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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Willcox Inn Tepid Favorite in Hawthorne Derby


The 47th running of the Grade III TVG Hawthorne Derby anchors a strong Saturday card at the Chicago track. There were 33 nominations for the race, and connections of 10 chose to enter.

This will be the first time over the local course for the entire field. The race will go nine furlongs on the turf.

Arguably, the one to beat in here is Willcox Inn. By Harlan’s Holiday out of the Gone West mare De Aar, Willcox Inn has yet to win outside of Illinois, but last year he was third in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity on Keeneland’s synthetic track and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Willcox Inn started off this year with a second-place finish in a Fair Grounds overnight stakes race, followed by a lackluster effort in the Grade I Blue Grass, again on Keeneland's synthetic.

Trainer Michael Stidham added blinkers after that start, and Willcox Inn headed back to the grass and promptly won the $100,000 Arlington Classic. He followed that victory with another in the Grade II American Derby, stamping himself as one of the top 3-year-old turf runners in the country. He finished fourth in the Grade I Secretariat in his most recent start. Regular rider Robbie Albarado will be back in the irons. Oddsmaker Jim Miller has laid him as the 5-2 favorite.

Breathless Storm, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has been installed as the second choice in the morning line at 7-2. Coming off two straight victories, the last in the $101,000 Jersey Derby at Monmouth, Breathless Storm has shown some improvement in every start since coming to this country. He raced in Great Britain as a 2-year-old. Interestingly, this son of Storm Cat faced future Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in his first start in the U S. and finished fourth.

Suntracer could very well be the sleeper in this race. He finished fourth in an allowance optional claiming race in his last, but that was a stakes-quality field, and he was taking on very tough older company. After taking the lead, he wasn’t able to sustain his drive. In his two previous races, he finished second to Willcox Inn in both the American Classic and The American Derby. He has been pegged at 6-1.

--Edited Hawthorne release


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