11/14/2012 2:21PM

Hollywood Park: Willyconker back after lengthy break

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Willyconker (right) earns Grade 1 credentials winning the Frank Kilroe.

By the first of April, Willyconker had raced four times in 2012, won a Grade 1 race, and was worn out.

“He got a little weak on us and we needed to kick him out,” trainer Doug O’Neill said earlier this week.

Willyconker got his break. He returns to racing on Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park in a $56,000 allowance race over six furlongs on turf.

While O’Neill has hesitations about the distance, he expects a bright performance for Willyconker in advance of the 2012-13 meeting at Santa Anita.

“I think a mile is perfect for him, so this might be a little short for him,” O’Neill said. “He’s in dire need of some racing. He needs a clean trip and a good experience. We can have a real fun 2013 with him.”

Willyconker has won 7 of 21 starts and $366,960. He was claimed for $40,000 in August 2011 and is in the midst of his best season despite the seven-month layoff.

Earlier this year, Willyconker was second in an optional claimer and the Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes before winning the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita in a 10-1 upset on March 3. He made his final start of the spring in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap at Fair Grounds on April 1, finishing ninth of 10.

Following that race, O’Neill gave Willyconker a rest. He said the 5-year-old gelding did not require an operation. “He just needed time, and he wasn’t into the feed tub,” O’Neill said.

Last Sunday, O’Neill worked Willyconker five furlongs in 1:01. The same morning, officials with Hollywood Park’s racing office called O’Neill asking about Willyconker’s availability on Friday.

“I worked him and he worked fantastic,” O’Neill said.

Willyconker is part of a field of five, and he is by far the most accomplished runner this year in the field.

Canuletmedowneasy won a turf sprint at Del Mar in August, but was seventh in the Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

Circa’sgoldengear has won his last two starts, both in turf sprints, and is a major threat to Willyconker.

Clubhouse Ride won an optional claimer on turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. The speedy Ain’t No Other has lost 10 straight, but has been second five times this year, all in stakes.