With James Graham aboard the 7-1 shot in the first of three graded stakes at Fair Grounds for 3-year-olds, Jack T. Hammer's Florida homebred registered his first stakes victory for trainer Tom Amoss. The son of Full Mandate had eight to beat while racing on the grandstand side approaching mid-stretch and accomplished it in rousing style. He completed the one-mile, 40-yard distance in a solid time of 1:40.09 over a fast track.
It was a tough loss for Maximus Ruler, who set a quick pace (:23.42, :46.80, 1:12.27) from the rail for jockey Francisco Torres while pressured throughout by the 36-1 outsider Depaul. Maximus Ruler then repelled a challenge in the lane from Cool Bullet before yielding late. Letsgetitonmon, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and trained by Steve Asmussen, came on late to get the show spot over Cool Bullet while finishing a half-length behind Maximus Ruler.
Ron the Greek, who broke at the rear of the pack from the far outside post in the field of 10 and showed no early speed, registered his third win in four lifetime starts. He defeated a field in which only four of the starters had raced in a graded stakes previously.
Racing on his fourth different track in as many races with his fourth different rider, Ron the Greek earned $60,000 for the victory and boosted his career bankroll to $104,400.
The winning bay colt, out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Flambe', broke his maiden at first asking in the mud at Hoosier Park in October. He came back to win a one-mile first-level allowance race by a neck at Delta Downs Nov. 13. In his most recent start, Ron the Greek finished fourth behind Lecomte rival Turf Melody in Remington Park's Springboard Mile Dec. 13.
Still to come at Fair Grounds for 3-year-olds this season is the $300,000 Risen Star (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 20, and the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) over nine furlongs March 27.
Sent off as the co-fourth choice in the big field, Ron the Greek carried 116 pounds and paid $17.60, $8.20 and $5.60, topping a $75.80 exacta with the 2-1 choice Maximus Ruler. The favorite, who broke his maiden against winners in an allowance race at Churchill Downs in his last start Nov. 28 for trainer Clark Hanna, returned $4.40 and $3.40. Letsgetitonmon was $5 to show.