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Jan 29, 2010

Rick Porter experiences Big Saturday

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While Sunday was 'Big' in terms of pro football, Saturday was also big for Rick Porter and his Fox Hill Farm stable. The Wilmington, DE resident sent out Winslow Homer to victory in the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park and four-year-old colt Friesan Fire won the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds.

"Winslow came into the race superbly trained but not at his peak," Porter noted on his website. "He got a terrific, patient and very intelligent ride from our main man, Ramon (Dominguez). The entire Palm Meadows crew of Tony's (trainer Tony Dutrow) did a great job getting Homer ready for this tough race."

Porter is making another run at the Kentucky Derby. Three years ago, is it that long already, his Hard Spun proved to be one of the best three-year-olds of 2007. He won the Lane's End Stakes, runner-up to Street Sense in the Run for the Roses, third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont Stakes.

Winslow Homer is trained by Tony Dutrow, who has taken over a majority of Porter's stable from the retired Larry Jones. Dutrow is the older brother of Rick, but is just as good of a trainer as the man who conditioned Big Brown.

"Several critics have focused on his 'slow' last quarter," Porter said about Winslow Homer. "Remember, this was a hot pace and with two months off, you can't look at the 26 last quarter as a real negative, in my opinion.

"He beat two horses that ran well in the Breeder's Cup. When the much thought of and highly Derby ranked Jackson Bend came eye to eye with Homer at the eighth-pole, he put it in another gear. Every other horse in the race had run in at least two stakes races and many in Graded ones. It was Winslow Homer's first try at a stake. In summary, it was a very good performance. They will get tougher as we go, but overall Homer was impressive yesterday (Saturday) and Fox Hill Farm is darn proud of him and his trainer."

Next on the horizon for the gray colt is the $250,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream. This will be a two-turn test at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, February 20. The $750,000 Florida Derby on March 20 is also 1 1/8 miles.

Joining Winslow Homer on February 20 will be Dogwood Stable's Aikenite, who finished sixth in Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes.

"I think we would be remiss if we did not give him the benefit of the doubt from a conditioning standpoint," noted Dogwood President Cot Campbell. "Aikenite had a serious vacation after the Breeders' Cup on November 7, and thus his return to the races was in a very testing, long sprint after not having a race in close to three months."

About an hour before Winslow Homer won by three-quarters of a length, Friesan Fire notched his first win since last year's Louisiana Derby. Co-owned by Porter along with Vinery Stable, the colt defeated 2009 Blue Grass Stakes champ General Quarters by 1 3/4 lengths.

"Scott Blasi and (trainer) Steve Asmussen called and were very happy with Friesan Fire's race and said how happy FF was afterwards yesterday, "Porter reported. "Scott called me this morning (Sunday) to say how well he came out of it and that he ran a 104 Beyer. Hopefully, he is back and we are ready for a super four-year-old year for Friesian. I am not sure what is next for him, but will keep you posted as soon as Steve, Tom Ludt and I talk it over."

A healthy Friesan Fire has a reasonable chance to garner a championship this year. If Porter and crew keep the colt in New Orleans the next race would be the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap on Saturday, March 27.

"He came out of yesterday's (Saturday) race real good," said assistant trainer Blasi Sunday morning. "We got what we wanted. Anytime you can stay home and win a race for $75,000 - there's nothing wrong with that. The weather during the month of December here really killed us and set back with our training. Now, we're getting back on schedule again. He got a lot out of that race yesterday."

With the retirement of Einstein and Papa Clem, the handicap division is wide open. Others in the handicap picture for 2010 are Quality Road, Summer Bird, Mine That Bird, General Quarters and Gio Ponti.

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