01/27/2010 1:00AM

Ron the Greek, Maximus Ruler eye Risen Star


Lecomte Stakes winner Ron the Greek appeared to have exited his victory last Saturday at Fair Grounds in good physical condition, and is likely to make his next start in the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 20, trainer Tom Amoss said Wednesday.

"He came out of the race fine," said Amoss. "There's a natural progression of races here at the Fair Grounds, with the Risen Star next, so obviously we like the idea of staying where we are and getting a little more distance."

The Lecomte was run over a mile and 40 yards, while the Risen Star is at 1 1/16 miles, and the March 27 Louisiana Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

Ron the Greek, bred and owned by Floridian Jack Hammer, was winning for the third time in four career starts while capturing his first stakes race. A strapping bay, Ron the Greek is out by the lesser-known sire Full Mandate, and out of the two-time winner Fortunate Prospect mare Flambe, who has produced three other minor winners.

On Sunday, Amoss welcomed back into his barn the 3-year-old Backtalk, one of the best summer 2-year-olds of 2009. Backtalk won his first three starts, including the Bashford Manor at Churchill and the Sanford at Saratoga, before finishing fourth in the Hopeful. Backtalk was given a break following an eighth-place finish in the Oct. 10 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, but posted three works at Gold Mark Farm before shipping to New Orleans.

"We're going to pick up where they left off with him," said Amoss, who added he had no fixed idea yet when and where Backtalk would make his 2010 debut.

Maximus Ruler's trainer optimistic

The Risen Star should offer a rematch between Ron the Greek and Maximus Ruler, who ran well to finish second in the Lecomte. Maximus Ruler's trainer, Clark Hanna, said his colt also was likely to return in the Risen Star if all went well leading up to the race.

Hanna said before the Lecomte that he hoped to see Maximus Ruler take up a spot near but not on the lead last Saturday, but breaking from post 1 under Cisco Torres, Maximus Ruler wound up setting a hot pace, passing the half-mile in a testing 46.80 seconds. He still managed to hold the lead to the stretch call before Ron the Greek swept past with an outside rally.

"All is well, and he's not as tired as I thought he would be," Hanna said Wednesday. "We sent him back to the racetrack to jog yesterday because I wanted that energy to go in a positive way."

Hanna said Maximus Ruler would have "no more than two works" before the Risen Star.

"I think he will improve off that race, and I'm hoping next time we're not on the front end going 46," said Hanna.