Minor upsets were the order of the day in early Kentucky Derby preps during the weekend.
Winslow Homer raced his way into Derby contention with a hard-won victory in Saturday's $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park while lightly regarded Ron the Greek upset the $100,000 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds.
With Ramon Dominguez aboard, Winslow Homer was bumped at the start of the Holy Bull, raced off the pace and was forced to wait for running room at the top of the stretch. When he finally got room, the Kentucky-bred Unbridled's Song colt shot through and got home first by 3/4 length over the favorite, Jackson Bend.
Winslow Homer, owned by Fox Hill Farms and trained by Tony Dutrow, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.97. He was making his first stakes start and returning from a short vacation after taking an allowance event at Philadelphia Park in November.
Dutrow, figuring Winslow Homer needed more distance, said he "came here today without any particular expectations, just hoping he would keep his place in line" toward the Florida Derby. "Naturally, I have to be very pleased with the way he ran. We'll look ahead now to the Fountain of Youth if all goes well.
"He's actually bred for two turns," Dutrow said. "The goal is the Kentucky Derby."
In New Orleans, Ron the Greek raced at the back of the 10-horse field during the first half mile of the LeComte, came way wide around the leaders entering the stretch and ran down pace-setting favorite Maximus Ruler to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Letsgetitonmon was along for third.
Ron the Greek, a Florida-bred colt by Full Mandate, ran the 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:40.09. James Graham rode for trainer Tom Amoss.
The colt now has three wins from four starts. His only loss was a fourth-place finish in his last outing, the $200,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park in Oklahoma. In that race, his closing kick was only good enough for fourth.
"We really thought he had a good chance today," Amoss said. "For the horseplayers that like to examine the horses in the paddock, he really does look the part. He's a very, very good-looking horse. He's a one-run horse, period. Let's hope he always has some pace up front."
Amoss said he hopes to bring Ron the Greek back in the next step along the Louisiana Derby trail, the Feb. 20 Risen Star Stakes. That event is likely to attract some of the more highly regarded Derby Prospects wintering in Louisiana.
Also among the 3-year-olds:
-- Lentenor, a full brother to ill-fated 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, scored his first career win Wednesday at Gulfstream Park. Making his third start, the Dynaformer colt was send to the lead at the top of the stretch by jockey John Velazquez and won by 3 1/2 lengths, finishing 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:41.02. In his earlier starts, Lentenor was third at Keeneland and second at Aqueduct. Winning trainer Michael Matz said he doesn't know where Lentenor will start next. "Naturally, with a horse like this there are thoughts of a Triple Crown race. But it's much too early to say whether he'd be far enough along to consider something like that."
-- Chuchuluco pressed the pace in Saturday's $125,000 Pepsi Cola Stakes for New Mexico-breds at Sunland Park, took over near the quarter pole and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Rig's Runner was second and Huntin the Trash finished third. Chuchuluco, a gray son of Devon Lane out of the In Excess mare Lady in Danger, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.92.
On the Kentucky Oaks trail:
Rose Catherine ran off with Sunday's $60,000 Sweet Life Stakes at Santa Anita, leading from the early jumps and then drawing clear at the end to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Tanda was second and City to City finished third. Rose Catherine, a Kentucky-bred Speightstown filly, got the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12. Garrett Gomez rode for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Jody Slew came from far back to upset Saturday's $75,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Ground in New Orleans. With Miguel Mena up, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Slew City Slew came around rivals on the turn and outfinished Bella Medaglia to win by 1/2 length. Tidal Pool was third. Jody Slew ran the 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:40.84.
Queen Greeley rallied from mid-pack to win Sunday's $50,000 El Paso Times Stakes at Sunland Park, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths over Pyrite On My Mind. The favorite, Tornado Betty, led most of the way and held on for third. Queen Greeley, a Kentucky-bred Mr. Greeley filly, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.72 under Isaias Enriquez.
In other weekend racing:
Friesan Fire, one of last year's Triple Crown hopefuls, regained his winning form in Saturday's $75,000 Louisiana Handicap. With Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons, the Kentucky-bred A.P. Indy colt led from gate to wire and finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.39. General Quarters was second with Good and Lucky far back in third. Friesan Fire returned from a layoff since last May's Preakness Stakes to finish third in a December allowance event at Fairgrounds. "It's a step in the right direction," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "For the company we want this year, he's going to need to get better. But I think that will go a long way in his confidence. He's in training to win a Grade I."
El Caballo bided his time in Saturday's $100,000 Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap, moved into contention on the outside on the turn and drew clear in the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Get Rich Quick rallied late to take second, 1 1/4 lengths better than Vanquisher. El Caballo, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of El Corredor, ran "about" 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:46.26 with Robby Albarado in the irons.
Cash Refund was hustled to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes, led the way through snappy fractions and won by 2 1/2 lengths. Sok Sok was second with Grand Traverse third. Cash Refund, under Brian Hernandez Jr., ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.56.
Annihilation rallied from near the back of a nine-horse field to win Saturday's $75,000 Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial for fillies and mares by 1 length over Coy Cat. Simplify was third and the favorite, Trusty Temper, never got going, finishing last of nine. Annihilation, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Northern Afleet filly, ran the "about" 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:04.94. James Graham had the mount.
Loup Breton waited for running room at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $150,000 San Marcos Stakes, then ran down High Court Drama in the final sixteenth to win by 1/2 length. Riviera Cocktail finished third. At mid-stretch, it appeared High Court Drama had the race won. But Loup Breton, who picked up his second win in three starts since shipping to the United States, got rolling just in time under Garrett Gomez. The 6-year-old, Irish-bred son of Anabaa got the 1 1/4 miles on good turf in 2:00.94. "He's getting better adapted to our American style of racing with each start," Gomez said. "He was very handy with me today, and he did his job. Around the far turn, there was nowhere to go. I was just in a little pocket and it seemed like nothing would develop. He was loaded for bear but I just had to wait."
Kinsale King prompted the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap, dueled for the lead and got home first, 1/2 length to the good of Ventana. Breeders' Cup Sprint champ Dancing in Silks finished third, ending his four-race winning streak. For Kinsale King, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Yankee Victor gelding, it was the third straight upset win. Kinsale King ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.81 with Martin Garcia up. Winning trainer Carl O'Callaghan said the March 27 Dubai Golden Shaheen will be next for Kinsale King. "I promised (owner Dr. Patrick Sheehy) in June that we'd head to Dubai," the trainer said. "That's been my goal since I got this horse."
Taptam stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares, hooked up with the favorite, Euphony, early in the stretch run, then edged to the front in the final yards to win by 1/2 length. Be Fair finished third. Taptam, a 5-year-old, Texas-bred Pleasant Tap mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.9 under Corey Nakatani.
Wall Street Wonder led from gate to wire in Saturday's $65,000 Paumonok Stakes, drawing off at the end to win by 8 1/2 lengths. Mt. Glittermore was second, Shoptate third and the favorite, Driven By Success, fifth of six. Wall Street Wonder, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred City Place colt, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:09.4 with Channing Hill in the irons.
Flavor tasted just great to his backers after Saturday's $50,000 Forego Stakes as the favorite took charge in the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Grand Daddy. Godolphin Grey finished third. Flavor, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Elusive Quality gelding, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:17.24 under Rex Stokes III.
Northern Station came four-wide around the turn in Saturday's $70,000 Nellie Morse Stakes for fillies and mares, collared pace-setting favorite Weathered at the three-sixteenths pole and held on to win by a neck. Weathered beat Emily Allstar by 1 3/4 lengths. Northern Station, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Street Cry mare, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.20 for jockey Clinton Potts.