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updated: 7/9/2011 10:20 PM

Willcox Inn only 1 win from taking Mid-America Triple

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  • Willcox Inn, with Robby Albarado onboard, wins Saturday's American Derby by 4 lengths at Arlington Park.

    Willcox Inn, with Robby Albarado onboard, wins Saturday's American Derby by 4 lengths at Arlington Park.
    Doug Clark/Four Footed Fotos


Co-owner Marette Farrell says Saturday's American Derby champion Willcox Inn is far from an adult.

"He's just a boy," said Farrell, who picked out the 3-year-colt for the All In Stable at the 2009 Lexington, Ky., Fasig-Tipton sale. "He is still trying to figure things out."

The son of Harlan's Holiday sure has things figured out at Arlington, where he was a 4-length winner in the Grade II $200,000 turf event.

Willcox Inn is 1 win from becoming only the fourth horse to win Arlington Park's Mid-America Triple. In 1997 Honor Glide became the first to do it since Buckpasser in 1966.

The All In Stable consists of trainer Michael Stidham, assistant Hilary Pridham, Farrell, John Adger, Jack Hodge and the Three Kings group (St. Viator High School graduates Al and Ron Lepinsky and Marty Nixon).

"It's fantastic," said Ron Lepinsky, who now lives in Western Springs. "Hilary and Mike are the best. We've (Three Kings Stable) been with them for 10 years. They are great at what they do, but we are all better friends than racing partners."

Willcox Inn came home under jockey Robby Albarado in a stakes-record time of 1:54.56 for the 1 3/16ths-mile distance.

"I was reading about the American Derby (Friday night)," Al Lepinsky of Glen Ellyn added. "Citation, Buckpasser and Damascus all won it. It's a fantastic race.

"Boy, if we could win the Secretariat (final leg of Mid-America Triple on Aug. 13), I've always dreamed of winning the Arlington Million and seeing our silks on the wall in the west end of building where you come in. But I know that's looking way ahead."

Willcox Inn was bought for $50,000.

"Hilary and Mike were in control of getting all of their top entities into this partnership," said Marty Nixon, a 1979 St. Viator graduate. "We are so glad to be part of it."

Arlington Handicap:

Veteran Dan Peitz is in his second full year training at Arlington Park.

And for the second year in a row, the Little Rock, Ark., native plans to saddle Tajaaweed in the Arlington Million.

One year after finishing third in the Arlington Handicap, Tajaaweed made the winning move in the final eighth mile for a 1-length victory.

"It's amazing we were here again," said Peitz, who trains a dozen horses for Shadwell Stable in Lexington, Ky. "Now we're looking to go to the Million. Five weeks is perfect. It's not too quick to come back."

No Arlington Handicap champ has ever won the Million. Tajaaweed was sixth in the race last year. Former Daily Herald handicapper Ray Hallett was on hand to toast the winning team after Saturday's race.

"I've seen a lot of Arlington Handicaps, but never better than today," he said.

Tajaaweed was eighth after a half-mile in the 1-mile event under jockey James Graham.

"After our third-place finish in our last race (Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill), James told me he moved him too soon." Peitz said.

"Today, I waited and it paid off," Graham said.

The winning payoff was $85,000 on Saturday, lifting his career bankroll to $252,104.

Tajaaweed toted 118 pounds. Racing secretary Chris Polzin joined the toast.

"I guess I didn't put enough weight on your horse," he joked to Peitz.

Bettors were able to laugh Saturday if they played the No. 4 in the three graded stakes races. The 4-4-4 pick three returned 65.80.

Guest hosts:

Former Daily Herald turf writer Ray Hallett, Northern Illinois first-year football coach Dave Doeren and sports reporter Dave Kaplan of WGN 720-AM each presented a toast to the winning teams of Saturday's three graded stakes.

Did you know?

Willcox Inn defeated Kentucky Derby champ Animal Kingdom by 2 lengths in both horse's career debuts last Sept. 18 at Arlington Park.