03/10/2011 4:01PM

Razorback Handicap: Winslow Homer back from long break

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Winslow Homer can be a playful dude.

On a recent morning, he grabbed a reporter’s notepad with his big teeth and flagged it up and down for show, finally relinquishing it when presented with a sweet potato.

Saturday, the games are over. Winslow Homer gets back to the business of racing for the first time since August in the Grade 3, $125,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn. A strong cast awaits him, with the field of seven led by 121-pound highweight Win Willy. The Razorback, a stepping-stone to the Grade 2, $350,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 9, has also drawn multiple stakes winners Thiskyhasnolimit, Golden Yank, and Kate’s Main Man.

Winslow Homer will be giving up recency to all of them. He was last seen at Saratoga, drawing out to a nine-length win in the $75,000 Curlin. Following the race, Winslow Homer was diagnosed with a condylar fracture. He returned to the work tab in January, one of a handful of Fox Hill Farm-owned horses sent to the ‘unretired’ trainer Larry Jones at Oaklawn.

“They’ve come to hand real quick,” Jones said of the package that included Havre de Grace and Joyful Victory. “We were worried about them being able to make these races this early. But all the horses, they’re just such quality horses, they just get ready.”

Jones said Winslow Homer has been strong in his preparations for his 4-year-old debut. Last year under the care of trainer Tony Dutrow, he won the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream, was third in the Grade 3 Iowa Derby, and earned a career-high 97 Beyer in the Curlin.

“He’s a very talented horse,” Jones said. “Like so many of the Unbridled’s Songs we’ve had for Fox Hill before – with Old Fashioned, Honest Man, Eight Belles, we’ve had some good ones – he ranks right with them.”

Winslow Homer will break from post 7 under Mike Smith.

“We know he’s got enough tactical speed to put you in the race anytime you want in it,” Jones said, “and he’s always finished well.”

Thiskyhasnolimit invades from Southern California, where he has raced twice this year. In his most recent start, he was fourth as the favorite in the Grade 2 San Fernando at Santa Anita on Jan. 15.

“His feet were bothering him in California, but I really think he’s doing great now,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Thiskyhasnolimit and has given the mount to Jamie Theriot.

Kate’s Main Man and Win Willy renew their rivalry, having finished one-two last month in the $100,000 Essex at Oaklawn.