03/04/2012 8:19PM

Santa Anita: Willyconker's connections hoping for invitation to Dubai

Benoit & Associates
Willyconker, winner of the Kilroe Mile, is under consideration for the Godolphin Mile and the Dubai Duty Free.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The phone cannot ring fast enough this week to satisfy trainer Doug O’Neill.

Following Willyconker’s upset win in Saturday’s $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, O’Neill and the partnership that owns the 5-year-old former claimer have aspirations of traveling to Dubai later this month. They are waiting for an invitation from Dubai officials.

“We haven’t heard anything,” O’Neill said on Sunday morning. “We had dreamed of going to Dubai.”

O’Neill is anxious to confirm plans for Willyconker, who held off a late threat from 4-5 favorite Mr. Commons to win the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile by a neck.

“We’re hoping now that he’s won the Kilroe Mile, he’d be on the radar,” O’Neill said of a potential Dubai trip.

O’Neill would consider Willyconker for the $1 million Godolphin Mile on a Tapeta Footings synthetic track, or the $5 million Dubai Duty Free over about 1 1/8 miles on turf. Those races are on the undercard of the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31.

Owned by Martin Gardner, David Kenney and Michael Viele, Willyconker has been a cash cow since being claimed for $40,000 last August. In seven subsequent starts, Willyconker has won four races – claiming races for $25,000 and $40,000, an optional claimer in which he could have been claimed for $62,500, and the Kilroe. During that span, he has earned $292,500.

O’Neill is also awaiting word whether Handsome Mike, third in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 18, will be invited to the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai on March 31.\

Jeranimo will get extended vacation

Jeranimo, fourth behind Willyconker in the Kilroe, has earned a vacation, trainer Mike Pender said.

Jeranimo finished 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner after racing in fourth and fifth for much of the race. A 5-year-old, Jeranimo won the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile last October and the Grade 2 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last November. In between those starts, he was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs.

The BC Mile at Santa Anita in November is Pender’s goal for the second half of Jeranimo.

“I’ll give him off until July,” Pender said. “I want a fresh horse who can peak in November.”

* Game On Dude, scratched from Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap in favor of the Dubai World Cup, worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 on Sunday. He is expected to remain in Southern California for two more weeks before being sent to the Middle East.

Rick Hulce More than 1 year ago
Let's hope that O'Neill gets the chance to show that his barn can ship and win, especially given the strict medication laws in Dubai. I wish him and his owners the best of luck.