HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018) – Chris Wilkins’ Wilbo, winner of Ellis Park’s Don Bernhardt last summer, got the early jump on even-money favorite Ivan Fallunovalot for a second straight race and drew off to a two-length triumph Saturday over the two-time King Cotton winner in Oaklawn Park’s 68th renewal of the $125,000 sprint stakes.
The 6-year-old Wilbo, trained throughout his career by Kentucky-based Chris Hartman, now has won three of his last five races, starting with the Don Bernhardt, and four of his last seven.
“It feels great” said Hartman, who had finished second in four consecutive King Cottons with Alsvid. “We’ve been beat by some real good horses in this race, and we beat a good field today. It felt good. He kicked really big today. David (Cabrera) put an excellent ride on him. He sat to the outside and when he called on him, he went on. He was loaded today. I was glad to see him get by them.”
Wilbo and Ivan Fallunovalot, who broke slowly, raced in fifth and sixth place, respectively, early as St. Joe Bay led the field through fractions of :21.78 and :44.83 for the first half mile. Cabrera, the meet-leading jockey, guided the eventual winner four wide into the stretch. When the jockey called on his mount, Wilbo responded by drawing clear to win in 1:09.85 over a fast track. Recount, who had pressed the early pace, held on for third.
“This is a very, very special horse,” Cabrera said. “The first time I rode him, Chris gave me instructions on how the horse was. I listened to him and I rode him just exactly the way he told me. I think that helped me a lot, because he said he just h as one kick and it’s not very far. He said to wait as long as I could and then cut him loose. He’s a really nice horse, and I am happy that Chris let me ride him. I’m very happy.”
The gelded Wilbo (who like Horse of the Year Gun Runner is a chestnut son of Candy Ride, albeit without a future stallion career) improved his record to 9-3-6 in 24 starts and earnings to $465,681. Wilbo, however, is 9 for 19 on a fast track, going 0 for 5 on grass.