Updated on 09/17/2011 1:16PM

Hosco could be O'Neill's next star

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Benoit & Associates
Trainer Doug O'Neill starts Hosco in Sunday's $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park.

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Trainer Doug O'Neill brought a promising 3-year-old named Excessivepleasure to Sunland last year to win the inaugural running of the 1 1/16-mile WinStar Derby. Excessivepleasure went on to become one of the top stories of the racing season, winning the Grade 3 Indiana Derby and the Iowa Derby, and he is one of the favorites for the Godolphin Mile in Dubai this weekend.

This year, O'Neill will bring both Hosco and Perfect Moon to Sunday's $500,000 WinStar Derby.

Hosco won the Grade 3 San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita going six furlongs Jan. 11, then finished second to Imperialism in the Grade 2 San Vicente on Feb 7. Stretching his speed around two turns for the first time in the Grade 2 San Rafael at one mile on March 6, Hosco dueled through fractions of 45.71 and 1:10.11 before weakening late to finish fifth, six lengths behind Imperialism.

By Honour and Glory and out of a Carson City mare, Hosco may have distance limitations, but O'Neill is not ready to label him a sprinter only.

"I still believe Hosco has the potential to be a good horse around two turns, and I'm looking for him to prove that in the WinStar," said O'Neill. "He has lots of natural speed, and in his training we have been trying to teach him to ration that speed for longer races."

Perfect Moon has already run well at the WinStar Derby distance against quality competition, but has only a second and two thirds to show for it.

Most recently, Perfect Moon was second behind Mambo Train in the Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 7, a race in which he went off as the 1-2 favorite.

"I really expected to win that race," O'Neill said. "He came back a little tired, so we gave him some time to recover. He has been training well, and I expect good races from them both."

Like O'Neill with Hosco, local trainer Henry Dominguez runs a fast horse with distance questions Saturday. Dominguez runs Speedy Falcon in the $250,000 WinStar Sunland Park Oaks. Speedy Falcon came into Dominguez's care early in this meet and has proven to be the best sprinting filly in the Southwest. Speedy Falcon has yet to run beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, but has won five of her six starts. She will run a mile for the first time in the Oaks, the race that launched the career of Island Fashion last year.

"Speedy Falcon is a very smart filly, and in the mornings we have been working on getting her to relax and she has responded well," said Dominguez.

Is he worried about facing such tough competition as Sister Swank without previous experience at the distance?

"Not really, because she is the type of filly who will train exactly the way you want to," Dominguez said. "It is time for us to find out if she is just a one-dimensional speed horse or does she have a future in longer races."