06/26/2009 11:00PM

Kodiak Kowboy rebounds in LeVine


Larry Jones was expecting a strong bounce-back effort from Kodiak Kowboy. So were the bettors who pounded the 4-year-old down to 3-10 for the $200,000 Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap Saturday at Philadelphia Park.

Kodiak Kowboy ($2.60) delivered, powering to a four-length victory over Cassoulet that helped wipe away the disappointment of a seventh-place finish in the Churchill Downs Stakes in the slop on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Jones attributed that defeat to a wide trip on the worst part of the track.

Back on a fast track, Kodiak Kowboy got a clean journey on solid footing. He delivered his signature closing kick, rallying from sixth with a powerful run that started midway on the turn.

Widest of all in the stretch, Kodiak Kowboy needed only modest encouragement from jockey Gabriel Saez to close the deal.

"The pace wasn't exceptionally fast the first quarter, but then it started picking up," Jones said. "He was a little closer than normal because of the pace. When he ran on by, he went by with some authority. He was carrying a lot more weight than some of those horses, and you don't want to check. You want a clean trip, even if you have to run a little farther."

Kodiak Kowboy carried top weight of 124 pounds, a tribute to his Grade 1 win in the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in April.

Now it's on to Saratoga, where the Grade 1 Forego, at seven furlongs on Sept. 5, is the primary target. Kodiak Kowboy might prep for the Forego in Saratoga's Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on Aug. 9.

"Our main objective is the Forego," Jones said. "We'd like to get a race over the track before that, and that should work."

Cassoulet nosed out Cherokee Country for the place spot. Whistle Pig was fourth. Encaustic and Acting Zippy dead-heated for fifth. Vigors Storm was the trailer.

The time was 1:21.38 for the seven furlongs.

The stakes is named for Donald LeVine, a longtime state steward at Philadelphia Park.