05/26/2011 2:15PM

Arlington: Willcox Inn starts Triple bid


ARLINGTON  HEIGHTS, Ill. - Willcox Inn, trainer Mike Stidham's starter in Saturday's $100,000 Arlington Classic, remains eligible for a first-level allowance race, though his lone victory came in his career debut last summer at Arlington, where he beat eventual Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Willcox Inn confirmed his quality with a third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and he has yet to get a truly fair shake in 2011. He chased talented Great Mills through a false pace in the 7 1/2-furlong Grindstone Stakes in his 3-year-old debut, finishing a closing second, and had some trouble while in heavy traffic en route to an eighth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes over Keeneland’s Polytrack on April 16.

“The game plan is to get him back on the grass, where I think he’s most comfortable,” said Stidham, who adds blinkers to Willcox Inn’s equipment package Saturday in the 1 1/16-mile Classic, first leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple. “We’ve always been planning on the three stakes at Arlington. That’s been our goal since last year.”

Suntracer, fourth behind Willcox Inn last year in that same maiden race that included Animal Kingdom, rides a two-race turf winning streak into the Classic for trainer Chris Block. Crimson Knight, a close second in the Tampa Bay Derby, is 2 for 2 on grass. Forbidden Forest narrowly lost to Suntracer last out at Keeneland. Swagger Jack fell too far behind in the early stages of the May 6 American Turf, in which he finished fifth. Pulpitarian is a winner over the Arlington turf course.