Taking advantage of a red-hot pace, Stan E. Fulton's Fire Slam and jockey Pat Day smoked past the leaders on the outside in mid-stretch and cruised to an easy 5 1/4-length victory in the $103,499 Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs.
The field was reduced to four by two scratches.
Winning for the first time since taking the Lecomte (gr. III) at Fair Grounds in his first start of the year Jan. 24, Fire Slam, a bay son of Grand Slam, was clocked in 1:09 3/5 for the six-furlongs.
Cuvee, ridden by Shane Sellers, and Wildcat Shoes, with Robby Albarado aboard, engaged in a heated pace duel, clicking off fractions of :20 3/5 and :43 3/5. Cuvee, one of the nation's leading juveniles making his first start at 3, took the lead briefly coming off the turn, but was no match for the winner, who rallied while five wide for the drive. Fire Slam took the lead approaching the final furlong. Day tapped him a couple of times on the left side and Fire Slam took off, finishing under a hand ride.
Cuvee was 2 1/4 lengths in front of Hasslefree. Wildcat Shoes finished last. Western Roar and Nightlifeatbigblue scratched.
Trained by David Carroll, Fire Slam was second to Quintons Gold Rush in his last start, the 1 1/16-mile Lexington (gr. II) at Keeneland April 17. Prior to that he was a disappointing fifth at odds of 3-1 in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), his only off-the-board performance in seven lifetime starts. The $66,154 winning purse increased his earnings to $468,584.
Julie Jone Mogge bred Fire Slam, who is from the Salt Lake
mare Miss Firefly, in Kentucky.
The 11-10 choice, Fire Slam paid $4.20 and $2.80. Cuvee, who won four of six starts at 2 including the Belmont Futurity (gr. I), returned $2.80 in a solid comeback race. There was no show wagering.