02/11/2011 5:07PM

Win Willy ready for Essex Stakes at Oaklawn

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Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Win Willy comes into the Essex off a neck win in the $75,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn on Jan. 16.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Even though inclement weather has kept trainer Mac Robertson from achieving as much as he wanted to physically with Win Willy heading into Sunday’s $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park, he has been able to do some things to keep the horse on his game mentally.

Oaklawn, which lost six straight cards of racing from Feb. 3 through Friday due to winter weather, also had its training schedule interrupted. Last week, horses were unable to get on the track from Wednesday through Friday.

“Obviously, you’d like to have a half-mile or five-eighths work or something like that,” Robertson said. “But I’m comfortable with running the horse. We were able to track Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and we got to go stand in the gate. We’ll also school him in the paddock [Saturday]. So, we’re getting the mental things done.

“To me, once they’re running, the mental is more important than the physical – other than I’d like to gallop, obviously. But the other horses he’s running against haven’t been able to gallop either, so I think it’s fair.”

Robertson said there has been one significant upside to the downtime for Win Willy. He’s been able to relax without the bustle of afternoon racing at Oaklawn.

“He likes to lay down and nap, and it’s been good napping,” he said.

Win Willy is highweighted at 123 pounds for the Essex, which had been originally scheduled for Feb. 5. He is a Grade 2 winner of more than $550,000 and comes into the 1 1/16-mile race off a neck win in the $75,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn on Jan. 16.

Win Willy overcame a slow pace and a wide trip to edge Stachys, the $150,000 Zia Park Derby winner in December who will be part of the six-horse field Sunday. Cliff Berry has the mount on Win Willy, who drew post 5.

Kate’s Main Man set the pace in the Fifth Season and finished a close third. As for the recent missed training, it’s not worked against the horse, trainer Randy Morse said.

“I don’t feel it’s an issue,” said Morse, who leads the standings at Oaklawn. “I don’t know about everybody else’s horse. But my horse is a light horse and doesn’t take a lot of training. I don’t feel like it’s set him back at all.”

Calvin Borel has the mount from post 4.

The field also includes Sky’s the Limit, a sharp allowance winner last month at Oaklawn.