08/19/2010 3:19PM

Paddy O'Prado stands in Workin for Hops's way in Secretariat

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Paddy O'Prado, who counts the Colonial Turf Cup (above) among his victories, will be pre-entered in both the BC Classic and Turf.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Workin for Hops will try to pull off a rare sweep of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple when he starts in the Grade 1 $400,000 Secretariat on Million Day here Saturday.

Workin for Hops won the Arlington Classic in May and the American Derby here in July. Between those two races came a trip to Virginia for the Colonial Turf Cup – and there’s the rub.

Paddy O’Prado ran right past Workin for Hops in the stretch run of the Colonial Turf Cup and was at least as impressive winning the Virginia Derby in his next start. Paddy O’Prado was shipped to Arlington this week and presents an imposing barrier between Workin for Hops and a Secretariat victory.

“For us to win, we need him not to run his best and for our horse to run his very best,” said Mike Stidham, trainer of Workin for Hops.

Paddy O’Prado, owned by Donegal Racing and trained by Dale Romans, has danced many dances already in 2010. His campaign started at Gulfstream Park, where he won the Palm Beach on turf, then moved on to Kentucky, where he was second in the Bluegrass and a closing third of 20 in the Kentucky Derby.

“He kicked so hard over the wet-fast Churchill surface I almost ran over the eventual Derby winner,” jockey Kent Desormeaux said. “He made four moves in the Derby.”

Paddy O’Prado never fired in the Preakness, finishing sixth by 10 lengths, either bouncing off his Derby run or struggling with a Pimlico racing surface Desormeaux termed “dry and sandy.” Back on turf in Virginia, Paddy O’Prado returned to his real comfort zone, grass racing.

“He’s more comfortable because he’s not being pelted by sand in the face,” Desormeaux said. “He’s just fluid and comfortable. He’s got a super turn of foot.”

Paddy O’Prado, who breaks from the rail in the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat, rallied into a moderate pace in the Virginia Derby. The pace Saturday figured quick before front-running Two Notch Road, one of seven entered in the race, was withdrawn with a fever. The early scratch could leave Workin for Hops, drawn on the outside, alone on the lead. Francisco Torres picked up the mount on Workin for Hops in the American Derby when Robby Albarado had transportation trouble the day of the race, and Torres gets a return call from Stidham and owner Estrorace LLC.

“Cisco got along very well with the horse,” Stidham said. “He’s a pace rider.”

English invader Wigmore Hall could have a say in the outcome. Wigmore Hall beat 18 older horses in an important 1 5/16-mile handicap in July and has won three times at 1 1/4 miles and farther. Wigmore Hall had a smooth Aug. 6 Secretariat prep, and trainer Michael Bell said he thinks American-style racing will suit his horse.

“This horse has good tactical speed,” Bell said. “He’s very handy, very nippy. Paddy O’Prado is worth a lot of respect, but it’s impossible to know the form lines across the two countries.”

Mister Marti Gras rallied from sixth at the stretch call to finish second to Workin for Hops in the American Derby and has the look of an improving horse who could sneak into the trifecta. Dean’s Kitten was fifth in the Colonial Turf Cup before finishing an even third in the American Derby. Cherokee Lord, who has a touch of speed, rounds out the field.