Updated on 09/17/2011 12:04PM

'Skippie' not a surprise to Leggio

Lou Hodges Jr.
G.W.'s Skippie, Frank Lovato Jr. up, pulls the upset in the $60,000 Tenacious Handicap Saturday at Fair Grounds.

NEW ORLEANS - The whole notion of a longshot needs revising when it comes to Andy Leggio at Fair Grounds. Long prices on Leggio-trained stakes horses have little bearing on their chance of winning.

In March, Leggio won the Explosive Bid Handicap with Candid Glen, who paid $170.20. And Saturday G.W.'s Skippie won the $60,000 Tenacious Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths over Spanish Empire, paying $92.60. Leggio's main owner, Glen Warren, owns both horses.

The 3-year-old G.W.'s Skippie had never won a stakes race, and before Saturday had just one dirt victory. Bettors gave him only a passing look, but Leggio saw more.

"Surprised? I'll tell you how surprised I am," Leggio said in the winner's circle, taking a handful of mutuel tickets from his pocket. On all of them, in some position, was the number 2 - G.W.'s Skippie.

In all fairness, G.W.'s Skippie had never run like he did Saturday. Leggio credited jockey Frank Lovato with quickly putting G.W.'s Skippie into the race.

"He's a lazy horse," Leggio said. "I told Frankie to get on his butt and make him run, to get him into the race, and that's what he did."

One Steve Asmussen-trained horse, Easyfromthegitgo, broke last and lost all chance, but another, Spanish Empire, got away sharply and set the early pace, with Mercenary to his inside. G.W.'s Skippie raced in third, and after an opening quarter-mile in 23.89 seconds, the pace became quick for this racetrack, 47 seconds for a half-mile.

By then the 10-horse field was spread all over the track, with a lead pack and a group of trailers. The winner figured to come from the first group, and coming off the turn Lovato seized the moment, riding hard to challenge Spanish Empire. Spanish Empire resisted as Skate Away tried to rally on the inside, but G.W.'s Skippie was too strong for both of them and won comfortably.

"I felt like I was sitting on a winner the whole way," Lovato said.

The final time for the 1 1/16-mile race was 1:43.64, with Skate Away followed by Seainsky and Almuhathir, the 9-5 favorite.

Leggio left his options open for G.W.'s Skippie's next start. For now, he was headed to a window to cash in his tickets..