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Aug 17, 2012

Up the Backstretch: McGaughey and Stidham after first Million

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

(Sports Network) - Two of America's leading trainers have their sights set on winning their first Arlington Million on Saturday. Hall of Fame member Shug McGaughey and Mike Stidham would like to add this prestigious turf event to their respective resumes.

McGaughey, a 2004 Hall of Fame inductee, and Stidham are quite familiar with Arlington Park. In fact, McGaughey was there when the idea of running the Million was first presented.

"I'm dating myself with this, but I was there for the first one, and I think it's a great race," McGaughey said Tuesday. "I was training at Arlington that summer and they said, 'We're going to run a million-dollar race,' and that was the craziest thing I ever heard. It would be a nice race for me or anyone else to win."

Shug, whose real first name is Claude, will send out Boisterous in the 30th running of the 1 1/4 mile turf stakes. Stidham will saddle Willcox Inn, a four-time winner at Arlington Park.

"He's kind of established himself as a graded stakes horse," Stidham said about Willcox Inn who is making his second 2012 start in the Million. "but we hope he takes the next step in Grade I company. The time off did him well. He came back better mentally, and with a race under his belt I think he's ready to run his 'A' race."

Owned by Lael and All In Stables, Willcox Inn came back from his eight month vacation to win an allowance on July 22 at Arlington. It was his fourth time coming home a winner at the Chicagoland track in five starts.

The colt broke his maiden at first asking in Sept. 2010 at Arlington. As a three-year-old Willcox Inn won the Arlington Classic and American Derby before finishing fourth in Arlington's Secretariat Stakes in an attempt to sweep the track's "Mid-America Triple."

"He's doing really well," Stidham said on Tuesday. "He came out of the (Saturday) work great and will gallop up to the race."

Other key Arlington victories for Stidham include: Gran Estrano winning the Washington Park Handicap (2009-10), Tizaqueena in the 2010 Arlington Matron, Upperline winning the 2010 Arlington Oaks and Working for Hops in the 2010 American Derby.

McGaughey has had one actual starter in the Million. He saddled Good Reward to an eighth-place finish in 2005 behind Powerscourt on a yielding course. The Hall of Fame trainer had to scratch Lure in 1993 because of soft ground.

"Lure was the morning line favorite, but he didn't favor soft turf, and when I got there that day it had been raining as hard as it could all day, so we had to scratch," McGaughey said. "Good Reward didn't like the softer turf either, but Boisterous would like it. Soft would be fine with us.

"A little bit of give would help. It was hard in the (Grade I) Manhattan, and (Boisterous) finished fast, but he doesn't have quite the same kick when it's hard. It doesn't have to be soft, but we want a little bit of give."

Boisterous, part of the Phipps Stable, was second in the Arlington Handicap to Rahystrada on July 14. On June 9 in the Manhattan at Belmont Park he rallied to finish third to Desert Blanc. The five-year-old won the Fort Marcy at Belmont Park on May 5 and has a chance to surpass $1 million in career earnings by winning the Arlington Million.

"Boisterous had a nice work (on Monday). He seems to be coming into the race good; he'll be a factor," noted McGaughey.

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