HOT SPRINGS, AR – Chris Wilkins’ Wilbo scored his second stakes victory, and his second consecutive win, in Saturday’s $125,000 King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Off well from post 3 under David Cabrera, Wilbo stalked the early pace set by St. Joe Bay through initial fractions of :21.78 and :44.83. Bidding four-wide at the 1/4-pole, Wilbo took command shortly thereafter, then kicked clear to victory. The Chris Hartman trainee crossed first by 2 lengths in a final time of 1:09.85 for the 6-furlong dirt sprint.
“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 has 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 favored Ivan Fallunovalot, a two-time winner of this race in 2015 and 2016, made a bid at the same time as the winner but didn’t prove strong enough, holding onto second by a neck over Recount. Fourth went to Apprehender by a neck over a fading St. Joe Bay, with Royal Squeeze, Guns Loaded, and Prime Engine completing the order of finish.
Wilbo’s win pushed his record to 24-9-3-6 with career earnings of $470,681. The 6-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride gave Hartman his first King Cotton triumph after finishing second four times with Alsvid.
“It feels great,” Hartman said. “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 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 returned $10 to win, $3.80 to place, and $2.60 to show. Ivan Fallunovalot brought back $3.20 to place and $2.40 to show, while Recount paid $3.60 to show.