Local hope Willcox Inn will give it a shot in Arlington Million
By Tina Akouris Sun-Times Media August 15, 2012 10:14PM
Updated: September 17, 2012 1:09PM
There’s no aspect of the 30th running of the Arlington Million that Marty Nixon hasn’t enjoyed.
The Palatine native is the owner, along with Lael Stable and All In Stable, of Willcox Inn, who drew the seventh post position during the unveiling Wednesday of the Million lineup. Willcox Inn is 12-1 to win the 11/4-mile race on the turf Saturday at Arlington Park’s International Festival of Racing.
It’s the first horse Nixon has entered in the Million. In 2011, Willcox Inn, a 4-year-old, finished fifth in the Secretariat Stakes during the Festival of Racing. Willcox Inn won his season-opening race July 22 at Arlington.
“We are jacked up about [the Million],” Nixon said. “These are world-class horses, and the best in the world come for this, so it’s not easy. We thought being a local horse here that 12-1 was about right, but we think we’ll run better than our odds.”
Willcox Inn’s trainer, Palatine-based Michael Stidham, said post position doesn’t necessarily matter for the Million — even though he would’ve preferred a spot closer to the middle of the 11-horse field.
‘‘Anything in the middle I would have been happy with — from the 3 to the 8 would’ve been OK — so 7 is great,” Stidham said.
At 4-1 odds and starting in the second position, Boisterous is considered the Million favorite. Afsare (6-1) and Little Mike (6-1) are bunched together at the third and fourth positions, respectively. The third horse going off at 6-1 odds is Treasure Beach in the sixth spot.
Stidham also has a horse in the $750,000 Beverly D. in Upperline, who drew the fourth post position and is at 20-1 odds to win the 13/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares. Upperline finished fifth in the 2011 Beverly D.
“Both races are long-distance races where the early part of the race isn’t that important,” Stidham said. “You want to get [a good post] position, but you can get it at any position because no one is gunning for the lead. We’re happy with the 4, and she’s doing great, and we’re ready to go.”
Stidham said there’s a concern that Upperline might have peaked already. Upperline won the Grade III Arlington Matron on Polytrack and the Grade III Bewitch on grass at Keeneland.
‘‘Early in the year, she had a couple of really good races, and then we did some traveling,” Stidham said. “She might have hit a little bit of a peak and then came down, so we hope that maybe this will be the rebound to one of her better races of the year.”