HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Old Fashioned appeared on his way to another impressive win. He'd already put away one big rival and was alone near the rail in the final stretch of the Rebel Stakes.
Then, out of nowhere, a 57-1 long shot came up from the outside and shook up the whole Kentucky Derby picture.
Win Willy passed Old Fashioned in the stretch Saturday to win the Rebel, upsetting the 2-5 favorite by 2¼ lengths. It was Old Fashioned's first loss in five career starts — and it came in Win Willy's first start in a stakes race.
"This was a home run for us and the horse," said McLean Robertson, Win Willy's trainer. "If he comes out of this race well, we will keep him here and run in the Arkansas Derby."
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The Rebel is the second of Oaklawn Park's three big Kentucky Derby prep races. The series concludes with next month's Arkansas Derby.
Old Fashioned entered the race as a prohibitive favorite — and perhaps the overall favorite for the Run for the Roses in May. He won the Southwest at Oaklawn last month, settling in behind Silver City before taking the lead on the second turn.
The $300,000 Rebel began in similar fashion, with Silver City moving to the front and Old Fashioned chasing close behind. But the first quarter-mile was over in 22.54 seconds, a quick pace which might have cost the initial leaders down the stretch.
Old Fashioned was also racing on an off track for the first time. The track was listed as good after the area received a bit of rain in recent days.
"It is hard to say what happened," said Larry Jones, Old Fashioned's trainer. "The track was heavy, and with those kinds of fractions it was bound to catch up with him. He ran well, and we are proud of what he did."
Old Fashioned started from the rail, and that seemed like a potential advantage when three of the day's first five winners came from post No. 1. Win Willy started from the outside at No. 9.
"I was surprised that he ran as big as he did," said Cliff Berry, the winning jockey. "You just don't expect an outsider, breaking from an outside post, to put in a big run, circle his field and draw off like he did."
At the half-mile mark, Silver City led by 1½ lengths over Old Fashioned. Win Willy, meanwhile, was in last place, 13¼ lengths behind the leader.
Old Fashioned made quick work of Silver City's lead but didn't have the energy to hold off Win Willy, the second-longest shot on the board.
Win Willy won for the third time in four career starts, but this was his first stakes race. He covered the 11⁄16 miles in 1:44.41.
"He relaxed very easily when I asked him," Berry said. "On the last turn, when my horse picked it up, I thought to myself that I was at least going to get third, or fourth. Then I said, 'Heck, I am going to win it.' "
Win Willy's longest previous race was a sixth-place finish at 7½ furlongs in October — but that loss was on turf. He won at 6 furlongs on dirt last month at Oaklawn.
"After he won his last race I thought the distance would be OK. This race came at the right time frame," Robertson said. "I was fairly impressed with his last race, and he did act that the distance would be no problem."
Win Willy paid $115.60 on a $2 win bet.
"The drying out track and those fractions really hurt my colt's chances," said Ramon Dominguez, Old Fashioned's jockey. "He really felt good under me during the early running, and then I felt him start to tire, when I asked him early in the stretch. Afterwards, he galloped out well.
"Don't count him out. He still has something to learn."