Like just about everyone else on hand at Arlington Park on Saturday, European invader Winchester was a bit of a mystery to the meet'ss leading rider, Rene Douglas, would be riding the 3-year-old in the Secretariat Stakes - Winchester's North American debut.
"I had no idea about this horse," Douglas admitted. "I watched his races, and I know Dermot Weld is one of the top trainers in Europe. He told me he liked this horse, and that was good enough for me."
And that was good enough for a most impressive victory for Winchester - a 7¼-length romp over placewinner Plan, with favored Tizdejavu another 2 lengths back in third.
"I always believed in this horse," said Weld, who picked up his first victory in the Secretriat Stakes. "I had great confidence in this horse and great confidence in Rene Douglas."
After biding time along the rail and waiting for the right moment to pounce on front-running Tizdejavu, Douglas swung Winchester off the rail near the quarter pole.
By the time they wheeled into the stretch, Tizdejavu and Winchester were neck and neck. A blink of an eye later, Winchester fired and was a half-dozen lengths ahead of Tizdejavu and moving like a tremendous machine toward the finish line.
"Everything went as planned until I had to call on him," said jockey Garrett Gomez, who rode Tizdejavu. "He was dull today."
Plan (5-2) closed with a rush to take second.
"It all opened up for me at the top of the stretch," said Plan's jockey, John Murtagh. "The best is yet to come from him."
For the connections of Winchester, the plan is for a little trip out west in October.
"Don't be surprised if you see him back here in the Breeders' Cup Turf (at Santa Anita)," Weld said.