06/25/2009 11:00PM

St. Joe looks to build on win


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When a horse breaks behind the field, the natural reaction from its connections and backers is to let out an audible groan and maybe a bad word or two.

Darrin Miller said he wasn't all that surprised that the normally speedy St. Joe spotted his opponents several lengths at the start of his last race, but neither Miller nor anyone else could have reasonably expected what happened next.

St. Joe, whose four previous victories all had come on the lead, lurked toward the back of the pack and then closed with a flourish to win that May 31 turf sprint at Churchill Downs by a widening length.

"It was a pretty amazing race," said Miller, who trains St. Joe for the Silverton Hill Farm of Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton. "He's never been a real good gate horse. He usually gets away a little behind, then rushes up in the first 50 yards. But he did break worse than I expected in that last race."

Miller said he hopes the last-to-first triumph was a signal that St. Joe, a 4-year-old Trippi gelding, "is ready to be more professional and versatile." The opportunity to put those qualities on display arises again Sunday at Churchill, where St. Joe is the likely favorite in the seventh race, a $58,800 allowance at five furlongs on the turf.

"Hopefully, he can repeat that kind of effort," Miller said.

Julien Leparoux will be back aboard St. Joe when he breaks from the outside post in a field of six older horses. Tricky Mon, a winner in 4 of his last 6 starts, looks like the main opposition.

Later Sunday, a well-matched cast of fillies and mares will clash in perhaps the best betting race of the day, a $50,200, entry-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track. Knockout Bertie and Raposa, second and fourth in a key May 30 race for this same condition, look like prime contenders in a field of 11, while Honchis'n Ponchis, the beaten favorite in her last, also rates strong consideration.

* First post for the 10-race card is 12:45 p.m. Eastern.

* After Sunday, Churchill goes dark for three days before the final four-day stretch of the spring meet resumes with a 6 p.m. post Thursday.