Updated on 05/17/2012 6:54PM

Delaware Park: Win Willy needs pace help in Joe French Memorial

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Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Win Willy will be hoping for a contested pace in Saturday's $50,000 Joe French Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park.

Win Willy, a Grade 2 winner in his last start of 2011 but beaten nearly a combined 20 lengths in his first two comeback races this season, will try to regain his form in Saturday’s $50,000 Joe French Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park.

Although the 6-year-old Win Willy owns back class, as a deep closer he will be at the mercy of the pacesetters in the 1 1/16-mile Joe French, and the race flow doesn’t appear to set up in his favor.

Aside from Cherokee Artist, who was cross-entered in Friday’s Pimlico Special, the only horse among the other six in the Joe French lineup who likes to run up front early is Edgewater. He changes barns from the white-hot connections of Jamie Ness and Midwest Thoroughbreds to the Maryland-based Donald Barr after being claimed out of a neck victory in a third-level optional $32,000 claimer at Pimlico a month ago.

Win Willy, trained by Mac Robertson, earned a career-high 107 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in April 2011, then was off for 11 months. In his two races this year, Win Willy was last of six in the Grade 3 Razorback and seventh of eight in a paceless Oaklawn Handicap.

On the plus side, Win Willy has run well in both of his previous starts at Delaware, finishing second of four in the Bud Delp Memorial and winning the Brandywine, both in fall 2010.

“It is a logical spot," Robertson said. "It is a step back obviously from the Oaklawn Handicap, but it is also a step back he needs to take.  He really got nothing out of his first race back this year.  But in his second race, he ran hard and just kind of got outrun.  But he ran hard, and I think he is fit and ready now.”

The horse to beat may be the 4-year-old Tech Fall, who comes from the same connections – trainer Tony Dutrow and partners Michael Dubb and Mike Caruso’s Bethlehem Stables – as the Grade 1-winning filly Grace Hall. Tech Fall, 2 for 2 as a 3-year-old at Delaware last season, returned from an eight-month layoff to win his first start of 2012 with a 96 Beyer Speed Figure and nearly matched it six weeks later when he got a 95 for finishing third in a 1 1/8-mile overnight stakes at Aqueduct.