02/04/2010 12:00AM

Win Willy overshadows previous Essex champs


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Win Willy could meet the last three winners of the $100,000 Essex Handicap on Saturday at Oaklawn. Prom Shoes and Spotsgone, who have taken the last two runnings, are back, while 2007 winner Jonesboro is also entered in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Jonesboro, the 120-pound highweight, is cross-entered in Friday's $50,000 King Cotton at six furlongs.

Win Willy is the probable favorite off his stellar comeback in an Oaklawn allowance Jan. 21. He rolled to a 2 1/2-length win while making his first start in blinkers, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100. Trainer Mac Robertson said earlier this week that the horse has trained so strongly since the race that he was leaning toward running him in the Essex rather than waiting for the Grade 3, $150,000 Razorback here March 6, which was the original plan for Win Willy.

Jinks Fires has two capable horses in speedster Spotsgone and closer Prom Shoes. Spotsgone ran a powerful race last out in the $125,000 Delta Downs Mile on Dec. 4, finishing a close third after setting the pace over a wet, tiring track, all the while under pressure from multiple sprint stakes winner Ez Dreamer.

"I thought he ran very well," Fires said. "Everything had been coming from behind. He hung on tough."

Jon Court has the mount on Spotsgone. Corey Nakatani will ride Prom Shoes, who is making his first start since finishing fifth in an allowance at Churchill Downs on May 24.

"We took a little chip out of his knee last summer and he's come back really, really good," Fires said. "He's worked very good the last couple of times. I think he'll be tight enough."

Jonesboro's status will be determined by the weather, said his trainer, Randy Morse. Oaklawn's track was listed as sloppy for the card here Thursday.

"We want to run Friday, but if it's wet, he's not going to run," Morse said of the King Cotton.

Morse said if Jonesboro scratches from the King Cotton, a decision will then be made on the Essex. Because of freezing temperatures, Jonesboro has missed some training and Morse has wanted to sprint the horse, a stakes winner at one turn, before sending him back to his usual two turns.

The field of nine also includes Fair Grounds shippers Ready Set and Glamour Guy.