04/09/2011 7:52PM

Oaklawn Handicap sets up perfectly for Win Willy's rally

Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Cliff Berry guides Win Willy to an off-the-pace victory in the Oaklawn Handicap.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.- Pace makes Win Willy’s race, and when his trainer, Mac Robertson, saw the fractional time for the opening half-mile of the Grade 2, $350,000 Oaklawn Handicap, it made his day.

“I really thought when they went in 46 and change, the way the horse had been doing, that we had the winner,” said Robertson.  

Win Willy put in his patented closing kick to overtake 2-5 favorite Misremembered and won the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap by a length. Misremembered held second, while it was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third to Winslow Homer.

The Oaklawn Cap was the first of nine stakes that will be run over the final week of the meet as part of the annual Racing Festival of the South. The cluster of big races are worth a cumulative $2.7 million, with the richest the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 16.

Win Willy ($12) had been a victim of pace in most of his races this meet at Oaklawn, failing to get the kind of early fractions he needed to flatter his late run. But things were different in the Oaklawn, when Winslow Homer shot to the lead through an opening half-mile in 46.81 seconds. Winslow Homer continued to show the way through six furlongs in 1:10.82, pushed along by Double Threat and Misremembered. Win Willy and regular rider Cliff Berry advanced while Misremembered took the lead in the stretch. In the final sixteenth, Win Willy closed with determination to cover the distance on a track rated fast in 1:48.82.

Misremembered came into the Oaklawn off a smashing win in the $80,000 Santana Mile at Santa Anita, when he covered the distance in 1:33.40 in his first start since taking the 2010 running of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Calvin Borel rode the horse for the first time, and said he expected a quick pace Saturday.

“I thought they were going to go pretty good, that’s why I let them go and laid a little off of it,” he said. “Then I thought I had them when I wanted. I just got outrun.”

Robertson said Win Willy would be freshened, then point for some stakes a little later in the year at Delaware Park.

 “If he runs well, we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup in some type of race,” he said.

Win Willy earned $210,000 for his win in the Oaklawn, a race he finished second in a year ago. He has now won 7 of 18 starts for Jer-Mar Stables.

Attendance ontrack Saturday was 23,197.

The festival continues Sunday at Oaklawn with the running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Fantasy.