08/09/2008 12:00AM

Winchester runs off with Secretariat

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Rene Douglas reached the quarter pole in the Secretariat Stakes, closing in on the leader with a handful of horse named Winchester underneath him. And he had a fitting thought at that moment.

"I didn't want to move too early," Douglas said. "I took a couple looks back, didn't see anybody, and I said, 'Let's go.' It was going to take Secretariat to catch me."

There was no Secretariat in the Secretariat. Winchester, widening through the entire stretch run, ran off and hid from the more heavily bet Irish invader Plan, beating him by 7 1/4 lengths, with pace-setting even-money favorite Tizdejavu another 2 1/2 lengths back in third.

Winchester, bred and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, paid $17 to win, and was timed in 2:01.76 for 1 1/4 miles on firm turf.

Douglas won the Grade 1, $400,000 Secretariat for the first time, as did legendary Irish trainer Dermot Weld, who has three American Derby wins under his belt. Weld's first Secretariat came with a horse who had only one win, and who had never won a stakes. But Weld raced the horse with Lasix for the first time - "Just because we could, really," Weld said - and fitted him with blinkers for this race, too.

"I thought it'd sharpen him up a little," Weld said.

The blinkers-on move was not Weld's first in the U.S. He pointed out that he'd made the same equipment change when Go and Go won the 1990 Belmont Stakes.

For Douglas, the win might have been a little sweeter since he'd ridden Tizdejavu to victory here last month in the American Derby. Garrett Gomez previously had the mount, and Tizdejavu's connections opted to go back to Gomez in the Secretariat, but Douglas pounced when given the chance to ride for Weld.

"I had no idea about the horse," Douglas said. "[Weld] said he liked him, and that's all I needed to know."

Douglas said Weld told him Winchester would break poorly, and he did, but Douglas hustled him into the race and got good position, sitting fourth as Tizdejavu carved out fractions of 25.38 seconds for the quarter, 49.64 to the half, and 1:13.84 for six furlongs. Tizdejavu, a winner of all three of his turf starts, had his ears pricked on the backside, but he had no response when Winchester attacked.

"When I squeezed him, he wasn't there," Gomez told trainer Greg Fox.

Plan made a decent run for second, but was no match for the winner. Prime Realestate checked in fourth behind Tizdejavu, and was followed by Strait of Mewsina, Your Round, Snoose Goose, Secret Getaway, and Sr. Henry.

In earlier Saturday stakes:

Todd Pletcher sent out the winner in both divisions of the Hatoof Stakes for 3-year-old turf fillies, while Amazing Results ran off to an impressive three-length triumph in the Forward Pass Stakes.

In the first division of the Hatoof, worth $54,400, Return to Paradise ($12) got an ideal stalking trip under John Velazquez, drew clear leaving the eighth pole, and won by 2 1/4 lengths over South Beach Luv. Fabulous Babe, the 4-1 favorite in a field of 11, finished sixth.

In the second division, worth $55,000, Lucky Copy ($8.40) was never seriously threatened after opening a huge lead into the first turn and down the backstretch under Garrett Gomez. She finished a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths clear of Tight Precision in a field of 10, while Cherokee Queen, the 9-5 favorite, never seriously threatened, checking in fifth.

The $53,200 Forward Pass, for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on Polytrack, was hotly contested until Amazing Results ($8.20) blew past the field. Rafael Bejarano was aboard for trainer Chris Block.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee