Updated on 09/22/2011 8:54PM

Delaware Park: Willcox Inn figures tough on soft turf in Kent Stakes

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Willcox Inn could have an edge if Saturday’s Grade 3 Kent Stakes stays on soft turf at Delaware Park.

Mother Nature could very well dictate whether Saturday’s Grade 3 Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds remains on Delaware Park’s grass course or gets moved to the main track.

Showers throughout the week and a forecast calling for the possibility of heavy rain on race day almost assuredly mean the $250,000, 1 1/8-mile Kent will either be contested on soft turf or mud.

Non-firm turf shouldn’t bother morning-line favorite Willcox Inn, who won the $100,000 Arlington Classic over yielding ground almost four months ago. But it could cause a headache for handicappers if the race is run over a sloppy or muddy main track.

Several horses, most notably Concealed Identify, the second-place finisher in the Grade 3 Pegasus, have no grass experience whatsoever and might benefit from a surface switch.


The only horse with a win over a wet main track is locally based Wild Jacob, who won a six-furlong sprint at Prairie Meadows over a track rated good with a modest 70 Beyer Speed Figure in April.

Based on pedigree, the best candidates to excel on sloppy or muddy footing are Concealed Identity, winner of the Federico Tesio at Pimlico, and Fire With Fire, 2 for 3 on turf after losing his first three starts on fast dirt.

On soft turf, the advantage would shift to Willcox Inn, who won the first two legs of the Mid-America Triple at Arlington, along with Casino Host and King Congie.

Since adding blinkers three starts ago, Willcox Inn has steadily improved his Beyer Speed Figures from 87 to 99, with the career top coming when he finished fourth going 1 ¼ miles in the Grade 1 Secretariat.

“The first time we noticed a real difference was when we put the blinkers on him, and that was when he won the Classic at Arlington,” trainer Mike Stidham said. “The blinkers seemed to get him to focus a little better and have him a little closer to the pace. After that adjustment, he seemed to really move forward.”

Casino Host missed by a head over a turf course rated good in a first-level allowance, but was fifth in two starts over yielding ground, including the Grade 1 Secretariat last time out. King Congie won the Tropical Park Derby on New Year’s Day over good footing and makes the second start of his form cycle after rallying from ninth to get third in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga three weeks ago.

Rush Now and J W Blue, uncoupled entrants from the Tony Dutrow barn, are cross-entered in the Pennsylvania Derby and are expected to run in that race.