next start is the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on Oct. 27. That race took a $500,000 purse cut this season but still is worth a half-million dollars.

The 3-year-old Bashaar is headed to the Sept. 7 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, Peitz said. Bashaar most recently finished fourth in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, a performance that added luster when Palace Malice, Will Take Charge, and Moreno – the first three home in the Jim Dandy – all returned with good races in the Travers Stakes last weekend.

And finally, Najjaar, third in the $400,000 American St. Leger on Million Day, will be pointed to the $400,000 Kentucky Turf Cup on Sept. 14 at Kentucky Downs.

Nates Mineshaft physically fine

Multiple graded stakes winner Nates Mineshaft emerged from a 12th-place finish in the Arlington Million with heat behind a hock, but X-rays and a nuclear scan revealed no significant injury to the 6-year-old ridgling, and Nates Mineshaft is scheduled to return to training next week, trainer Anne Smith said.

Nates Mineshaft could race again here Sept. 21 in a $65,000 division of the Illinois Owners Stakes. Smith said the horse’s owners, the Windy Hill Farm of Pete and Peter Reiman, are eager to send him back to Fair Grounds, where Nates Mineshaft first came to prominence two winters ago.

Meanwhile, Windy Hill and Smith have come up with an apparently talented 2-year-old gelding named Whyruawesome. By Whywhywhy, Whyruawesome won his debut Aug. 16 in a seven-furlong Polytrack race, where he rallied from eighth after a troubled start, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 80. Whyruawesome, Smith said, will next race in the Sept. 7 Arlington-Washington Futurity.

Tamazula points to Lassie

La Tia, a solid fifth in the Beverly D., might make her next start in the $300,000 Canadian Stakes on Sept. 15 at Woodbine, trainer Armando de la Cerda said this week. But in the nearer term, de la Cerda and owner Salvador Hernandez have a horse for the Sept. 7 Arlington-Washington Lassie in the Two Step Salsa filly Tamazula.

A troubled third in her Aug. 1 debut, Tamazula beat well-regarded first-time starter Skipping by 3 1/2 lengths in a maiden race Saturday, her 5 1/2-furlong time of 1:04.87 producing a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. The colt Havana, who earned a 102 Beyer in a maiden race last week at Saratoga, is the only 2-year-old of either sex who has gotten a higher Beyer this year.

De la Cerda, a longtime assistant who went out on his own this season, continues to have a strong Arlington meeting, and through Aug. 25 had 18 winners here this summer.